How do we drink from a firehose without drowning?
The obvious answer is: “By taking in only what we actually want and need.”
Instead of standing squarely in front of the firehose and getting knocked flat, we either “search” or we “filter.”
Early digital searches looked for “relevance;” but the relevance was based entirely on content – that is, on the words used in the content. Word-based relevance algorithms were sophisticated and clever, but not clever enough.
Google climbed on top of formerly leading search engines by adding significantly more real intelligence – through discovering how page-ranking algorithms can add influence and reputation to search term relevance.
Social media later added social to the mix:
“I’m following Olivia’s feed because we’re friends and I like to keep in touch with what she is thinking and doing – and because she posts stuff I’m interested in.”
So what’s next? What’s missing? What can be improved?
We have semantic relevance (and it’s getting better).
And we have methods for measuring relevance based on influence (network position) and social connection. If I were creating the perfectly intelligent algorithm to serve me and others like me, I would instruct it to feed me:
Breaking (non-redundant) information that matches my (contextually shifting) interests, and that is Trustable, and I would especially like to see what people in my important networks are taking in and thinking about, so I could join those conversations when I want to.
That is, I want news and information straight from sources I trust (original sources including experts, journalists and curators),
And I want to be able to have conversations about things that are important to me, with people I like, and with others I’d like if I knew them better;
And I would like to be able to see the local and global connections between my conversations and the conversations of others who share my interests, but who don’t always share my perspectives.
That is, (getting further out), I would like to see how my thinking and conversations fit with the rest of the conversations in my communities and the world. Are we each getting only a small part of the picture; are we getting more or less fragmented; are we actually learning from each other – and if so, what are we learning. Etc.
So, some of this is further in the future, but I think it’s doable, and I’m doing my share, for what it’s worth, to make it so.
The Role of Verification
Dialing back to the present and thinking about the firehose again, I can say whole-heartedly that Verifeed is onto something important by adding an element of verification to our feeds, through crowd-sourcing and very smart algorithms.
Verification and trust are the essence of relevance. If something is misleading, I don’t want to be taken in, and I may also want to help confirm the dodgyness.
Verification is derived by digging into the facts, and also by using “intelligent crowds” to elevate the most credible sources, and to call a source’s credibility into question when needed.
The principles that can most help the process of verification of individuals and the crowd are: “follow the money,” and “follow the links to power and influence.” Look for contradictions and potential conflicts of interest. Eventually, more effective crowdsourcing can lead to greater transparency and integrity.