If new media, social media or web ‘2.0’ has something new to offer from the ‘old’ ways then it’s the way of sharing information. I think this is, besides the way of creating this information, indeed one of the key points that many before me have described about this new way of using the web. But what is this new way of sharing information all about? Is it indeed the ‘prosumer’ approach where everyone is creating and consuming content at the same time? If one would name sharing, editing and redistributing content as the key to social media, a virtue of this new way of sharing and consuming content then one neglects the underlying question; why this ‘works’.
So now you probably expect me to come up with the answer to this question. Well I don’t think there is an easy one and a good answer, if there is a single one, would probably be more like a book than a blog post, so I won give you a full answer here. What I will give you is a little thought I had about the way the broadcast like structure of a microblog like Twitter affects the way of how information is gathered and shared.
Let’s say a person, let’s call her Sue, is writing a paper about a certain subject and she is looking for some more information to put in that paper. She will of course use google, her books and things like that to find additional information. Another thing she might do however is ask a friend, John, if he has more information about this subject. Now chances are he knows a bit more and can help Sue, because she will probably have made an educated guess about who of her friends would have some knowledge about this subject. But of course it is also very likely that he doesn’t know anything, or not much more than Sue. She could then call or email other friends, with similar results.
If you look at the picture here you will see Sue asking John for help, but there is also Anne, someone she didn’t ask for help! Maybe she forgot about Anne, or thought she wouldn’t know anyway. But as it turns out, Anne had some additional information all along. Now, of course it’s a big shame that Sue couldn’t add that to her paper, even though she was so close to obtaining it.
Information gathering via broadcast requests
The solution to the problem that one couldn’t possibly ask anyone is of course enabling someone to do so anyway. This can be arranged by broadcasting a message for example through twitter. As you can see, in this new situation everyone receives Sue’s query (they might even retweet it) and the one(s) that think they would be able to help out can respond.
Additional advantages can be gained in situations where Sue is just working on a paper and not calling out for help for any reason. If she does talk about what she is writing, however, people can still offer help. If Sue tweets about the approach she is taking on this subject people might point out mistakes, give information about aspects she never considered in the first place and so on.
So; this makes a strong case for the sharing of information in a 2.0 kind of way! Not only do you get your queries out there to a broader audience, the same audience could also improve your work without you having to ask for it!