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    Giving up control

    Uncle Seth Godin has an interesting post/rant the other day about how it seems that Gmail has (at least for some), been delivering his daily blog's email version to subscribers' 'Promotions' tab in Gmail, or even worse, shunting the email to their Spam folders.

    In the post, Seth correctly reminds readers that if they (or you), rely on any kind of a algorithmic filter, be it Gmail's spam machinations or Facebook's (and other networks), 'newsfeeds' to make a determination of what posts the platform thinks you will be interested in seeing, then you constantly run the risk of missing things and content that at some point you had indeed indicated that you were interested in seeing/reading.Mark Rothko, Number 14 (1960)

    I wrote about the same phenomenon, from a slightly different point of view, recently too, when I posited more or less that we get the algorithms we deserve to some extent, by allowing ourselves to be beguiled into thinking that superior networking tools and technologies can somehow allow us to usurp the famous Dunbar number which suggests an absolute limit to the amount of social relationships a person can manage at any time. 

    Both posts, mine and Uncle Seth's, are really about the same issue at a fundamental level. In our information overload existence, we are increasingly ceding the signaling of what content is important enough for us to take a moment to actually consider to algorithms, which are at least in part informed by what everybody else thinks is important. Before the Facebook newsfeed took over the world, we used to subscribe to the sites/blogs we decided we were most interested in, either getting posts via email or the dearly departed Google Reader, and we could confidently rely upon either of those mechanisms to reliably deliver the content we explicitly desired.

    Sure, we may not have always had time to read all our email, or plow through all the unread items in Reader, but that was on us - the content would always be there whether or not we were ready to consume. And now, with Google deciding for us what messages we should be prioritizing, and the social networks relying on some mysterious formulas to determine the relevance of content, we have, even if we have not really intended to, relinquished some of our own agency in the process.

    And while I think things like spam filters and 'smart' algorithms can improve the way we see and engage with the barrage of information we confront on a daily basis, there still needs to be some kind of a universal setting for 'I want to see this all of the time, even if I don't read it right away, and especially if I don't click the like or share button every time I see it.'

    There needs to be an override to the algorithm for the things we decide we care about.

    Even if these things are not super popular. Even if they don't get 'enough' likes. 

    Even if Google thinks they are spam.

    Even if none of your Facebook friends like them.

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