Since F8 I’ve been thinking a lot about frictionless sharing and what it means and in particular how I feel about it. I think it’s best summed up for me by bastardising a Douglas Adams quote - ”I love frictionlessly shared things. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
Frictionlessly shared things feel devoid of meaning to me. They were shared automagically without human intervention and, as such, all they have is an algorithmic relationship with that person. Normally the only human intervention connected with them is to switch them off.
That’s why I tweeted this this morning:
I’ve been fascinated in declarative vs implicit sharing for a while now, but somehow seeing the very ignorable stream of people’s actions flow by has sharpened the focus. I’ve not glanced and seen one interesting thing within it. It’s like your peripheral vision as you drive fast along a road. It feels like mere fodder for the robots; for other algorithms to try at best to curate something for you out of your friends actions, or quite possibly to try and make better adverts.
It’s aspergic social software. I always think that good social software is where you can picture yourself having that conversation with someone - where they have edited their subconscious in some way before the stream of data emerges.
There are three services around at the moment which are the converse and feel very meaningful to me. Interestingly the sharing within them is declarative and frictionfull. You have to work to do something before sharing it and in doing so, far more of you, the thing your friends and people who follow you care about, emerges.
The first of these is Readmill. At some point I should write more about why I like it in general. It’s beautiful. In this context though, the simple action of highlighting things that you’re interested in has an implied friction. You have to have read the thing first to be able to highlight an element that has meaning for you. There’s no shortcut. The act of opening a page is not enough as it is with the frictionless sharing in some of the newspaper Facebook apps.
The second one is Instagram. For me it seems like a way to curate the world around you. To note down the moments in life where you spot something. It makes you see. It reminds me a lot of Tom Taylor and Tom Armitage’s lovely Noticings and in some of the things we tried to do with our game And I Saw… You’re not live streaming the world around you, you’re plucking visual ephemera and things which touch you and sharing it. As such it has a massive emotional resonance and feels like one of the most visceral ways of being present with distant friends.
The third is a new one and is the perfect antidote to the Facebook Spotify integration which takes more out of the party than it brings for me. This is my Jam allows you to share the one piece of music that is currently full of meaning for you.
“What’s your favorite song right now?
Not any old track, but THAT song; the one that’s on repeat, the one you can’t get out of your head today, the one worth shouting about.”
This comes back to my thoughts about the conversation you’d have with someone and on how you really have to role play social software to imagine how it feels for someone on the other end of it. Personally, I’d tell my friends what music I was obsessing about and I’d hope they’d do the same for me. This morning’s chat with Chris Wild shows me how true that is. The Spotify autoshare functionality is like my friends telling me in person the name of every track they’re playing, even the ones which play when they go off to make the tea. It’s the zenith of anti-social social software - no eye contact is ever made as the stream of non-conversation occurs. All it feels like to me is analytics for a person’s life.
Good things are always hard won and it strikes me that frictionless sharing is merely the easy way out. It’s the outcome of having enough compute units and a deep enough desire to amass data in the hope of understanding a person as a monetizable unit. Let’s make things harder and do better with those compute units and the pieces of life people choose to share. Make it more about curation and make the more complicated services that encourage people think about sharing and through doing that give them a meaningful and emotional connection to their friends.