Real Time Red Herring

Over the past few years, I’ve worked on a number of projects exploring the the value of capturing & sharing a fleeting moment in ‘real time’.

These projects included;

  • Cullect; which proved to me how infrequently ‘real time’ ever passed into ‘relevant’.
  • RE07.US; which was a URL shortener that self-destructed after 5 minutes
  • iTunes-to-Twitter; where I continually sent my iTunes playlist into Twitter to no one’s enjoyment.

While these efforts hinted at the uselessness and annoyance in focusing on ‘real time’ for goofy side projects. I needed to find out if there was significant business value in focussing on ‘real time’.

So, I landed a project with a client in an industry I assumed would convincingly show me the need to focusing-heavily on ‘real time’ message delivery and communication.

In a round of customer interviews, I asked – “how frequently do you want to know the status of X?”

“90% of the time, within 4 hours.”

Turns out, more than 90% of the time – everything is work as expected. That remaining 10%, when additional coordination is needed – the parties involved pick up the phone and talk to one another in real time. And that was the constituents who looked at the data most frequently.

In my email today, I received a ‘Thank you, I needed that.’ for a message I sent 2 months ago. The message referenced a podcast I recorded 4 years ago. The podcast was a retelling of an experience I had 8 years ago. An experience about patiently waiting for the right moment.

All this makes me wonder when Google will stop indexing the ‘real time’ web [1] in the name of spam-prevention and focus their attention on the under-appreciated “I’m Feeling Lucky” button.

This pursuit of ‘real time’ is a distraction. A distraction from building and sharing relevance and timelessness. A distraction from being present.


“The breaking news mindset isn’t just annoying, it may be distracting you from what really matters.” – Seth Godin

1. I’m holding on my prediction that by March 2011, Twitter – the company – is no longer relevant.