Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing

A Perfect Mess: on-line communication

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I was driving home last night and came across an interview between Michael Duffy and David Freedman on Radio National’s Counterpoint. David Freedman is the co-author of A Perfect Mess. In the interview David outlined his view on the messiness of life. The book “demonstrates that moderately messy systems use resources more efficiently, spur creativity, yield better solutions and are harder to break than neat ones.”

As I was listening to the interview I was thinking about how messiness has contributed to my learning. In the last couple of years, particularly post CCK08, I have accessed a variety of on-line sources to explore learning possibilities. Occasionally I try to collect these sources here in this blog. As I was sifting through my early morning feeds today I happened upon a delightful post on the ABC’s Drum Unleashed page by Helen Razer. Now that I have read her post, Twitter quitter, I lament that I have not been organised enough to find her work!

Helen discussed her decision to delete her Twitter account and contemplate Catherine Deveney’s removal from the pages of a Melbourne newspaper. She observes that:

Derailment becomes possible with the invention of the locomotive. The air disaster becomes possible with the birth of aviation. I don’t know what to call the spite, rage and fervour that unfolds every second on Twitter, but I no longer want any role within it.

You might think professional writers would exercise a little more caution with this push-button publishing. The fact is we don’t. We’re right down there in the mud of the populaire rolling around like malicious, attention-hungry hogs.

This is a medium that has seen journalists of national reputation call me, sans any personal provocation a “Druggie”, “Shameful” and “A crap writer”. The last of which was re-Tweeted by a former editor with whom I’d never differed.

Helen’s post was published on the day she appeared on ABC’s Q&A’s discussion of the Future of the Internet (on a panel that included Kaiser Kuo and Brett Solomon.) I missed that too but caught up with that this morning. Helen’s Drum Unleashed post had received sixty-four responses by the time I read it.

One of the comments was from Beagle:

In the early days of the internet, I used an electronic term to describe what I experienced in my quest for information on “the net”. I equated my experience in locating specific information about a topic in terms of signal to noise ratio. Think about it as if you are in a car, listening to the radio. As you drive away from a rural town, the further you get from the transmitter the less signal you get and the more noise you hear. Eventually, you hear mostly noise and very little of the signal that is being broadcast.

In the beginning, the internet was very noisy (95% noise and 5% signal). My impression as we moved forward into the 21st century, was that companies like Google got much better at how they interpreted our requests and actually gave us a better signal to noise ration (50% signal – 50% noise). That relationship is drifting back towards more noise and less signal as companies like Google give us “Ads” dressed up to look like signal, when they are actually just plain noise. As an example, try searching for something you want to go out and buy, but are looking for local stores close to you that sell it. Almost impossible! Most “hits” you get will be for companies selling something online.

Twitter at the moment is (99% noise and 1% signal), Why anyone would put up with so much noise beggars belief.

The way I overcome the noise in my messiness is to have trusted sources. I find Stephen Downes’ OLDaily an essential part of my day and his links give me enormous opportunities to explore and connect. I have reduced my use of Twitter but follow 332 others who act as my guides in that space. Recently I have added The Scholarly Kitchen as a source of information and was delighted with the synchronicity of two of its feeds today:

I resisted the temptation to follow links from the XML paper but did pursue a fascinating link from Kent Anderson’s Facebook post. I found Ashwin Machanavajjhala, Aleksandra Korolova, Atish Das Sarma’s paper on On the (Im)possibility of Preserving Utility and Privacy in Personalized Social Recommendations. Their abstract concludes that “We … show that good private social recommendations are feasible only for a few users in the social network or for a lenient setting of privacy parameters.”

This connectedness is a perfect mess for me and one that is invitational and volitional. I take from Helen’s post that each of us can choose how we share our thoughts and that we enter any forum with our eyes wide open. I am attracted increasingly by slow blogging but realise that the remarkable efforts of others makes my blogging possible … now I need to understand XML to savour the prospect of semantic connectedness.

Photo Credits

Phone-wire tangle

World Class Traffic Jam

Author: Keith Lyons

Clyde Street has been my WordPress blog since June 2008. I write about learning, teaching and performing.

One thought on “A Perfect Mess: on-line communication

  1. Pingback: Cool Free Car Games images | Vintage cars

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