On Friction and Sharing

There’s a deeply insightful post on O’Reilly Radar today by Mike Loukides called “The end of social.” It’s primarily a piece about friction, and the social signaling value of acts undertaken when a friction cost is incurred (I like that term – “friction cost” – I think that’s a keeper):

To many people, Facebook’s “frictionless” sharing doesn’t enhance sharing; it makes sharing meaningless. Let’s go back to music: It is meaningful if I tell you that I really like the avant-garde music by Olivier Messiaen. It’s also meaningful to confess that I sometimes relax by listening to Pink Floyd. But if this kind of communication is replaced by a constant pipeline of what’s queued up in Spotify, it all becomes meaningless. There’s no “sharing” at all. Frictionless sharing isn’t better sharing; it’s the absence of sharing. There’s something about the friction, the need to work, the one-on-one contact, that makes the sharing real, not just some cyber phenomenon. If you want to tell me what you listen to, I care. But if it’s just a feed in some social application that’s constantly updated without your volition, why do I care? It’s just another form of spam, particularly if I’m also receiving thousands of updates every day from hundreds of other friends.

Another article mentioned in the post, In Defense of Friction, includes the great line “social networking sites are good for relationships so tenuous they couldn’t really bear any friction at all.”

Both articles also make the point that when online trust systems become completely frictionless and consequently automated, they destroy the need for “trust” at all. It’s not really “trust” if I know I can trust you, right?

I’ve said many times that the main goal of open licenses is to make engaging in the 4Rs (reuse, revise, remix, redistribute) around content frictionless. Good food for thought in these articles for me and others who share the belief that the primary purpose of open licenses should be to reduce or eliminate friction.

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