Doc Searls is puzzling over new ways to do old things on the Internet, prompted by Dave Winer’s river of news concept:
“River of news” usefully combines three metaphorial frames: place, transport and publishing. Using all three, it proposes an approach to publishing that respects the fact that more and more people are going to want to get fresh newsy information on handheld Web devices.
The River of News metaphor not only speaks a new kind of sense to the NYTimes and BBCs of the world. It speaks to a new blog sensibility as well. I’m starting to think about how I might want to change my blog to be more Webphone-friendly. Can I live without all the junk on the left and right margins, for example? (Probably. They’re worse than useless to readers with Treos and Blackberries.) Alternatively, should I have a special feed just for Webphones?
Whatever the answers, I’m not thinking about my blog, or what it does, as a “site”. Meanwhile, that’s how most big publishers think about what they do on the Web. That’s why their sites are often so chock full of… stuff. They’re all about being sticky and holding your eyeballs inside the sitewalls. That might be fine on a computer screen, which is big and placelike in the sense that it usually isn’t moving around when you’re using it. But a Blackberry or a Treo or a Nokia 770 is different. It’s mobile. It’s going somewhere. You use it in a much different way.
This is an interesting concept, but it’s too much like old wine in new bottles for me. The World Wide Web, the TCP/IP protocol suite, and the personal computer are dead, in the sense that they’re tapped-out for innovation and have been passed-by as new technologies of mobile communication mature. The Web has never been much more than an easier way to access archives of stored information than its precursors Archie and Gopher. The TCP/IP suite assumes that devices never move, and desktop PC don’t know how to move.
But people, you see, do move. So the electronic devices that mean the most to us these days are the ones that either move with us or enable themselves to be accessed wherever we are.
That pretty much means that content is less important than communication, web sites that serve up static page are less valuable than feeds that give us updates to topics of interest (valuable idea), and modes of communication that depend on our being in a set location – like old-fashioned phone numbers and e-mail accounts – are less important than those that know how to reach us wherever we are.
The “river of news” is a crude first step toward realizing that our communication and networking needs changed about 10 years ago, but better late than never. If only the name didn’t remind me of the great Fugs song, Wide Wide River.
PS – Why is it that every idea that comes along with the promise to take us to a better world is invariably wrapped-up in attacks on the cluelessness of the establishment? That kind of stuff bores the hell out of me, even in the cases where it’s actually true. If you have a great new idea, it stands on its own. Don’t worry about the NY Times or the BBC, they’ll come to see your brilliance in the due course of things, if you have any. Just lay out your plan and go do it.