Posts tagged ‘reflection’

Our desire for backchannels

September 1st, 2006

Recently I saw Snakes on a Plane with Felix Petersen. After the movie, Felix soon exclaimed: “We should have had a backchannel!”. That got me thinking.

Backchannels everywhere these days. But what is a backchannel? It’s a kind of parallel discussion, a collectively shaped comment on some ongoing conversation. An alternative channel, often with a different conversational modus.

We see a world that is becoming increasingly hypermediated. The idea of immediacy often attributed to the conversation seems to be fading. The notion of sequentiality is being replaced by a sort of multi-modal parallelity. In other words, the backchannel is going mainstream. Soon it will be everywhere, in all conversational contexts imaginable.

Why? Because there’s a demand. In fact, isn’t there for every conversation a hidden, mirroring, and even antagonistic conversation? For every shared experience a colorful array of potential comments on that experience? For every explicated thought, aren’t there dozens of potential thoughts flocking around it, some countering it, some intensifying it?

Such is the nature of the conversation, but it is only lately that parallel, tacit reflections have become incarnated in mediums where they can evolve and flourish. And so we see chats, feeds, collaboratively edited documents, and even entire parallel worlds turning into shadow conversations appearing and vanishing in tight interplay with a multitude of ongoing discourses.

Sometimes the backchannel even takes center stage–reducing the speaker, or the movie, or the experience in question to a mere object of intense discussion. I myself saw Robert Scoble turn into a de-throned moderator for a stormy backchannel during his talk at Reboot last year.
Similarly, instant messaging is often just a conversational backdrop for what we do in front of our computers–ever heard of continuous partial attention? What used to be intense one-on-one conversations are now ongoing background mumblings in our hypermediated daily lifes.

The backchannel is here to stay. With time it will become ubiquitous. It will enter our most private and intimate spaces. And we will wonder how we ever could live without it.


July 26th, 2005

SegwayUlla, Adam, and me.

With Ulla, Jyri, and Adam. Wow, it’s the future — I can already imagine a fly-by-wire, autopilot, gps-tracked deluxe Segway. People will look at us 50 years from now and laugh at how ridiculous these vehicles were in their infancy…

Backpack is out!

May 3rd, 2005


Last weekend reminded me that breaking up with girlfriends sucks. Big time. Anyway, I’m slowly recovering, and things got a bit better after trying out Backpack, the new wiki/todo-list/PIM web app from the signals. Really can’t decide if this is useful social software or not. Still missing realtime collaborative editing though — heard some rumors about them working on that. I’m in bad need of a SubEthaEdit for the web, and I guess lots of other people are too. They just don’t know that yet.

Annoyingly hard to aggregate!

March 23rd, 2005

Just looking at how I could integrate my recently played tracks feed on my site, and it turns out I’ll have to parse rss (with some rdf thrown in), transform it to html, cache it on my server and then include that snipped on my page. I fully understand why few bloggers do this — it’s simply too complicated!

The easiest way to include stuff on a page is probably by using javascript, but few sites provide feeds and even if they do, it’s a far from optimal technique as your site will build up gradually when content is loading (and it won’t be very accessible either…). And now the rumors has it that IE7 will prohibit all kinds of cross-domain scripting, which effectively will kill much of the really interesting content syndication taking place on the web now…

So what we need, as my friend Adam argues, is a simple standard for seamlessly including stuff on a web page. I propose XML Inclusions, with standard http headers for smart content caching (e.g. “304 Not Modified”). Some smart, transparent proxy system would still be needed for high traffic sites — that, of course, is still the harder problem.

With this, I could include whichever feed I wanted to with one line of code. Just think of how many millions of people who would start aggregating stuff…

Back to Blogging

March 21st, 2005

Phew, finally got my act together and put a new blog up. Had a redesign resting on my Powerbook for year or so, but I was too much of a perfectionist to let it go online — and I never had the time to fix the bugs. So anyway, following the Three Commandments, I decided to release it anyway, bugs included.

If I know myself well enough, this site will probably stay in “perpetual beta”. At least I’m in good company.