Because We Need it NOW

by francine Hardaway on August 25, 2008

I’ve been grappling for the past few months with the degree of importance to attach to real-time communications, as exemplified by XMPP (which I just learned yesterday stands for Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol). Why, I kept asking, is a three-minute latency period, while a message gets from Twitter to Twhirl, important? Why does Steve Gillmor keep making us talk about “track” (the ability to follow information in real time) on NewsgangLive?

Somebody finally brought it home to me yesterday. I wish I could remember who said this: “How would you feel if you dialed the phone and somebody picked it up and took three minutes to say hello?” That would feel like an eternity. And it would destroy the flow of conversation. Reveal yourself in the comments as my guru if you were the person who lit my bulb.

You can see the need for real time on a satellite TV interview when the interviewer is in Atlanta and the interviewee is in Baghdad. There’s that strange silence between question and answer. And you can see it when somebody dials 911 and it takes three minutes for an ambulance to get there. The patient dies. I could always understand the importance of Twitter and track for breaking news. But now I am beginning to understand it for politic as well. It could give us a true democracy if we use it correctly (not you, trolls).

This weekend Rick Sanchez used Twitter comments to interact with his audience on CNN. He asked questions of Twitter, soliciting opinions about things like the fair tax. He reflected those comments on the air, bringing the opinion of the Twitter community to a larger audience. Eventually, this could be a new version of focus groups, polling, and the development of a broader range of public opinion.

For months Steve’s been pounding at Twitter to bring back track, saying that micro communities can reach and impact larger audiences using the power of these new technologies, and we have all been struggling on Newsgang (myself more than most) with how to do this. Myself, I had even with struggling about WHETHER to do this, whether to spend my valuable time on micro communities and track as opposed to other things on my radar screen (like the election).

Now I see how they are connected. The live stream is everything. Like 20-minute delayed stock quotes, information explodes at the time of release and turns to ashes later.

If you are interested in a deep dive into these issues, Leo Laporte will have a podcast of Steve’s conversation with him yesterday on for download shortly. I just saw that yesterday’s show is up already, but the after show isn’t, yet. I’ll update with the URL later. And check out Karoli and Cliff on this, too. We are all thinking…

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Meryl Steinberg August 25, 2008 at 6:18 am

Agree with you about the import of real time communication. Love what Rick Sanchez is doing with CNN & Twitter. As *pause* for reflection, there is the issue of lack of filtering of indiscriminate, thoughtless, emotional & oft-times vulgar content. There may be a solution, yet it seems the price to be paid.

WebPixie August 25, 2008 at 8:47 am

Public safety could be another very useful and vital application of “track.” Living in the midwest, tracking the word “tornado” could save lives.

Tornado warning sirens are still not within earshot of everyone who could be at risk. The reverse 911 system works well in the places where it’s implemented, but only if residents in the path of a tornado are at home.

“Track” could allow parents to be notified if their child’s school is at risk of tornado.

The concept of “track,” particularly in the public safety application, highlights why cell phones with internet capabilities should be made more affordable. It also highhights the need for utilites (or whatever entity) to extend broadband coverage to more areas.

The tornado at the Boy Scout camp in Iowa earlier this year comes to mind. It’s fortunate for those who survived that it was a camp for Boy Scouts, whose motto is “Be prepared.” Recreational campgrounds for the general public may not have fared so well, but would have a better chance with the availability of “track” and wide-spread broadband.

The word “avalanche” is another word that would be good to track on an internet-enabled mobile phone. That assumes, of course, that broadband would be available in mountain areas where this hazard exists.

The concept of “track” does not come easily. I would suggest that your readers plan to listen to Leo Laporte’s podcast more than once.

Leo does a great job of encapulating new ideas in a way that a wide range of people can understand. He does that with “track” in the same way he does with many tech topics.

There was a lot of conversation on the aftershow for yesterday’s recording of “This Week in Tech” that could be distracting to someone listening only to hear how “track” applies to their needs. That extra conversation is fascinating, though, to those who are interested in knowing the many facets of the technolgy’s potential uses.

Nevertheless, it has taken awhile for the “regulars” on NewsGang Live to grasp the relevance of the “track” technology. The most helpful thing might be for your readers to download the podcast and have it available for listening, and listening again, “rewinding,” and listening some more.

Karoli August 25, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Aron Michalski is the one who made the telephone analogy, and then I broadcast it. Was a great analogy.

The real-time stream is “the fierce urgency of NOW”.

Steve’s blog post on how real-time changes conversations is also a must-read

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