For years I’ve been watching the way people aggregate and summarise what they do, and how they make such aggregations available to others. In the old days we used to call these chronological aggregations diaries, and we’ve had many famous diarists over the centuries.
Some part of me is deeply enmeshed in an oral tradition: as I’ve discussed earlier, maybe it’s the Calcutta in me, the extension of the adda. Addas are intimate yet open, oral yet visual, immediate yet part of a ritual. Which is why I considered the overlapping small circles that make up the blogosphere to be addas in their own right.
More recently, there have been some powerful developments in the chronological aggregation space. They appear to be driven by two factors: a re-entry of visual communications and associated traditions; and the emergence of ubiquitous mobile tools that could write back to the web, not just access it. Which is why people consider Web 2.0 to be about participative architectures.
These developments have created their own terminology. I think it may have been Jeremy Keith who first used the term “lifestream”; for sure he was the first person I saw using the term, sometime in 2006. Today lifestreaming looks like it’s going to be big business, all based around a multimedia chronological aggregation of things a person or group does.
The facebook news feed is in some respects nothing more than an aggregation of lifestreams, lifestreams belonging to your friends. Twitter brought a pub-sub feel and a brevity, a capillary compression, to the whole thing, and that spawned the FriendFeeds of this world.
Some years ago, Tantek Celik began using his Flickr account pretty much like another blog, and I began to appreciate what happens when photography meets the blogosphere. So I spoke about it to my then 14 year old son, who then pointed out that he’d been reading wonderful blogs like daily dose of imagery for some time by then.
Brittany Bohnet and Dave Morin revelled in using mobile devices to upload aspects of their lifestream into facebook, a trend accentuated if anything by the arrival of the iPhone. As Brittany’s example shows, many people preferred the tumblr approach to this aggregation, first brought to my attention by Kiyo:
Innovation is rife in this space, and it’s only going to get better. For example, take a look at this:
There seems to be a sequence worth watching here. First we had RSS. Then we had first-order aggregators, but they were “subscribe” aggregators: one place where you could read many feeds you subscribed to. Now, as people publish in different contexts and media, we have “publish” aggregators, or at least that’s what a lifestream seems to be.
Subscribe aggregators are subscriber-centric. Publish aggregators are publisher-centric. Both types of aggregators, at least in their current form, are backward-looking.
I cannot help but feel that there is a VRM-related innovation to come. Both publish aggregators as well as subscribe aggregators will start dealing with intent, at which point we have digital butterfly markets. Doc, Sean, what do you think?
Then it gets really interesting. I can see so much potential for innovation once we have a meeting point for publish aggregators and subscribe aggregators, a platform that allows us to do that forward and back in time, true multimedia, true mobile.