Oblique Conversations

One of my favorite features of delicious is the ability to “send” emails to other users by using “for:” tags. I regularly stumble across resources that I want to share with my colleagues, and my practice is increasingly to delicious the site and then add a tag for that individual.

I love the way that this feature allows me to engage with people I know in indirect, yet interesting ways. If I sent them an email, it would likely get lost in the river of messages flowing through their inbox. If I waited until I saw them next, I’d probably either forget to mention it or inadequately describe how to find it. With a delicious “for:” tag, I can send something to their delicious account where they can, at their leisure, login, view the item, and choose whether or not to save it.

I’m intrigued by the way in which this allows me to participate in an interesting kind of subtle conversation with people. For lack of a better term, I’m going to call it an “oblique conversation.”

The next time I’m with that person, I can generally anticipate that he or she will have seen the resource I’ve tagged, and in a way our face-to-face conversation can be informed by that sharing.

Along these same lines, I was reading my Bloglines account yesterday and the whole thing was feeling a bit stagnant. I subscribe to lots of wonderful blogs, but some days it might be nice to see something completely different. I started to think about what it would be like to live in someone else’s Bloglines account for a day or a week. Would this allow me to sort of see the world (or some slice of it) through someone else’s eyes? And the next time I was in the same room with that person, wouldn’t it be interesting to see how that experience, or that oblique conversation, might affect our face to face interaction?

Not sure where to go with all of that, but I find the whole notion intriguing.

11 thoughts on “Oblique Conversations”

  1. You can log in to my Bloglines account whenever you want. I’m not using it anymore…. [Google Reader is much easier to manage and skim through.]

  2. But wouldn’t logging into an unused account defeat the purpose?

    The larger notion of living in someone else’s richly stocked information feed is fascinating. Dense conversational allusiveness can create powerful bonds.

  3. Okay, so you would get a sense of my blog-reading world about six months ago.

    The larger idea, however, is an intriguing one, though I’m struck by the fact that I have trouble keeping up with my own information feed, let alone someone else’s. Still, I would think that a quick glance at the way that an individual chose to organize their blogs for reading would provide a kind of snapshot of how he/she perceived that portion of the online world.

    Of course, there’s the possibility that glimpsing inside someone else’s view of the online world would make for awkward, not enlightened, face-to-face combinations. I think I might want to explain why I choose to read some of the blogs that I do…. 🙂

  4. When I put a link in my bloglines, it’s kind of like letting the world know what I value, or what is exciting me at that point in time. It’s funny you bring this up, because I very consciously purged some stuff from my bloglines this week, and added others. In a way, I wish I could keep a list of the ones I choose and when I expelled them because they depict a trajectory in a personal journey through faith, politics, and discovery. It would make for a great biography some day 🙂 I’ll call David McCullough…

  5. Cathy, I frequently wonder about how my future biographer will mine the data of my online life. Well, not really. But it is interesting to imagine a Bloglines account as a “tracing” of your life.

    Gardner, Exactly. I’m fascinated by the “unspoken conversation” that we all partake in my lurking in each others’ online spaces. . .It’s that connectedness of language and conversation that weaves through us all.

    Jeff, I can’t really warm up to Google Reader. Perhaps I need to give it another go. Oh, and there are some feeds I hide in my Bloglines account. A girl has to have some privacy, you know.

  6. The for:xxxx tag is a subtle thing of beauty, and again, woefully underused. It is an interesting sort of communication, it says, without direct interaction, “Here is a little tidbit, and I thought of you”

    To that end, I started for: tagging your way. Tell me to stop.

    And FYI, you can hide your feeds in Google Reader; the only ones visible are folders ot tags you explicitly share. I have my secret naked cat blog feeds hee hee.

    The only thing Google Reader lacks is a way to publicly share your blog feed list. Reader rocks so much more than Bloglines

  7. But the public sharing function is at the core of these oblique conversations–so tell me again why I should switch from Bloglines to Reader? I’d love to hear something compelling here, as I’m getting a little frustrated with Bloglines’ apparent inability to keep its read-and-unread alerts straight. I regularly check into what seem to be new posts, only to find that Bloglines is counting old posts as “new” again.

  8. Perhaps its the liberal sprinkling of Ajax, Gardner, meaning the ease of using single key shortcuts to blast through a headline view… I always found bloglines tedious to do a back and forth web page request for each new feed to browser (well, it has been a few years since I used it for reading), the ability to create different sets of feed not only by folders (a la Bloglines), but also by tags, the ability to create web clips (javascript cut and paste) that allows you to display any feed set on a web site…

    They are not mutually exclusive, you can use them both, with mo pain, since you can import/export OPML from each. I keep BL for the sole purpose of generating a blog roll.

    But back to the for: tag… I have been thinking it weird that when you for: a link to someone, you never know if they do anything with it, but in a way, that it makes it even more of a gift. I would like it if delicious would keep the notes when I decide to “save” something for:ed me, as I like to have annotations with my tagged sites.

  9. I took sometime yesterday to export my Bloglines OPML to Reader and played around with the Google tool for a while. I have to agree with Gardner that the inability to share a list of my subscriptions really makes Reader less attractive to me. It’s just this kind of sharing that I love, and that I think the delicious for: tag also captures.

    It’s particularly frustrating because I think Reader does have a much slicker interface and some other features (particularly tagging) that I would love to make use of. I’m just not sure I’m willing to give up the public nature of Bloglines. (I’d say close to half of the blogs I’m subscribed to I’ve found my exploring other Bloglines users’ public page.)

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