Relevance Continually Trumps Timeliness

There’s lots of push lately in the tech community to chase the dragon of real-time.

I do see real-time it most valuable during events that I’m not able to attend in person (the recent IgniteMpls event comes to mind immediately).

Even then, there’s always delay.

Each second delay brings an opportunity to filter for relevance. That’s the biggest win of our increasing use of online services for social interaction. We trust and filter each other [1] [2] [3] [4][5]. While these processes take time, they magically transform a firehose of information into an energizing conversation over a couple of beers.

A friend of mine has opted for a 48-hour delay on his incoming stream. Two days is about how long it takes for daily drama to dissipate. And if it doesn’t – it’s significant, if not relevant.

I was reminded of this earlier today when I received a forwarded email. The email was terribly partisan, terribly incendiary, terribly xenophobic, terribly incoherent, terribly panicked about the economy and the changing face of their community. They even invoked Godwin’s Law2 completely out of the blue.

I received it today.

So I assumed it was written recently – say within the past couple days.

Not at all.

August 2008 it says.


On second read: apart from a sentence or two, it could have been written in August 2001. Or August 1981. Anytime when significant changes in the American zeitgeist were afoot.

Quite a bit has happened since last August. I can only assume a significant percentage of the people this diatribe was directed at are no longer in positions of power. Do these issues reflect anything 9+ months later?

If this were realtime – no.

Yet, I received it today, and the author’s name has 18,200 Google results2 – all pointing to this identical rant.

Whether or not it reflects the current feelings of the author or their community, this rant has continued to inspire a portion of the American populace to share it with each other.

1. I’d much rather people invoked Steiner’s Law instead.
2. As a comparison, my name has between 18,700 and 32,100 results depending on spelling.