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Using Reader

Page history last edited by Michael J 12 years, 6 months ago

Communication Up Close 

Is there a scientific approach to figuring out why some communication work better than others?



This video was posted at http://googlereader.blogspot.com/ on June 22, 2007 . The Headline of the entry reads,  "Some of our users, like Robert Scoble, can go through 600 feeds in less time than it takes to say "mark all as read." I assume that the entry was posted as part of the story of how to get more productivity out of Google reader.  It tells the story pretty well, at least to me. But it's also a granular documentation of a series of communication exchanges. Hopefully, the analysis following will demonstrate the usefulness of a Langauge of Communication Ecology to understand in more detail the communication process. The indented sections are out of context quotes from the video. You can see them in context by clicking play. You can understand a little about Robert Scobie, by clicking on his name in the paragraph above.


Communication Ecology starts with the common sense idea that complex human behavior can be visualized as a the result of series of discrete decisions. A decision is merely the observed activity of doing one thing instead of another.  Human behaviors are what people do as they "get through the day". They may be as prosaic as getting out of bed, as life changing as falling in love, as necessary as making purchases, as instrumental as investing savings, or as potentially dysfunctional as breaking the law.


Some behaviors have short time horizons - buying a cup of coffee. Others have long time horizons - going to college for four years. Some behaviors emerge in activity space that live in small simple space/times - getting dressed in the morning. Other behaviors take place in global rich space/times - buying a multinational company or starting a war in Iraq.


In every case, behaviors can be visualized as the observable outcomes of a cascade of micro-decisions made by specific people. The evidence of a  "decision" are the unambigious observations that can be made of specific people moving in their specific activity spaces. These observations can be replicated and independentlyh observed through widely different points of view and still, in principle, be able to agree on what occured.  In this sense, they are objective and possibly useful data for communication analysis. Anything else can be very useful,  but not subject to quantifiable methods. CommEc is based on the idea that if you can't measure it, you can't manage it. (What and how you measure is a major research interest.)


The video tells the story of how Robert gathers information to publish on his blog. It is useful data in that it shows what he does and has been doing.

What he says about what he does is also useful data, as it might shed some light on some more general processes that inform communication and help test whether Communication Ecology might be useful in better understanding how to more effectively communicate.


In the language of Communication Ecology the common process that can be used at various scales of a communication system is input - transformation - output, referrered to as I-T-O, input, transformation and output.



Some of the externalities in the communication environment enter a personal activity space. A micro "decision" is made as to whether to allow those new things  to enter the personal activity space. Decision in this sense does not imply or require any head brain activity. It is meant to descibe a process similar what biologists observe in the passage of a molecule through the semi permeable membrane of a cell, a nutrient's passage from the gut into the bloodstream, or a virus' passage into the cytoplasm of the living body.


From the video

"I do a mental pass to see if it is interesting to me, attention wise"



What "slows me down"

Graphics "slows me down"

Who writes it "slows me down"

Headlines if "it is key word dense"

Information density "how many links in an article, tells me if the writer has down his homework"

"this one is not interesting enough, because its not something new"

" Now this one is Don Dodge at Microsoft, so that it automatically caught my attention"

"He usually has something to see...I mean say.

"This is interesting news...sort of"

"This is political news, pass."


Some kinds of externalities can pass through the information membrane more easily than others. As the result of the unique history combined with other factors, the information membrane has adapted. The exact nature of the adaptive structure of a particular membrane is the object of emprical research.  The primary factor is biological. CommEc contends that activity with long time horizons are most likely in service of continued survival: defending an actors self, family or tribe. When the activity is productive it is self-perceived as "fun" or play. The biological perception of the chemical cascades that emerge as "fun" creates internally generated proximate incentives to continue the activity. Eventually the behavior is incoporated  in the person's natural repetoire of acitiity and create the internal narrative that internally "makes sense." This could be a description of the process of "learning."


Once a narrative starts to take hold, it creates a feed back cycle that causes the semi-permeable information membrane to allow some externalities to  pass through the information membrane more easily. As narratives become shared, they enable the emergence of "cultural definition" of the important vs the less important externatilities.  After many iterations, this is the process that might lead to a shared viewed of the world. To the extent that the shared narrative enables tribal collaboration to identify the most dangerous external threats, it gives that tribe an evolutionary advantage. If there is also a mechanism for identifying the most appropriate responses, and a mechanism to allow different effective behaviors to emerge it will increase the likelihood  that the individual, family or tribe will be less successful in defending self, family and the tribe against other tribes who may have more efficient mechanisms at a given space/time.  This coluld be a useful language to describe the creation of culture and social capital.


Back to the video.


From the video

Q/Statement: You enjoy being plugged in.


Q: How do you find the low traffic sites.

"Alot of times, the big guys will link out"

"Over time, if you watch Tech Crunch(sic), you'll see what he is watching. Not in one day, but in a year, you'll see that he linked over here or over there.. Who is on his radar screen."


Question: What do you keep an eye on,

"Anything in the tech industry that is dramatically new or is covering some battlefront...like Microsoft Silverlight vs Adode Flash and you have something new to say, becuase I'm looking at how things are fitting together in the industry"

and here I saw John Freier, he's my boss, so of course I have to read what he has to say"

Phil Winley is the CIO guy at the state of Utah,

Alot of this, for me is relationship work. I want to keep in touch with what Phil Winley is saying or seeing or doing, therefore when I meet him at a conference next week, I'll have something to talk with him about. That's one reason I am reading so many feeds, and you can't get that from reading .....

But another thing is that I have a different take on the industry from anyone else, so I'm looking at things in the video space.

But someone might have an interesting point, because they were at the streaming media conference and saw something new.


"When I'm interviewing a CEO or something, because I have a pretty good luck at the Industry, I have a lot to talk about. Hey, what about that guy, how is he going to disrupt your business plans?"



 From the video

"Part of the reason I am sharing this with my readers is [for me] to be able to go back to read them in more depth later"

(Also to create a new activity space for himself, where he can invest the attention to focus on reading what is interesting and important for his day job)   (are my comments . Is the making of art a way for humans to make the time to attend to and focus on things that can not be said in words?)


 "I subscribe to a lot of feeds to keep me update on what's going on in the world, I don't want to pass that on to my readerships, because I''m wasting their time" 

Quesion: when do you check.

Once a day or twice a day, or when I'm bored

(once an animal is pretty safe, eliminating boredom seems to be a natural need of the human animal)

I'm helping other people's productivity, becuase I'm going through about 1300 feeds a day, and I'm putting the best 60 or 80 items up.


Q: How many links did you have six months to today.

"I went up to 1400 and then I went down to a 100. I started getting overloaded and actually the tool started breaking"

I cut them all down to make the tool go faster, so I cut them down so I wouldn't be wasting my time"

I started with Google Reader with about 100 about six months ago, and I started growing to about 600 right now" and now I have to cut back again. I'm not productive in some parts of my life and I want to be productive in others."

"I have a kid coming in September and I've got to cut something back"








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