I’ve been thinking about Jeremy Toeman’s Will Normal Folks Ever Use Twitter? A related question is: “Will normal folks ever use feed readers?” I suspect the answer to both questions is No. This might signal a new kind of stratification in society.
It’s always been possible to be very well-informed; there’ve been clipping services and above all old-boy networks; but services cost real money, and many lack networking skills or aren’t Old Boys.
But the Net is the greatest listening engine ever devised. These days anyone can choose, with its help, to be well-informed. You have to make the effort to figure out which key people are really on top of what you care about, so that you can start listening to them. Plus, you need to deploy some saved searches. Once you’ve done these things, then when you turn your computer on in the morning, it’ll tell you if anything’s happened that you need to know about.
Nobody can be well-informed about everything or in fact about more than a few things. Plus, you can set your flow too high and it’ll fill up time that should be productive and maybe keep you from becoming one of those key people yourself. But my point stands.
Not everyone wants this. When I first discovered the magic of RSS, I expected that it would sweep the entire online population, including everyone’s kids, parents, and grandparents, in a matter of weeks. It hasn’t, any more than Twitter has. My argument: “If you care about anything online, just subscribe, and then you won’t have to go back over and over to see what’s new.” I thought it was conclusive but it’s not; there are a lot of smart, good people who don’t see the point.
What does it all mean? I’ve come to expect, of my technical and business peers, that they will be well-informed to an extent that would have been very rare even a couple of decades ago. Can you skip this and still make a difference in the world? I don’t know, but it does seem that we are sorting ourselves into tribes based on the intensity of our listening.