Clay Shirky is an Internet smart guy. (That's the technical term.) As far as I know, he doesn't really know how to write code or design websites or build computer infrastructures. But he knows how people use the Internet and what the social implications and ramifications are. I've heard several of his lectures, and in one of his latest, he argues that one of the problems people face today is NOT one of information overload but, rather, it's a filter failure. If you don't watch the video (though I recommend you do watch it) Shirky essentially is saying that we've been bombarded with too much information for years but it's been largely filtered by mainstream media. The Internet, though, has effectively removed those filters and people are left with essentially having to make their own. (Shirky does a much better job of getting that point across.)
I first saw the video a couple weeks ago, and the notion has been rumbling around in my head as I've been deliberately altering some of my online behaviors and filtering. How do I want to use Facebook? How do I want to use Twitter? What filters do I want/need to use to help ensure that I don't get overwhelmed with information? As I'm embracing additional venues, I need to also embrace new filters as the old ones get overwhelmed.
I don't have answers for everything yet. But do I need to friend someone in Facebook if all they're doing there is regurgitating their Tweets? What is the best format for following someone's updates: an RSS feed through a feed reader, an RSS feed through my portal, their email newsletter or their Tweets?
Not to mention that some of the sites I used to follow don't seem to carry anything really relevant to me any more! I've been pulling in Newsarama and The Pulse feeds for years, but I can't remember the last time I saw an article on either one that jumped out at me as sounding interesting. And the handful that I have read at all were linked to from other sources who provided better summaries. All of what I would consider the "old guard" comics news sites don't really work for me any more, so I'm essentially enlisting folks like Dirk Deppey and Tom Spurgeon to call out the significant pieces for me. That's honestly not to say anything disparaging against those sites I'm no longer directly following, just that their direction and mine have been lining up less and less often to the point where their content generally doesn't interest me. When it might, I've got other filters (human ones) whose link-blogging is more in line with my ideals.
They key, of course, is not to OVER-filter your interests.
If I relied exclusively on link-bloggers, I'd almost certainly miss some interesting stuff. So I continue to keep up with certain things that particularly interest me: certain creators and other bloggers whose perspectives I find intelligent and insightful and companies who tend to publish things I enjoy.
Of course, my level of filtering might well be higher or lower than yours. Obviously, it's dependent on what I find relevant personally. I'm sure there's quite a few people who would find a lot of what interests me absurd or boring or whatever. And vice versa. The point is that each individual has to find their own filters and can't rely on "traditional media" to do it for them. Maybe you get all the comic news you need from the clerk at your local comic shop and that suits you perfectly fine. You're relying on him as your filter. But you'd almost have to spend no time online for him to be the only source of comic information. You're more than likely going to get emails and hit websites than provide more information than your clerk friend, so you have to set up additional filters. Maybe that's entirely blocking sites like Newsarama, I don't know, but I want to emphasize that you will likely need to have more filters in place than you realize.
Not that it will pose a big problem in most cases. Once you set it/them up, it/they will continue to work until you begin opting in to other communication venues. The "Hide" feature you may have used so well in Facebook isn't available in all other social networking sites. Some webcomic creators start including their personal updates in the same feed as their comics; maybe you want that, maybe you don't. But you have to make a choice in the matter. What is relevant and important to you? What do you want to get through your filters? What to do you want the filters to always catch?
This and other similar posts I've made previously might not seem to have anything to do with comics. Other than perhaps some superficial mentioning of them. But since you're online (how else would you be reading this?) it is an issue you have to deal with. In regards to comics, comic news and information in general. I have a crudload of information flowing to me from a huge number of sources. Certainly enough that it would be impossible for one person to manage manually. I have to admit that it's difficult for me to keep on top of it, even with the elaborate filtering mechanisms I've established. So I can't imagine that it wouldn't be difficult for those who aren't as web-savvy; I do this type of thing for a living, so I'm immersed in it every day.
Ultimately, my point here is to simply make you aware of the filtering process that's going on. Knowing that, you're more likely to take a more active role in establishing your filters, and less likely to get frustrated when you feel like you're getting overloaded with information. So, just tuck that one in your back pocket until you need it. Hopefully, it'll help alleviate at least a few headaches for you sometime.
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