Breaking the ubiquity of Stream Mode

A blog post by Luis Suarez has served nicely as a catalyst to start crystallizing some thoughts from the last couple of weeks.

Discomfort

I’ve become increasingly aware of tensions I feel when I think about how I manage my personal sense-making. In hindsight the seeds were sown when taking Harold Jarche’s PKM in 40 days course. During that study I realised that although I “talk the talk” around PKM, mostly what I do is the “Seek” part of Seek-Sense-Share, with sharing only at the level of filtering a set of public bookmarks. My approach to sense-making is opportunistic, driven by the needs of the moment, and often quite ephemeral – knowledge is cast away to the depths of memory when not needed for the task in hand.

I’ve noticed a number of things, which I now suspect are related:

  • I become more and more convinced that email is toxic, yet find myself dragged back into using it by the unhealthy habits of those I work with. Although I find the collaboration in Luis’s #no-email Slack group to be a great support, I spent much of last year not participating
  • I’m increasingly aware of tensions whenever I think about long-form writing and thinking – a whole blog post feels like a lot of pressure! 🙂
    As an aside, I wonder if in fact my long-form thinking is being expressed in a different medium – code – although the job title might mislead you, I write quite a bit of code these days  – and “code is poetry” after all!
  • I find myself attracted to Federated Wiki – the combined timelessness of wiki ( = “no pressure”) with it being “my site”. The ability to quickly bang together related thoughts on pages which are never “finished” feels more accessible than the blank page, dated post, tyranny of the blog
  • I like the speed of Fargo (although the default blog style with dates is a bit reminiscent of timelines). Publishing via smallpict.com is baked in, if I plan to use this tool more I want my own server, and not just syndicate it.
  • Regardless of anything I say in this post, I’m still quite attracted by the immediacy of a Twitter timeline, the frequent updates on Facebook, the serendipitous comments that arise when I post the name of the film I am about to watch – I’ve realised that acknowledging that attraction is a key step in starting to build something else into my practice

Analysis

Part of recognising an issue is to be aware of the feelings of discomfort, and part is having the right concepts to categorise what is happening.

I came across Mike Caulfield‘s multifarious online presences when I started looking into Federated Wiki. The ones that have seemed most useful in this context are where he has drawn out the definition of StreamMode, contrasted with StateMode  (bloghighlighted version). In his words,

“You know that you are in StreamMode if you never return to edit the things you are posting on the web”
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Mike recognises that StreamMode may have some advantages, and Bill Seitz makes an interesting contrast link to Tim Kastelle  on Managing Knowledge Flow, not Knowledge Stocks

But….

“We end up hitting Twitter refresh like sad Skinner-boxed lab rats looking for the next pellet instead of collaborating to extend and enhance the scope of human knowledge.”
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Or in the words of Jack Dorsey – “Twitter is live, Twitter is real-time” – both its strength and its weakness.

The Firehose is addictive – it makes us feel “in touch with the pulse” at the same time as it weakens our ability to pause and take stock – it is the refined white sugar of the knowledge world.

What’s Next

Change relies on motivation and a plan.

So you have an addiction – do you really want to fix it?

Why would I want to reduce the hold that StreamMode has over my online interactions?

Put very simply, if I’m going to spend time online, I want it to be useful in some way – personally, professionally.

And the plan? Reinforce positive behaviours, and manage those which are inefficient, unhelpful or not-fun.

Although I complained above about being dragged back into the toxicity of email I have had some success with “Working Out Loud“:

  • Using a product management toolset that within the scope of a single user licence allows me to make my planning work visible across the company, and for colleagues to comment, and create their own ideas for change (sorry for the plug, but I really like the tool)
  • With internal and external technical teams, reinforcing the use of DVCS repositories, and using comments and pull requests as a way of documenting our design discussions
  • Wherever I can, moving more general internal discussions to a combination of Yammer and internal blogs

So a big part of my strategy is to keep using these, and move more and more of my “inside the firewall” conversations to them.

Outside the firewall, in many ways I feel I have been going backwards, not least because outside the firewall is where the stream is so pervasive.

I think the first step is to take back some control, and of all the things I have read, Luis’s approach to gripping Twitter by the throat and bending it to his will is the most appealing.

So I’m planning my own version of the “Great Unfollowing

That will do for a start. There will be more on evolving practices, but another secret to making a change is not to try too many things at once.

And change often needs a public commitment – here it is!

 

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Breaking the ubiquity of Stream Mode by Julian Elve is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

One Reply to “Breaking the ubiquity of Stream Mode”

  1. Hi Julian, thanks a lot for the link love and for the superb write-up! That’s what I would call a massive personal transformation journey in terms of trying to make sense of the digital world around us and still being fully embarked in that journey. The first past of the article reminded me of this other article > http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2008/aug/28/email.addiction published by Suw way back in 2008 where she talked extensively about our (still ongoing, I am sure) addiction to email and how the newsfeed of the timeline, or homepage, may well be the new addition in a digital world! Oh my, what have we done?!?! Haven’t we learned much from the benefits of letting things go and make sense of what’s around us for the tasks at hand?!?!

    Anyway, I really like how you have reflected on that journey with different initiatives to keep pushing things further along with blogs, federated wikis, bookmarking, and, overall re-thinking how you use some of these social tools. It’s part of the same exercise I keep doing every year myself in an effort to learn how change affects us all, starting with myself as the guinea pig. That’s why I first got started with #noemail back in February 2008, how over 5 years ago I deleted my Facebook account, how I gave up on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Pulse, as well and how I’m experimenting with a different way of getting the most out of Twitter while exploring other social tools, like we are doing with the #noemail Slack space (folks are invited there to join us, if they would want to!) and so forth. I think that’s part of the beauty from the journey we all embark on, i.e. to be able to share these learning experiences and help others navigate through an ever more complex work environment than ever before. And what a journey, indeed!!

    Thanks much for sharing it along with us! Look forward to more #longreads in your blog, too! 😀
    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2008/aug/28/email.addiction

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