Question 43 of 365: What is the true nature of spam?

Google Buzz has brought this back for me in a big way, but I have always been concerned with just how Spam has made its grand entrance into our collective consciousness. I have considered this topic as the noise and distraction in our lives, but spam is a much bigger problem because it works against your natural instinct to talk about something that matters. You are authentic to your content. Everything that comes into your inbox that doesn’t concern your authenticity is spam. This sometimes includes family that sends you jokes. This sometimes includes e-mails from Barrack Obama. This also sometimes includes solicitations for collaboration that you don’t have time to do.

While some people think that there is a distinction between being implored to engage with colleagues and being implored to buy Viagra. I don’t think that we can make that distinction. Workflow is king. Anything that makes the workflow longer or less valuable to us, is spam. It is the extra. The stuff that you just don’t want, but are forced to accept in some way. This is not news. Spam has been around for as long as there has been e-mail or twitter or blog comments.

What is new is Google Buzz, which introduces yet another way to interact with your network. While many have called it a privacy timebomb or a simple diversionary activity, it is not spam to me. Buzz, and more importantly the concepts behind it, are about making public the things that I want to introduce to the public and keeping private the things that should remain private. True, it sometimes confuses the too. But, it does a much better job of taking conversations that have no business simply existing in people’s inboxes and putting them out in the open for others to comment on. It pulls in a thread that would normally get lost on twitter. And most importantly, it allows our network to change.

Real people are not spam, and neither are conversations with people who you have never connected with before. The true nature of spam can only be found when you have decided what your true purpose is for engaging in the first place. My purpose for engaging in status messages, sharing of ideas, and creating feeds for everything I do is so that I can become better at what I do and to explore conversations that lead me to that goal. With that in mind, it is not a flaw to accept conversations from people who cannot be heard on twitter because the threads get lost or I am not following them. I follow a very small (and not all that fluid) group of people on twitter. Roughly the same 200 have been in my list for over 2 years. Buzz has shaken that up. By defaulting everything to be both public and searchable, Google has built a way for newbies and veterans to engage with one another.

Spam is evil. It sucks us away from where we need to concentrate our time. But, learning from one another and focusing that learning on new connections is not a Spam. It is the way in which we keep our network alive. It is the way that we expand and grow. While Buzz may not be the savior of our network. There will come a day when we all realize that without an influx of new blood into our network (and that means validating people who also choose not to use twitter because of how elitist it can be sometimes) we will become the spam for one another. We will become this spam because we will continue to have the same conversations and engage in the same types of collaboration repeatedly. Repetition is spam. ReTweeting is spam (if you don’t add anything). The massive amount of updates that get no reaction from the network is also spam.

So, we must do a better job of being our own spam filters. We must seek out new voices. We must seek to engage in threads and not just use the @ symbol as our unwieldy tool. We must become better at learning to collect and co-create our authenticity. We must re-invent our network, every day.

Here are some good buzzes to get you going:

  1. One
  2. Two
  3. Three
  4. Four
  5. Five
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