Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community
I liked this article, but I liked it better near the beginning when I thought Kathy Sierra was making a different point. She begins by looking at Twitter - "A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?" - and draws the 'Twitter Curve', mapping the adoption of various technologies with the frequency of interruption. So far so good, but this then wanders into a hackneyed discussion of how interruptions make it hard to get into the flow of things, which we've read a million times before. Where I thought she might go, and where it would get interesting, would have been a mapping of 'frequency of message' versus 'density of connection'.

The two variables are, of course, related. But as messages get less and less useful (and because we pay less and less attention to them) as the frequency increases, there is therefore - at a certain point - an inverse relationship between density of connection and usefulness of communications technology. This graph is much more interesting - it looks like a bell curve. Being completely disconnected is, of course, useless. But so is being (directly) connected with every other person on earth. What is the midpoint? What does the graph look like when you map not direct connections byt rather two-hop connections? At how many hopes is complete connectivity maximally useful? This tells you what your network should look like (hint: it's not a hub and spoke model, it's much more decentralized than that).

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Last Updated: Jun 15, 2021 12:24 p.m.