My information sources are stream-based. Anything good quickly gets pushed down as new stuff appears on top. If I don’t check the stream for a couple of days, I miss out on good things which have since been buried. If I want to go looking for them, I have to go digging backwards in the stream.
Not all streams are created equal, but they all present me with the problem of eventually having old stuff that I would like to get to later on. Whether I choose the contents of the stream myself or whether others populate its contents for me, whether it’s strictly chronological (newest first) or whether the top rankings incorporate some aspect of effectiveness or popularity, the problem is that old but good stuff gets buried. Of course, streams are fun because they give us what’s new and interesting. The last thing we want is to keep the old stuff around where we expect the new stuff to be.
As it is, the only option available to me today is to start making my way through the older items in the stream to look for good content. What if there were a better way?
The solution for this would probably look different depending on the nature of the stream I find myself having to pick through.
With my own Delicious bookmarks, whatever I saved has already received my stamp of approval. It was interesting enough to warrant my saving it. On top of that, the tagging system lets me narrow my search for old stuff so that I don’t have to pick through everything. When older items are segmented in any way, the problem of resurfacing older content is made easier to solve. Everything in the stream has already been judged, by my standards, to be good. The only thing left to do is to call it back up.
With streams such as The Browser or Hacker News, the items are for narrow subjects and are likely, though not guaranteed, to garner my interest and attention. Sometimes, slightly older items will stay up longer because they’ve been deemed to be of high enough quality to justify keeping them around for a little longer. To resurface old content on these sites, I’d have to resort to looking through the older items manually, but it wouldn’t be so bad because the stream is dense with interesting and relevant articles.
Does the answer lie in curation? Or can we automate the resurfacing process somehow?
In a way, this is a problem we’ve had even before the Internet was around. The difference is that the great classical works of old were part of a standard curriculum and digging them up just meant exposing them to a new generation. With the advent of the long tail, our interests have become fragmented. Add to this the explosion of available information and the new problem of picking through it for the gems.