Interconnected

The shoutability thread continues with two comments [by email]:

"Isn't posting a message on a blog sort of like a shouted equivalent of email? Many people can "wander into range of the message" without being targetted by the speaker". --Tyrethali Ansrath

"This suggests that mailing lists are shoutable?" --Clay Shirky

It comes down to what my definition of a message being shoutable was: that somebody new could listen in without the system being changes. And yes, I admit, I'd forgotten about mailing lists. Which just goes to show that metaphors don't really work and the concept of "shouting" doesn't map across to email very well.

Still interesting though. A mailing list introduces a new break point, that of instead of transmitting a message to a recipient, it's instead transmitted to a recipient reference. The reference is what allows a list of actual recipients, processings, adding and changing without altering the system. It adds the extra axis that allows the email's original recipient list to be divorced from the distance of the shout. It's yet another referencing or abstraction point in the chain: The email address being a me reference allows addresses to be collected, duplicated and sold. Adding a reference to the email address allows a number of addresses to be bundled up under a single mailing list. All the references appear to be going to one direction here, away from the listener. On the web the references go away from the speaker: web page addresses (URLs) are the equivalent of email addresses. The uber-aggregators, weblogs, are the equivalent of mailing lists.

Which brings me on to Tyrethali's point. A weblog does indeed strike me as a shouting medium, and even more it feels like an evolution of the mailist list. Okay, but first, here's where I'm coming from:

I'm thinking about how media transform. Television was radio with pictures until it understood the new properties of the medium and became true to itself. Maybe: A mailing list was just like an email with lots of people in the To header until it found its true form and became -- well, what? And here's where I'm thinking weblog. A weblog extends the idea that the recipient list is mutable and makes the big change that a listener is by default outside the shouting range. A way of testing this would be to see whether very early weblog entries were much like round-robin emails.

Although that's not really true. The direction (the axis goes from speaker to listener) of references is opposite for email and the www. As an aside: I wonder whether it's possible to look at a medium and systematically derive where other abstraction points could be and what properties they might have?