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OPML the Prescription for Anxiety Caused by Social Media (Blogs, Podcasts, RSS, etc.)?

June 7, 2006

Recently I began to feel an anxiety as I found myself bloglogged with millions more available for me to be aware of, to parse, to review, to explore.

It reminded me of 1995 when I first opened an early Netscape browser late one night at SAP and began exploring the already impressive number of Websites available. I could have, and did, spend hours in amazement at what was available.

Maybe you have experienced this anxiety too?
The anxiety of knowing there are massive amounts of information available and the uncertainty about whether you know all you want to know. Have I read all the blogs relevant to me and my industry? Can I speak authoritatively?

There’s a fear of seeming ignorant, not “in the know.”

Social Media like blogs, Podcasts, etc. have brought this anxiety to new levels.

A Movement Brewing
It seems there is a movement in the brewing among a niche (or maybe not so niche?) group of developers who are deep into investigating solutions to solve this “Information Overload.”

Alex Barnett (of Microsoft) was interviewed in this DevSource clip talks about, among other things, OPML and how it may be the answer.

What Is OPML?
This is what Wikipedia has to say:

OPML (Outline Processor Markup Language) is an XML format for outlines. Originally developed by Radio UserLand as a native file format for an outliner application, it has since been adopted for other uses, the most common being to exchange lists of RSS feeds between RSS aggregators.

This idea is that if we somewhat formalize a manner of general tagging, people will be able to limit the information they consume through a simple subscription/filtering operation. More formalized than the type of tagging you see on Technorati and the like. (And, btw, I’m just trying to make you aware – I’m still trying to get my head around all of this too.)

Why Should Anyone in Advertising or Marketing Care?
As viral or word of mouth campaigns become more the norm and people are “choosing” what advertising they view, appropriate tagging of your content (without spamdexing) may be important in determining how far of a reach your message gets. Same for blogs, websites, etc. (Actually, it’s already true for these.)

For example, let’s say you or had something posted on YouTube.com – aside from the viral traffic, it would automatically appear a list of new information in a new generation of aggregators for people who had said “I’m interested in X, Y, and Z.”

Maybe it will become a bit of an art form like Search Engine Optimization.

Natural Discovery?
One problem with this approach, raised by the interviewer in the DevSource clip, is that it may limit natural discovery of those unexpected gems of information.

Maybe it’s worth it to reduce my anxiety? (Probably!)

Question (or another big potential problem)
Can we count on authors to tag their content most appropriately and meaningfully?

Will this work?

Postlude
Everything has become so fast and so immediate – is there any chance that we are sacrificing the quality of information presented? Will this new breed of web writers/bloggers/producers/etc. all die prematurely of heart attacks trying to instantly and constantly say something informative, relevant and meaningful? 😉

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