After transcribing the pertinent 9-minute passage from RBTN 82 and offering some conceptual input to the idea of developing a personalized recommendation system for news, I kept thinking about the different kinds of gestures in the mix.
So it might be useful to establish a hierarchy of on-line gestures, which can serve as signals indicating endorsement or recommendation.
1. Subscribe. To a feed, a publication, a newsletter. Or even the repeated act of visiting a service or a web site. That’s a gesture saying: this is potentially interesting to me. Or, in some cases: I know that this is interesting to me.
2. Read. As Doc Searls might say, when I read something, it means that I let it inform me. I let it “author” me. I’m voluntarily exposing myself to its influence. I hope or expect to gain something from acquiring the knowledge or information encapsulated in the article or story.
3. Store (and tag) privately. Make it findable for myself. It builds an archive of things that I’ve read. I find it worth documenting that I read it. And I expect that sometime in the future I might find it worth retrieving it and re-reading it or using it some way or another.
4. Share. For example on Google Reader, as I tend to do with news. In addition to making it findable to me, sharing the feed publicly is also something of an endorsement or recommendation. Or at least, it communicates to anyone interested that I have read this and found it worth putting that fact on the record. Twitter, Facebook, Dig, Reddit, StumbleUpon…
5. Tag publicly. Contribute to the public goods of findability and folksonomy. (Same services as above)
6. Rate. Personally I don’t rate content much. What’s the point? What’s the benchmark? Except Facebook “likes”, which kinda combines rating, tagging and sharing.
7. Copy-share. Arguably it takes a slightly bigger effort to copy content into a draft blog post, although “Press This” makes it almost as easy as any other browser bookmark.
All public gestures of sharing and tagging are instances of amplification. And as we know, amplification is the new circulation. When sharing, two things happen. One: I help this piece of content which I find interesting, to find more readers, to get more exposure. Two: I endorse it, because I kind of associate my name with it when I tweet it or put it on Facebook or on my blog.
But I don’t necessarily interpret it. It can be: this is interesting, an endorsement, a recommendation for reading. Or the purpose may just be to say, I am reading this kind of stuff. My mind is now working with this kind of stuff. So, thinking about the edges of the social networks, if someone else reads the same, finds it interesting, then maybe it’s something worth talking about.
It’s a message from me, indicating that I’m open to conversation about this topic.
8. Send the article (link) to someone I know, for whom I think it may be highly relevant. The threshold for making this gesture is quite high. It’s a strong gesture, and it’s also a very personal gesture, not a public one.
9. Comment on a blog post or news article. Nowadays I don’t often do that, because I think that if it is worth commenting on, it’s worth keeping that comment on my own side, on my own blog, on my own “infrastructure (as I think Dave would agree).
10. Blog about the topic I read, because I have something to add: interpretation, commentary, fact, opinion, context. Or to take it in an entirely new direction. The point here is to create original content. It can be a blog post, a tweet, a status update or what have you. For our purposes, in order for this to be a gesture it’s important to link back to the original article/post/story.
11. Possibly: pipe it through to a (possibly closed) special-interest community, e.g. on a LinkedIn group, a Ning site or some such.
[UPDATE, 2011-02-11, 13:47 : For some reason I had overlooked number 12. And number 13 was inspired by Richard Grusin's comment below:
12. Link inside a (micro)blog post to stuff that's relevant to the topic at hand. In fact, links could well be the most important gestures that we should measure.
13. Approve/reject incoming blog comments or track backs. With this one, the negative signal of rejection might be the more significant one.]
These gestures inform the public or people in my on-line communities and on the Internet in general, as to which content gets through my personal cognitive filters, my interest filters, and therefore get amplified and possibly more widely distributed.
These gestures can be used as input for social recommendations. And that includes news. Why not? Actually, the concept of news is in itself quite fluid. A colleague of mine a couple of years back would define news as “something that is new to someone” – information which is new to someone. Looking at it that way, a lot of information can be news.