Just listened to a great podcast by Dave Winer. He talks about the internet’s great ability to decentralize markets (eBay for p2p commerce, Expedia for travel, etc) and how RSS, blogging and podcasting are decentralizing the publishing business by offering low cost publishing channels to anyone with a computer and allowing us to route around newspapers and radio stations, the previous gatekeepers of publishing channels.
What struck me most about this is the relationship between decentralization and increased information flow. Every time we decentralize something, we end up on the receiving end of a lot more information. For example, we can now book airline tickets without going through a travel agent, but we’re also faced with lots of travel information to sort through. Similarly with RSS and blogging, we can get news directly from ‘real people’, but we’re faced with thousands of blog posts everyday to scan. This could be a bad thing (information overload) or a good one (Dave stipulates that humans are actually quite well suited to this type of information processing). In either case, it seems like a great opportunity for software developers. People seem to have an insatiable appetite for an ever increasing amount of information which the internet is glad to supply, but the software tools to process and interact with that information are still in their infancy. For example, RSS readers are still in their first generation and barely able to let us effectively interact with blogging content and already the next waves of content – photos, tags, geolocation data, etc – are building.