Let’s hear it for the noise

The last person on the blogosphere needing me to echo-chamber him is Robert Scoble, but this post is a wonderful challenge to something that is so embedded as conventional wisdom, I thought of it as truth before reading what Robert wrote. The CW is this: There’s too much noise on the Internet and what we really need is something that helps us reduce the (buzz term warning) signal-to-noise-ratio. But (now that Robert has enlightened me) the fact of the matter is this: If we (and if you’re reading this on an RSS news feed or on my blog, you’re a part of the “we”) weren’t noise junkies, we would be getting our information via the telegraph.

Robert’s post is in praise of noise — for noise, says Robert, is where you discover patterns and tidbits that become news.

Ironically, it can be argued that Robert is saying he enjoys being a filter for the rest of us — serving as a hunter, gatherer of the information that the rest of us may find of interest. We know we don’t have the time, access or endurance to hang out with all the geeks Robert hangs out with — so we entrust him to put up with all of that noise and hassle so he can share with us a firehose of tidbits he picks up. In turn, the thousands of people who follow Robert serve as a filter to discover his “best-of” stuff so those who can stand even less noise, can pick it up in a more-quiet way, via Techmeme, for instance.

Some people hate noise so much, they’ll actually wait 30 minutes for news to hit CNN. And still others have such low tolerance for noise, they’ll actually wait until the Wall Street Journal and New York Times are printed and delivered in the morning to learn what happened today.

And, still others, love the “quiet” so much, they wait until next week and read about stuff in Time or Newsweek.

If you’re reading this, it’s hard for you to claim that you’re not somewhat of a noise junkie. And, despite what Robert says, if you get your news via Techmeme or Google News, you’re still more of a noise junkie than most of the people you know who get their news from CNN and USA Today.

Robert lives far out on the extreme edges of the long tail of noise. The best reporters always do.

Using the idea of “noise” as a metaphorical framework for understanding how much of a filter you want before learning something that in your world may be considered “news,” is a great way to start understanding that the Internet and all this stuff we call Web 2.0 is as much about information and data and conversational flow as it is about technology.

Bonus link: Another thought-provoking post today is from Fred Wilson, who writes about data flow.

Next-day bonus link: Jeff Jarvis on why Twitter is the canary in the news coalmine. Another day, another metaphor to explain Twitter.