In my article — Blogging the Bodily Fluids Stream — I argued action streams like Twitter had no place on a blog because content, not diary mapping, should be the business and purpose of the human condition. I mentioned a few Six Apart employees — the makers of Movable Type — as examples of the decay of blogging for content. Anil Dash, one of those I mentioned, wrote a fine response on his blog to my article — Actions are the Body Language — where he argues what you do on the web is important and should rightly be published for public consumption.
Before I get into a more detailed response to Anil, I want to mention I have never met the man behind the meme. We have never exchanged email or chatted on the phone. I only know him through the writing on his fine blog and it was Anil’s blog — the active, human, content of persuasion I read on his blog — that convinced me to move this Urban Semiotic blog from WordPress to Movable Type.
I believe a blog should be about creating content that influences thinking and requires the examination of the human condition. I do not find Action Streams — lists of done deeds in a sidebar — persuasive or memeingful as methods of influence.
I understand Action Streams are popular because they give people a feeling of significance and importance — and the illusion of creating original blog content — because bloggers believe the events of their day reverberate beyond them in highly significant ways.
I have learned that to even slightly criticize someone’s Action Stream will always result in a vicious defense that their day is important and must be shared in the public square.
It appears Anil believes that passive collection of data is content, and that what you click on, and save, while interacting throughout your day is so worthwhile, that it deserves to be republished on your blog:
It’s just as significant from a technical perspective, though, that the
most useful types of metadata are those which are captured passively.
If you let people tag and share things themselves, you have to deal
with spam and inaccurate data and any matter of other social
complexity. But look at the data that’s automatically captured, like
when Microsoft Word tracks the number of times you’ve saved a document,
or when Facebook lets people know who you’ve added as friends. That
data is captured on the fly, and thus tends to be accurate and useful
while requiring very little effort on your part to share.
If you believe you should only speak when you have something important to share, or if you think you should only blog when a new insight ignites you, then you will be a little confused by Anil’s argument that just because the technology allows you to be tracked, you should take that tracking and prominently advertise your actions on your blog.
I am of a different mind than Anil because public actions without context are dead and dull. If Anil were actually writing about his day, instead of just passively publishing what he clicks and saves, I would be much more interested in the minutiae of his day because Anil is a great writer when he takes information and forms it with the substance of his intelligence and comprehension.
Willy-nilly Action Streams have no definition or argument and are lacking the frame of human emotion and understanding. Action Streams are inactive, dry, riverbeds yearning for the blood of human touch, not the cold computer click.
I think that’s a promising new area of sharing data online, and I think
it’s key that this kind of data is shared using open standards. But
ultimately, I think the highest goal is that we enable more nuanced,
complex communications online, where we don’t just have our spoken
words, but also the body language and gestures and facial expressions
that inform those.
Here is the new page Anil had dedicated to the recording of his actions:
When Anil Tweeted — “Please Do Not Throw Sausage Pizza Away” — is he speaking to one person? A group? Was he warning us against an impending hunger dilemma?
We have no idea, because the real Anil we know and love — because we read his blog — is missing. His message is there, but without his essence and his context and his grammar and his definition, his passive “body language” has no action. The deed is done for him, but the deed is dead to us.
Anil’s Tweet about eating pig stomach is repulsive, but curious, and we want to know more. Anil pokes us with a flash of an idea, but he doesn’t follow through because he doesn’t have to: Twitter “published” the action even though the story is missing. So we’re left with a barren, Twitted, Action Stream of the “What” that teases, but provides no human release for the “Why?” into the state of Anil’s human condition.
Action Streams on a blog leave one big hole in the want for human understanding because they are unable to answer the “Why?” behind the “What.” The greatest authors throughout time have wrestled with “Why?” and its effects on the human mind, body, and spirit. The worldly “Why?” is the prime question I try to wrestle with every single day in everything I write.
“This happened.” — is never as interesting as — “Why this happened.”
“What” is action without meaning.
Publishing Action Streams on a blog never provides the why context behind the action, and so we, as readers, are left to invent our own empty reasons for the why and that leads to dissonance — a disconnect between idea and progression — and a total and complete disintegration of the written integrity of a blog.
Action Streams — by their very nature — are irrevocably dry. How can we add the “Wet Why?” to the “Dry What?”
I am pleased to see Byrne Reese, another Six Aparter I mentioned in my original article, has removed his Action Stream from the center of his blog and pushed it off to the sidebar for the appropriate ignoring so we can more fully read the genius of his writing:
Unfortunately, the final Six Aparter I mentioned, David Recordon, is still and publishing Action-Streams-As-Blog, and leaving us to forever wonder “Why?” as he only provides the “What:”
I understand Six Apart has a vested interest in promoting the publication of passive data collection — Anil admits that in his blog post — I am just still unconvinced that making contextless, chalky, and dead information public serves the greater good of the glistening human condition; and if we aren’t always trying to answer the evergreen “Why?” of us, then why are we blogging at all?