Sunday, June 21, 2009

Putting Passive on the Not-Hot List for 2010

TV, radio, movies, and music created by the few for the mass audience: the rise of content consumption as a passive exercise is a 20th century phenomenon.

If we go back a century, the way that we received and consumed content for leisure and business was by definition social: through the lecture, the recital, the sermon, the town hall meeting. It was people communicating directly with people. The opportunity to interact, question, or offer feedback in the form of applause or catcalls permitted immediately brought a connection between content producer and content consumer.

Mass communication facilitated by radio, TV, commercial movie studios or multinational publishing empires introduced a disconnect in the so-called modern era. A disconnect between the content producer and its consumers.

The rise of the participatory web - an outcome of the 2.0 phenomenon over the last few years - is changing this.

At the recent Gartner Portals Content & Collaboration Conference, I was fortunate to pick up a copy of "CrowdSourcing" written by Jeff Howe of Wired Magazine. It was gratifying to hear some reinforcing opinions - that passive consumption of mass produced content is increasingly becoming passé; as Howe says, "the explosive growth in user-generated content is less a new phenomenon than a sign that the impulse to interact meaningfully with our own media - to participate in its creation - never went away".

When we think about the work that we produce as information workers, we need to consider engaging our intended audience. That we not fall into the trap of being one-way push machines of mediocre mass-produced content. As Web 2.0 technologies come into the workplace, we need to expect to have our content read, rated, re-used, linked, re-tweeted, tagged and commented upon. Our audience - whether internal colleagues or external consumers - will feel freer to offer feedback as the tools permit.

Are we creating content that is so valuable that it will be linked to? forwarded? aggregated? quoted from? Social media forms lend themselves very well to the metrics and measurements of engagement. Active engagement can be measured and creates additional value to the original work via edits, comments, recommendations and aggregation.

Passive push of a slide deck in an email to one person when everyone could benefit is "Not Hot". Posting the same content in an interactive, linkable web community site where interested eyeballs can engage with it is.

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