I originally wrote this post for the Harvard University Nieman Lab Predictions for Journalism 2013.
There is an inherent tension in social software between content discovery and the quality of conversation around that content. Group conversations get worse as groups grow, and groups grow as group discovery improves — if it’s easier to find something, more people will find it. Therefore, the easier time I have finding good conversations, the less likely those conversations are to be any good (e.g. Reddit front page vs. Subreddits). Paradoxes should be named, so let me know if you have any good ideas.
Let’s look at Twitter through this lens. Twitter began as a space for conversation — a messaging platform. It exhibited characteristics of a “many-to-many” network. Anyone could publish, anyone could follow anyone else, and discovery in this context meant discovering people to follow, not content to consume.