Sunday, December 13, 2020

The world is turning upside-down (2006)

Editor's Note: this is a post from my old Serendipity weblog, "Pawprints of the Mind," which was originally posted nearly 14 years ago, on 2006-12-29. Since then, I can't help but notice that social media created itself on a Pull model—follow who you want—and then replaced it with algorithms to Push into that stream. The text below is reproduced verbatim from the original post.

In the beginning, Push dominated.

A company built a product, and it was Pushed to market. Long ago, newspapers pushed by paper boys on the street carried advertisements. Direct-mail catalogs, pushed through the postal service, were nothing but one long and comprehensive advertisement for the company who created it. The rise of radio and television, both one-way broadcast media, allowed advertisements to be pushed to millions at a time, quickly and easily. Movies and music are produced and pushed, and the producers hope they break even.

After a company pushed their product, they spent plenty of money watching what happened to the sales. Was it going to explode or tank? Was the initial 10,000 piece production run going to be liquidated, or was another run ten times the size waiting in the wings? There was no way to sense demand except to Push supply and watch what happened.

Inevitably, Push was brought to the new media: the Internet. Building on the ideas of direct mail, email lists formed. Spam happened. Spam filters happened. Better spam filters happened. But those may be only a temporary solution.

As Pushing got cheaper, more was pushed, until users fled the deluge. Too much yang leaves people wanting yin. Onto this stage stepped Pull.

Nobody knew it was Pull yet. It called itself RSS or reddit, and it was about users coming and getting it. No more HTML-heavy, graphic-packed email stuffed into their Inbox every other day to make up for the poor quality of the site's search capabilities. No more "Insert-Brand-Here Loyalty Updates". No more subscriptions, passwords, bounce processing, and unsubscribing. No more spam, because the provider no longer needs to know where to send anything; they just wait for users to come and get it.

Pull is about user control. Pull is about saying "I want that" and not having some gatekeeper in the way, trying to extract monopoly rents. This is what scares the recording industry; their value as gatekeepers is plunging as alternative ways of connecting bands and fans arise.

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