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Activity Streams

Occasionally, I encounter an image/blog post/video that succinctly captures a significant change. This one qualifies:


Activity streams are still in their infancy, as is evident by the painful process of trying to bring together people, sites, and ideas, according to areas of interest. danah boyd addressed this in an EDUCAUSE article:

As we continue to move from a broadcast model of information to a networked one, we will continue to see a reworking of the information landscape. Some of what is unfolding is exciting; some is terrifying. The key is not to be all utopian or all dystopian but to recognize what will change and what will stay the same. The future of Web 2.0 is about streams of content. If we want to help people, we need to help them be attentively aligned—”in flow”—with these information streams.

My colleague at TEKRI – Jon Dron – has been addressing this within Elgg from the perspective of context switching – i.e. the ability to shape and adjust the information stream based on context and interest at the time. Somewhat related, but less focused on context, I see this as information splicing – selecting the type of information and social interaction streams that are needed to address a particular topic or area of interest at a particular time. It’s a mess right now. FriendFeed has tried to address this, as has Twitter with Lists. The holy grain is to pull any content from any source and have the ability to manipulate the feed on a personal level. The activity stream, to be effective, must also include information that is not confined to our social network. The social-centric Facebook model and the content-centric Google model are both required. Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time before the activity stream is touted as the new centre, the very thing distributed systems need to avoid. It makes sense to create temporary centres such as a tag/hashtag. To create the activity stream as the new centre defeats the purpose of distributed interactions as we lose the needed mindset of streams and networks, not meganodes and single locations.


  1. Niall Watts wrote:

    Surely fax machines were not in use until the mid 1980s and the telephone was widely used before 1950. This rather knocks the 20 year argument in the diagram. I think change is increasingly fast and the gap between stages is narrowing

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 4:07 am | Permalink
  2. Melanie wrote:

    Fascinating article! What do you predict for the evolution of this activity stream in the workplace or in education? Do you think this evolution will occur in 20 years or in 2 years given our current rate of change and technology development?

    Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 11:06 pm | Permalink
  3. L Freeman wrote:

    I have to agree with the previous comment re the 20 year argument, but it’s an interesting thought. If we put alot more techno toys onto the timeline I wonder what we would find? Every 10 years? 5 years? It seems to be speeding up just as Niall said.

    Heard this bit on NPR’s All Things Considered recently( LED light bulbs being the coming thing and that we would be treating them as portable electtronic devices because they would have some of the same technology that our current smart phones do!

    Just last year (11-6-09)they were being developed


    Monday, November 15, 2010 at 12:27 am | Permalink