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Disintermediation of minds?

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Commenting on the false rumour that Twitter is going off Rails, Tim Bray hits the nail on the head. Again.

If you want care about Twitter, follow @biz or @ev. If you care about Rails, follow DHH here or here or here. If you care about Sun, read what the people at Sun say. Same for IBM or Microsoft.

The internet is about disintermediation, and about zero distance:

The Net is a giant zero. It puts everybody zero distance from everybody and everything else.

One of the things that underpins what I do is getting across to individuals and companies that they don’t need the media. They can put their side of the story out there and do their best so that people follow them and hopefully trust them. The internet levels the playing field, power law notwithstanding.

One of few things that unites bloggers is linking to others and to their sources. So for any opinion, rumour, news or guess, there should be linkage supporting that view (only rants are excused from this requirement). Even most media commentators – after years of bashing from the blogosphere – are now linking to sources of their stories.

So given that we can follow the source(s), not just be at the mercy of the journalist or the commentator, why don’t we?

If you care about the Big New Thing that’s going to change your life, wait till it comes and touches your life. Then you’ll know what it’s really about, not what some overworked underslept Bay-Area meme-promoter thinks.

Perhaps now that the internet has disintermediated media, we need to disintermediate our minds. We rely on aggregators, top 100 rankings, meme generators and promoters. Sayz Tim:

The other problem with the aggregators is that there are a lot of smart, hungry, imaginative people working really hard to game them and get noticed. Sometimes it works.

Yes, we need to manage the flow of information that is growing by the day. We need some way of filtering the bits that we are interested in from the noise. But aggregation is not the same as filtering. Our way of handling information still dates back to the era where authority and approved sources made it easier, if not better in terms of quality of information and complexity. I have mainly media in mind here. We used a range of sources, not unlike a radar scanning a designated area, to see if anything new came up. The effort was considerable but limited by the scope and number of sources. Once that got out of hand, we started to lose the battle to contain the information – we either keep scanning faster or throw hands in the air saying that there is just too much information.


The internet is a network, so why not use its nature for information handling. Instead of a delineating a radar field, we can build a spiderweb of sources that will ’shake’ the web and alerts me when there is something of interest. Our feedreaders could be constructed that way – the nodes in the web, sources that filter for us and the points in between insider sources that we might be occasionally interested when something happens in their sphere.


There has been a proliferation of tools that help me aggregate but there are still very few tools that help me filter. Part of the reason may be that the human mind is the best filter of all but, surely, there is room for tools that can help me to it easier and better.

Note: I covered this more visually here (about 6 minutes into the video).

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4 Responses to “Disintermediation of minds?”

  1. Peter
    on May 4th, 2008
    @ 16:34 pm

    Excellent video, the visual explanation lifted the veil for me

  2. Rick
    on May 4th, 2008
    @ 20:29 pm

    The problem is, the ’source’ is often the party that has a vested interest in controlling the information. In fact, the source is often the least reliable, uhm, source.

    Filtering what’s out there may give me all the relevant information, but it hardly gets me closer to the truth. It will only give me a better insight in the flow and value of information.
    Which is great, and a vast improvement over old media (I’m not arguing with the rest of your post, and your visual explanation is wonderful btw), but in the end it still doesn’t tell me what I really want to know anymore then old media does.

    In that respect, I think Tim Bray is wrong. If I want to know what Twitter is doing, Twitter itself is hardly a good source of information. Sure, they are under no obligation to respond to false rumours, but the rumours are triggered by valid questions remaining unanswered for very long time.

    The problem with zero distance is the lack of perspective. Unless we can build very, very clever tools for that, we may not need media, but we’ll still need something that smells like journalism.

  3. Disintermediation | Geoff Arnold
    on May 4th, 2008
    @ 20:51 pm

    [...] Adriana (and Tim) on disintermediation. It changes more than you [...]

  4. Rick Burnes
    on May 12th, 2008
    @ 18:34 pm

    We are getting more tools to filter, they’re just not seen as such — they’re seen as communication tools.

    The best filtering tools, tools like Twitter, Wordpress and Facebook, are the ones that make it simpler for the human mind to act as a filter.

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