I’ve been apt to rip on bookmarks because, well, they suck. Browser makers, for some odd reason, have decided to mostly ignore bookmarks as a means of organizing information. Thankfully, bookmarks are quickly becoming irrelevant because bookmarks are being replaced… by people.
(Note: If you’ve no idea what NetNewsWire or RSS Readers are, please read this article first… you’ll get a lot more out of this column).
I have the following groups configured in NetNewsWire: news, people, apple, metalogs, writing, and tech. It should come as no surprise to those familiar with weblogs that the most interesting group in that list is people. I often entirely skip over the other groups in favor of perusing the new links in the people category.
Simple. I hand selected these people/weblogs because I consistently value their opinion. These weblogs constantly sift through this big, noisy would of data/news/horror, add their own twist, and more often than not, that twist appeals to me. This group of people are my credibility network.
You’re already familiar with credibility networks in your daily life. This is the group of people in your inner circle. The ones you sit down with at the bar and start in on any topic for hours on end. A good term for this type of interaction is “a high bandwidth relationship”. A good example of this relation is the following exercept from any random conversation:
YOU: “Remember that time when we…”
YOU: “I was so drunk that…”
THEM: “That you stuffed those chicken tenders into that slot machine and then I…”
YOU: “You, you idiot…”
Etc, etc, etc.
Take a minute and think of these people in your inner circle. I guarantee there are a bunch of obvious ones and a few less obvious. There’s probably a couple people who are always at every single social event, but are NOT on the list. You’ve gone through some process of selecting a network of people that you trust. Maybe you’ve known them for years, maybe it’s family, or maybe you just met someone and, boy howdy, did you two hit it off.
You trust these people.
In the world of the weblog, we need a different term than trust because, no matter hard you try, you just don’t know who is sitting at the other end of that weblog. Yes, weblogs are net_people, but net_people are not real people… they are carefully filtered abstractions. I would argue that unless you have a face to face, personal relationship with the person running a weblog, you’re unlikely to trust them. BUT! You can read what they think and observe how they link to other information.
For whatever reason, you will place a value on the weblogs you care about… It’s almost quantifiable, this credibility you assign to these weblogs and with each new weblog you collect, you continue to build your credibility network.
Some observations about credibility networks:
– Why do I care about credibility networks? I care about them because they do something I can not — they digest the world better than I can. I’m just one guy stumbling around the Net who, occasionally, finds bits and pieces of information that need to be shared. In my credibility network, there fifty weblogs… fifty people who are stumbling along with me and because they’ve provide information I’ve cared about in the past, it’s pretty likely they’re going to do it in the future.
– Credibility networks should be well structured and machine readable, but they aren’t. Ideally, we could use the concept of Movabletype categories to create an index or directory for weblog entries , but no such standard current exists… yet. Over here, there is talk of using the DMOZ open directory as just such an index and THAT IS A REALLY GOOD IDEA. Think of a weblog search engine where you could ask, “Show me the highly credible weblogs who know something about start-ups and ice fishing.”
– But Rands, are these credibility networks insular? Aren’t your discouraging cross-pollination by surrounding yourself with a network of Rands-approved-people? Yes and no. Yes, there are similarities between my weblog and those on my credibility A list, but there are also huge differences. One day, I might be admiring a post from NSLog() regarding some topic I’m knowledgeable/care about… but who knows what he’s going to write about the next day? Or the next? The amount of information flowing through weblogs is mind-boggling, but let’s just pick a single topic, a single news idea. I promise if every weblog in my credibility network needed to comment on that topic, you’d have fifty different opinions. Yum.
There are two answers to the question, “How are people going to make money with weblogs?” Answer #1 is terribly depressing. It goes something like, “Weblogs will make millionaires out of those who provide weblog services (blogspot, typepad) and weblog software (mt, textpattern, others).” How dull. Just another fad. What a waste of material.
Answer #2 is “out there”. Answer #2 is, “We’ve discovered a new medium with which to communicate… like painting or writing or music. The difficulty we have in defining what it is, how to explain it to friends is because of it’s simplicity. The big idea which will come from weblogs is like nothing you’ve ever seen… so stop trying to make it sound like something familiar.”
I’m staring at Answer #2 and still scratching my head. It’s been almost a year since I’ve started a weblog and we’re well passed the “new toy” phase… I’m still hooked. The recurring observation I have with weblogs is how they are evolving to mimic relationship structures I have in the real world. Credibility networks are one such structure that, I’m sure, contains some part of the big idea.