Might there be a better way to organize our content feeds than by time stamp?
NY Mag just published The Feed is Dying, which got me thinking: are they right?
Well, kind of. It occurs to me (and is pointed out in the post) that most everything on the interwebs is organized in reverse chronology (most recent content first, oldest at the bottom). Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn — most social media platforms are organized this way. There’s the straightforward logic — if people are constantly contributing content to the platform, organize it thusly. Otherwise, how else would you organize it?
It’s funny, Facebook does apply the reverse chronology news feed, although they do offer some curation. People I interact with get more prominence over others I don’t. It’s still in order, but it’s not static. This is most evident if you move from a browser view to your mobile app. Your two feeds aren’t necessarily identical.
I don’t actually mind this. Facebook is a passive browse for me. I’m killing time by scrolling through what my friends are up to. However, I get annoyed when Twitter attempts curation.
My mental model with Twitter is different. I look at Twitter as a much truer news feed — I want to know what’s going on right now when I look at it. My interest in what my friends are doing on Twitter is secondary. So when the “While you were away” feature is in use, I’ll see tweets from 22 minutes ago, 2 hours ago, etc. Imagine if news organizations presented their broadcasts in such a way — curated instead of what’s going on currently. It would present a slightly inaccurate view of the world (insert your Fox News joke here).
Back to the NY Mag post. Is the news feed as we know it dying? I think a better question might be, is there a better way to organize content?
People are starting to experiment is different ways with this. I think Slack is an interesting example in that people create various channels and follow the ones that are relevant to them. They can still see the other feeds, but this is an interesting attempt at self-curation (or maybe collective curation). Chatbots will upend the news feed dynamic because it switches us from a push model (the platform serves us the content) to a pull model (users request specific content).
Slack continues to resist the call to become more of a social media platform, preferring to focus on being the premier business communication platform (despite many, many people coopting this for personal use). And it’s true that each channel in Slack is its own reverse-chronology feed. But I do find it really interesting to think about other ways to organize the content we create and consume.
I’m very interested in seeing how this changes and evolves over the coming years.