My Social Media Life And Why Walled Gardens Don’t Work

While out running recently, I re-listened to a Six Pixels of Separation podcast during which Heidi Miller talked about the social media overload in her life. I got to thinking about how I feel about social media overload and the implications it has for the tools I use.

I first dipped my toe into creating content on the web back in 2000 when I managed the website of a division of Hitachi Europe Ltd. I’ve maintained my own personal website since then, but I’ve only recently launched myself headlong into social media.

I can’t believe how much my life has changed since then.

I plotted a timeline of my adoption of web 2.0 tools this year. It’s not comprehensive, but it’s sufficient to make my point:

This isn’t a linear chart; if anything, the increase is exponential:

One look at my average day shows the central role that social media plays in my life:

I love this new lifestyle. I’m always connected. Nothing I do happens in a vacuum any more. I’ve met a tonne of new people. What’s more, my lifestyle accomodates my new-found passion, so I don’t have to sacrifice anything except time to accomplish all of this.

There’s just one cloud on the horizon – the chart above.

The line can’t keep going up. There isn’t enough time in the day.

I see three options:

  • Option #1: Burn-out
  • Option #2: Level-off
  • Option #3: Aggregate

Option #1: I can continue to use more tools and burn out (no thanks).

Option #2: I can stop using new tools, or I can keep using new ones and let a few less valuable ones drop off. I can see this happening, but it would be more through necessity than choice.

Option #3 Find ways to keep up with multiple tools through one interface. I like this option. A lot.

I already have a few tools to do this:

Twitku is a great tool that lets me watch and update my Twitter and Jaiku feeds at the same time.

Google Reader lets me keep tabs a bunch of sites. As a result, I only need to check sites like Technorati or Facebook occasionally.

iGoogle lets me watch Twitter, Gmail, Google Reader and GTalk while accessing my Google Notebook, TinyURL and Google Docs… all from one page. Vista’s sidebar does a similar job, although with less gadgets available for now.

What ties all these applications together? Information sharing.

In a world of information overload, walled gardens don’t work.

In the future, tools will only fit into my toolkit if they’re opened-up. I need to aggregate their information through other tools. RSS feeds, open APIs and widgets are essential.

I’m not arrogant enough to believe I’m the only one thinking this way.

Companies need to share information through these tools or risk falling into obscurity.

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.