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How Many Streams Can You Kayak At Once?

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About a year ago I started to feel the peer pressure of the Stream universe. I wrote about the issue of yet-another-stream phenomenon (YASP), stating that:

YASP…is that somewhat exciting but ultimately frustrating realization that there is yet another social networking, microblogging, curated, real-time, threaded-conversation service that you might have to join so that you don’t get left behind.

In essence, every week we are bombarded with the newest, hottest, social networking startup that is touted as being the next big thing. A number of us rush to sign up, hoping to get in on the closed beta.

Too much Flow, Too Little Signal

Over the course of the past six years or so, I have rushed to grab accounts at many socially-focused websites. A number of them are no longer in existence. I must have over 50 user accounts most of which I have never used after signing up. I created new accounts for two reasons: I wanted to preserve my real name so that no one else could register it as their username; and if a given site became a huge success, I would already be a member.

The fact of the matter is that there are many Web-2.0 startups vying for a piece of the real-time, curated Stream race. And that race is only heating up. Some Stream-based startups are already running, some are about to launch, and many are just at the initial stages of building their vision of the Stream. They all desperately want your attention. They all desperately want for you to put your kayak in their Stream. They all desperately want for you to help them become the next big Internet-startup success.

In fact, in the recent few months, I have created accounts at a number of new social startups including Diaspora, Connect.me, Namesake, and Quora. More on Quora in a bit.

The number of Stream options has grown to an unmanageable level for any one user to participate in a majority of the offerings. The signal is increasing at a decreasing rate while the noise is increasing at a increasing rate. The ratio is moving in the wrong direction.

Social has Many Forms

Not all of the sites on which I’ve registered are technically Stream channels. But they all are social media sites designed to facilitate networking–in some form and fashion–across the Web.

For instance, WordPress.com is not a social network per se. It is a blogging platform and blogging is a social activity. You write a post to share your thoughts with the rest of the world via the Web. Others network with you by commenting on your post, linking to your post, or writing their own post on their blog in response to your post.

I have an account at WordPress.com primarily for the purpose of grabbing my name. As I have my own WordPress.org self-hosted blog (you’re on it right now), I have little reason to use the Automattic-hosted version of WordPress. But I felt the need to preserve my name (in the form of a unique username) so that no one else would take it.

Blogging is a Web 1.5 relic. Whereas it still has a solid foothold in the Web 2.0-space, it has not changed with the times. I make the case for the need for blogging to change in my article, It’s Time for Blogging to Evolve.

I’ve Signed up for Quora. What?

Yes, I know. After all my blog posts and tweets about the open, Social Web, Why did I sign up for yet-another-stream phenomenon? After reading this post you might ask doubly so.

To be honest, I had been thinking about the utility of joining Quora for sometime. This interesting Quora post by Philip Hotchkiss was the final straw in my decision to join Quora, Why do conversations with influencers matter?

I’m going to give Quora a try for three reasons:

  1. As an occasional alternative to posting multiple-related tweets in rapid succession. Instead, I can use Quora as an intermediate format between a series of short tweets and a long-form blog post.
  2. As a more appropriate place to pose questions that can generate real, meaningful debate. Posing questions on twitter seems to fail, by and large. Asking questions on my blog seems to result in the same failure, unless I first tweet about it and even then it seems that interest in the topic is lost too quickly.
  3. To see if I receive more exposure. It will be interesting to see if my thoughts and ideas gain more traction on Quora than they currently do on my blog.

However, just because I have joined YASP does not mean that I have tossed in the towel, that I have given up on helping to bring the distributed Social Web to fruition. It is simply a nod to the times, a practical acknowledgment of the current state of the Web.

Please, Not Another Stream

Whereas I am giving Quora a try, the premise of my year-old query still stands. I believe that people are beginning to get tired with having to create new accounts on the next-greatest-social-networking-site du jour.

I end my Flocking to the Stream article with this thought:

As the number of streams continue to increase and as the flow rate of each stream picks up, people will grow tired of having to subscribe to, having to join yet-another-stream phenomenon (YASP).

So, I ask you here (and I’ve asked this on Quora as well), How many streams can you kayak? How much of your time and attention can you split between multiple (maybe even many) Stream services each day? How much signal are you receiving versus noise? Why should you have to rebuild your social graph each time you join a new siloed social network?

The Web is about distributed communications channels, not about cloistered communications silos. The Web offers netizens the ability to create their own communication channel. I want to subscribe to you, not to you at some social network here and then also to you at another social network there, etcetera.

How many Streams can we efficiently and effectively manage at once? How many channels can we navigate in a meaningful way. How many new social networks do we have to join to keep track of the activities of all our friends, family members, and colleagues?

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