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Shirky, Jonas, Syndication and Search That Can Count

Word comes down from the Network, @cShirky foretells the death of syndication. Of course, it was not the first time those words were spoken. The economics of syndication require the distribution of physical product in physical space. Syndicators buy a territory in which to distribute a story whose origin is elsewhere.

Visibility on the Network is near nil. You can’t see the copy next to the copy next to the copy. You can’t see the original among the copies. Except when you search for a news story. Then you can see there are thousands of copies of the same story on every major news site on the Network. What looks like value in the context of a single news site, looks like a commodity space-filler when viewed from across the breadth of the Network.

What appears to be an economy of abundance, is actually an economy of redundancy. Original reporting is rare, copies of originals are common. Here’s where we need to listen to Jeff Jonas on counting.

If you think you have five customers moving slowly on an unremarkable vector when in fact these five customers are all the same person – you might be missing the fact this customer is moving on a specific vector with meaningful velocity (e.g., becoming a much better or worse customer).

Why do I speak of this?  Well, I get a chance to see some of the most advanced sensemaking systems being created and tested around the world.  And the way I determine (in about five minutes) whether they have half-a-chance of ever delivering high value is this quick and dirty assessment: Can they count discrete objects?

Imagine, if you will, a search appliance that can count discrete objects. And not just count discrete objects, but tracks their trajectory through time. Original reporting hits the Network in real time and becomes visible through a search (track). Syndication is weighted as a retweet; Syndicators are weighted by reputation; but the creativity of original reporting would weigh the most. The point of origin regains significance.

Imagine how our experience of the contours of the Network would change. The digital makes the copy almost free, counting with a sense of trajectory, revises our sense of the economics. The scarcity of originality suddenly comes into view.

Published in digital economics media network real time web value zettel

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