2011 Prediction: Social Becomes Reductive

by Holland-Mark | December 20, 2010

2010 was the year of trying to keep up with all this social crap.

That’s right. I said it.

There are times when The People Feed is overwhelming. I’m nobody, and I’m still connected to thousands of people on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, and Google Buzz. When I go somewhere I actually have to think about whether to check in on Foursquare, or Yelp, or Gowalla.

And that’s just the people. The Content Feed is a whole ‘nother shitshow. I have thousands of unread items in Google Reader, to the point where it sometimes stresses me out. I have two months of unread Atlantic’s on my coffee table, two full days worth of Criminal Minds in my DVR, and a Netflix DVD I paid $60 to keep on a bookshelf in my kitchen for 3 months.

And you want me to sign up for your new, ultra-niche social network, just for entrepreneurial marketing services professionals over 250 lbs. whose last names end in a vowel? Good day, sir.

2011 will be the year when social media starts to help us keep up.

Based on what I’ve seen in the last month or so, I think (and hope) all this is about to change. I think we’re all going to start to see more of a return on our investment in our myriad social graphs, in the form of less content we have to consume, instead of more.

An example… The New York Times is on the long list of media I feel bad about not reading. Has been since I was a budding young Account Man, chasing a dream in the naked city.

Today when I visit the Times online I’m greeted by a list of stories the people I’m connected to on Facebook have read. The system is called Times People, and it’s nothing short of a revelation. 90% signal, 10% noise.

We’ve had this luxury in the music space for a while. The “Neighbors” of my Last.fm profile are all folks that seem to have a similar taste in music to my own, and when they find new stuff, I tend to like it. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do until Apple re-launches Lala as iTunes Online or whatever it will be called.

Facebook itself isn’t that different… I’ve had people tell me my link feed is their favorite source of information about what’s happening in the world, and part of the reason for this is that I follow people who are smarter than me and amplify what they find useful or interesting (that’s what the omnipresent “Like” button really does for the world).

But where this really all came together for me was on the iPad, in a deceptively simple but utterly brilliant application called Flipboard.

Flipboard on the iPad lets me flip through anything linked to in a post by the people I’m connected to on Twitter or Facebook. It turns all that stuff into a clean, intuitive, and highly share-able experience depicted below.

This year we’ll start to see more apps like this to tame the fire hose of open Internet with the filter of common interest. And even within content sources whose editorial perspective we value (for me a short list that includes the TimesThe Atlantic, The Economist, Esquire, and Fortune), we’ll each be able to sort the wheat from the chaff in ways that help others do the same.

So that’s my prediction for 2011. Here’s hoping it comes to pass.

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