Musing lazily about time-shifting and personalised news

“Whatever you do, don’t tell me the result, I don’t want to know”.

Thus goes the refrain.

The refrain of people with a new problem, a problem that was nascent for maybe thirty years, but one that’s been maturing for nearly a decade, and is full-blown now.

A problem caused by time-shifting.

More and more people record things for viewing later; many of the things recorded are contests based around elimination: knockout tournaments, Cup finals, boxing matches, Come Dancing, X Factor, Who’s Going to be <Pick One from : Maria, Joseph, Oliver, Nancy,> the list goes on.

And once they’ve done the time-shifting, they’re trapped. They don’t want to know what happened. Not until they get the time to watch what they recorded.

They don’t want to know what happened.

Now there’s a real challenge for news personalisation. Letting me pick the things I specifically don’t want to know about. So when I get my paper online, I should be able to pick the things I want to hear about (my preferences), the things that my community’s doing (my news feed, as it were), the things my community recommends for me (actively and onymously as well as through profiling and collaborative filtering).

Filtered, of course. By my choice of filter. Shaken, not stirred.

And explicitly not containing things I didn’t want to read about.

Possible? Likely? It’s happening now.

So what next? I can just see it. In ten years time they’re going to be saying: Don’t tell me who won the election. Don’t tell me who won the war. I might want to go back and watch it.

11 thoughts on “Musing lazily about time-shifting and personalised news”

  1. JP, welcome to my RSS aggregator.

    After chatting with Alec about some of your ideas, and reading some of your blog postings, I reckon you’re going to challenge the way I think, every now and again.

    This is A Good Thing :-).

  2. Hello and welcome, Dave. Been following you since tracing your link to me sometime in January…

  3. Hi JP,

    I’m pretty sure this phenomena is only conducive to entertainment events, like season finales or playoff games. I do recall going out on social events and then feeling my communication restricted with others because I didn’t want to stumble upon the score of a game I had recorded. I don’t want this to become a habit though and I wonder what the best way is to achieve maximal satisfaction.

  4. Depends on what you call entertainment. Would you classify Phoenix landing on Mars as entertainment? Would you classify the US Presidential election as entertainment?

    To me it’s like frozen food. When I first learnt that people couuld freeze food, I had this expectation of what was freezable. And that expectation changed over time as people “played with the medium”.

    I think time-shifting will go that way. I remember saving up “connected Bunthorne” crosswords for a rainy day, DIY timeshifting of a different sort.

  5. Very very interesting.
    Reality is an extra option when alternate reality immersion is the norm.
    It becomes even more interesting when the time shifting is shared( like sharing book marks, music preferences etc now) by a group. Within the group, the time-shifted reality becomes an alternate reality.

    -Balaji S.

  6. When I was growing up in India, there used to be a delay in getting “western” films, music and books. It took me a while to program that sense of delay into my memory, because my reality said something different. So when I looked at say 1971 I associated my real events of 1971 with the music and films and books of 1970. Involuntary time shifting. Which I had to allow for.

  7. For me, TV is one of the biggest benefactors of the switch from analogue to digital (perhaps after photography). Hard disk PVRs are how video recorders should have always been. For once, moving to digital has made the system simpler – we now just select a program from the EPG and have it record every episode without having to punch in dates and channels. It seems crazy that we used to put up with having to consider how much tape was left or whether the tape was in the right position so it wouldn’t overwrite a previous recording.

    I now hardly ever watch live TV but I don’t watch more TV than before, I just watch more interesting TV – I never find myself watching something just because there’s “nothing better on”. I even timeshift live events like Formula 1, but usually only by half an hour so I can skip the adverts and catch up with live by the time they cross the chequered flag. That said, I have occasionally been caught out and heard the result before I’ve watched the race. I think there’s a bigger issue with sporting events and competitions because if you just catch sight of a headline it can give away the whole result. It’s less of a problem with drama shows like Lost and Heroes because a headline is unlikely to give away the whole plot (unless it’s a plot like “Who killed J.R.?”)

  8. Hi JP,

    Really enjoy the blog which I discovered after LeWeb. I think in this case people are saying “Don’t tell me yet”, since spoiling the outcome of a match or a soap cliffhanger ruins the experience. But there are events like elections where people want to know the “score” in real time, but may want to watch the analysis/argumentation at a different time to suite them. Live events (like marathon pop concerts or coverage of disasters) will always attract the largest audiences to the live stream/broadcast – its a shared experience. I asked kids why they voted in Idols when their vote was one of 100,000 a minute. They told me that it was because it was live, the event wasn’t finished yet and there still a chance that their action could change things.

  9. I’m no luddite, but I find filtered news and other content somewhat troubling. It is important to be exposed to information and ideas which you might not have otherwise selected for yourself; and this is especially true for major segments of society which are not particularly intellectually curious.

    The capability to filter out sports content, for example, excludes me from some cultural events which I, as a participant in this society, should probably know about. (I still don’t know why Manchester and Chelsea went to Moscow.) If I only heard about things which I or my personal network found interesting, I fear that I would be further isolated from people I just haven’t met yet. Indeed, I sought out neat stuff like Twitter despite the fact that I don’t know anyone personally who uses it.

    I love TiVo and time/place shifting as much as the next guy (maybe more), but as we move further away from the old-fashioned cultural events of live one-time-only one-size-fits-all broadcasts, what will we have to bind us together as a society? No doubt, we will need to find new and relevant to unite us. I just hope that I get to hear about these things in time. I’ll be looking to bellwethers like you, JP, to keep me clued in!

  10. Hi JP, would you like to record your post, I will read it later and I’m recording now my answer, just not to tell it to you now…;-))
    I saw several things in TV now, but I know one thing for sure: when your record too many stuffs, you have to list and to record the order of WHAT you recorded…if you don’t, you never know in which order, you’ll have to watch next !
    People always tried to save time, but time is not compressible: time is time and if you don’t have time, you will probably never have, even to watch later. Maybe it’s another illusion of virtual, Star Trek’s effect, maybe it’s anything but problem shifting…
    Kind Regards

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