Question 86 of 365: What is on the internet?

I remember looking at the TV guide when I was a kid. I used to take it out of the Sunday paper and put it into the remote basked after I looked at the summaries for Home Improvement and Boy Meets World for the week. I would scan across the 8 O’ clock hour and see exactly what was a possibility for my entertainment during “prime time”. There was something special about having a time slot to hold sacred and plan for. Now, some people would mourn the death of appointment television, but I don’t. I love my DVR. The thing that I mourn is the death of the TV guide.

The question of “What’s on TV” is mostly irrelevant now that we can watch the best shows and movies on-demand. Now that we can even program recordings in advance, there is none of the excitement of setting up a VHS to record at the right time and on the right channel. There was always a chance that you were never going to see that episode again, that there was something special about even reruns being random at best.

There was a simple choice in the days of “what’s on TV”. You either watched what was on, or you turned it off. There was no capacity to make what you wanted come on, no lack of control over just how much content you were going to consume. And that is why I miss the TV guide. When there was one source of truth for content, I could actually be “in the know”. Now, I have no chance.

If someone were to ask you what was on the internet, what could you possibly say?

Each social network is like its own country and there are entire continents of the internet that I have never explored. Because of my interests, there are connections I cannot possibly put together. Because of the infinite nature of online video (and all other media), I will never be able to see all of any one thing. I will never know every perspective or be able to fashion what is going on in any given minute, let alone an hour of the internet.

And yet, we are still trying to get ourselves back to the TV guide days. We are trying to fashion channels on our new TV boxes (Boxee, Apple TV, etc.). We are trying to make things completely searchable, but easily understandable. We build portals for ourselves in the hopes of constructing an Internet Guide. Through the pulse of Twitter, the summary of major blogs, and even ready-made alerts all make sure that we can stay on top of any general sentiment being created, but it isn’t a guide for the future, not even one week the way the TV guide used to do for us.

So, the only option is to make it more personal. What’s on “my internet”?

Here is what I would like to see:

I would like to be able to tell a web-based service exactly how much time I have for entertainment this week and I would like to find a perfectly tailored schedule of web videos, interesting blog posts, and engaging Twitter conversations. I would like to see a prime time schedule one week out for what is on “my internet.” While I like the ability to move around and focus on any aspect of the web I like, I am finding it harder and harder to get excited about spending time with any sort of content. Three just isn’t anything to look forward to without a TV guide. When I can watch and interact with something whenever I want, it doesn’t matter if I watch because I alway “could” take part if I wanted to.

Until an “Internet Guide” really nails this, we will always have a hugely high-level view of what is ON. Until something really gets that people want to be escorted to engaging content on a regular basis without losing all of the mystery and excitement of a story arch or season schedule, I don’t think that we will have truly made it to the best of what the web has to offer us in the way of entertainment or engagement. We need to blend new with old, and right now, we are aren’t. We are simultaneously throwing away all old paradigms as no longer working, while still holding on to the notion that everything will somehow look the same in the future. As someone recently told me, we are in the internet’s awkward adolescence. I think think that not knowing “what is on the internet” is just one symptom of that awkwardness.

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0 Comments

  1. “Swimming in a live information info-graphic.”

    I do want to step back and see the information as it is represented, but it
    may be too dependent upon me to figure out what to look at. I like to do
    this, but I'm not sure that I would actually do this all of the time. I want
    more of this information distilled into data sets that I could play through
    and not have to organize myself… does that make sense?

    Data can be really powerful (especially if people have figured out how to
    make it palatable to the masses), and I definitely want to see where this
    goes.

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