Instant Syndicating Standards

ISS/IM is an open set of standards that empowers individuals to discover and syndicate information through the help of their own social network. This challenges the top-down model of information-sharing and gives place to a bottom-up model, where each person has a unique voice and equal opportunity to contribute and benefit.

As of today, there is no existing technology that allows individuals to share information in a bottom-up manner on a global scale. ISS/IM (Instant Syndicating Standards) is a proposal to create just that: a distributed worldwide recommender system perfectly tuned to output a very personalized stream of information for each individual, where information flows from the personal social network towards the whole wide world.

The key concept behind ISS/IM is the tagLink. The tagLink is a semantic link created by individuals showing how their friends' channels are connected with their own channels. If a user becomes interested in a particular channel from a friend, he may subscribe to this channel and add it to his own channel. Thus, each individual receives exactly what they want based on these subscriptions and all information that reaches them goes through friends' approval first.

Use Case

To understand how ISS/IM works, we'll analyse a simple use case scenario between a user and a friend.

We'll analyse 4 moments:

  • Discovering: when a user discovers a common interest with a friend;
  • Subscribing: when a user subscribes to this common interest;
  • Viewing: when a user receives entries from this subscription;
  • Syndicating: when a user shares a specific entry.

While we go through each moment on a micro level, it's important to analyse the impact that these moments have on a macro level. The information a user receives is not only from direct friends, but also from friends of friends, and so forth. The same applies for the information a user syndicates: it will propagate to friends, and friends of friends, and so forth. Analyzing the impact that this cascade effect has on the information being shared is fundamental.

Discovering

ISS/IM is inspired by blogging, social tagging, and social networks. Like blogs , users may publish entries and use tags to categorize them. Users are also able to connect with friends to share entries.

ISS/IM puts a great emphasis in promoting awareness of information being created within a social network. It does this by displaying tagClouds for each friend.

The picture below is an example of a tagCloud from a friend with 3 channels identified by the following tags: Design, Business, and Web. The user is able to see three entries in the friend's Web channel (symbolized by a circle, a square and a triangle).

Subscribing

If the user becomes interested in a particular channel from a friend, he may subscribe to this channel and add it to his own personalized channel (this subscription is called a tagLink).

In the picture below, the user creates a tagLink between his friend's Web channel and connects it with his own Tech channel. Now, every time his Friend syndicates an entry in her Web channel, the user receives that entry in his Tech channel.

Thus, for users to share information, they don’t necessarily have to share the same concepts. All they have to do is to show how their friends’ concepts are associated with their own concepts.

Viewing

The user receives entries from these tagLinks. The picture below shows that the user will receive three entries in his (incoming) Tech channel: the ones coming from his friend's Web channel.

It's important to notice that the user won't have to classify the incoming entries again, as they will automatically be tagged as Tech. However, these entries are not published on the user’s (outgoing) Tech Channel just yet, as he'll have to share these entries himself.

In this particular example, only incoming entries from one subscription are shown. However, the user will likely receive entries from several tagLinks coming from multiple friends and on different channels.

Syndicating

If a user finds an entry interesting, he may syndicate it. The Figure below shows that the user likes the circle and the triangle entries, but he doesn't like the square entry. He decides to syndicate these entries, which by default will be published on his (outgoing) Tech channel.

Everyone subscribed to the user's Tech channel will receive the circle and the triangle. They too will be able to re-syndicate these entries on their own channels. The entries will propagate to friends and friends of friends as long as they remain relevant.

This trustful and cascading network of syndicated streams filters out irrelevant information, while letting high quality and personalized information pass through at each level.

Final Remarks

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes the Law of the Few. They are the Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. For an idea to spread, it must first reach these gatekeepers who control the information hubs of society. Once the idea gets through them, it reachs a tipping point, spreading rapidly to the rest of society.

This top down model has been the mechanism used to avoid the information chaos that would ensue if every individual shared their opinions freely. Democracy in its purest form could never be managed/achieved. It would turn the world into anarchy.

So having only a few selected or self-proclaimed experts to rule and opine has been the way to establish order and control. Even the most democratic societies and organizations today rely heavily on the top down model.

However, the top down model creates inequalities and is very much susceptible to abuse. Plus, the top down model ignores the great potential of each individual and inhibits freedom of thought.

This is why ISS/IM is so important. Because it represents a bottom-up distributed model for sharing information that can finally:

  • challenge the top-down one-to-many model that has prevailed in much of the world's history;
  • advance democracy to a new level and bring order to chaos;
  • let individuals exercise their freedom, their liberty, and their independent thinking; and
  • create a more equal and just society.

In a Web that has become more like mass media, where a user's influence is strongly correlated to the number of followers s/he has (Twitter), and where algorithms are taking over the decision process of determining what's relevant or not for each user (Google's personalized search and Facebook's EdgeRank), it has become crucial to re-evaluate where the Web is going. We must restore the open and distributed nature of the early days of the Web and on top of that build a social network that is truly democratic.

The tagLink might just be the missing link to achieve this. As simple as the tagLink might seem to be at first, it's important to notice that little things can make a big difference, specially when considering the ripple effect involved. This has certainly played out to be true in the case of the hyperlink and its role in forming the Web.

The reach provided by Facebook, Google+, and Twitter to the “average” user is quite disappointing. Messages from users can barely get past through the first degree, the percentage of “(re)retweets” is very low, and now Facebook is even experimenting with charging users for promoting messages to their own friends!

In contrast, ISS/IM helps users not only to reach out to strong ties and friends, but also to weak ties and friends of friends, much thanks to the tagLinks. Users can both receive and disseminate information from/to people many degrees away, as long as the information is relevant. Who gets to decide the relevancy of the information are the people themselves.

In summary: with ISS/IM, each individual gets to excercise their own opinion, while the collective opinion is taking into account at each level. What better way to describe a true democratic system?