Throttling

December 1, 2006 at 8:36 am | Posted in Attention Management | Leave a comment

I just became aware of a neat little technology known as “RSS Syndication” from a vendor called FeedCycle. The idea is that rather than subscribing to a lengthy RSS feed that’s been accumulating for a while and getting it all dumped on you, you can syndicate it at a speed you can consume. As an example, you can subscribe to Tolstoy’s War and Peace and get 2 chapters per week sent to you (for 6 months!).

In developing my Attention Management System conceptual architecture I included a concept before the output channels and workspaces called “throttling”. I believe RSS Syndication is a good example of a throttling technology. The default speed for information delivery to humans is “as fast as (in)humanly possible”. But it’s interesting to see technologies that take the receiver’s absorbtion speed into account. They impose speed limits on information flows that are not time critical.

A second example is SLOWmail. To quote their website:

SLOWmail is a new email service that deliberately slows down the pace of electronic messaging. It operates at the opposite end of the time-to-delivery spectrum from traditional email, offering a more reflective experience for both sender and recipient, and challenging forth more artful, writerly and meaning-ful correspondence.

SLOWmail leverages social software practices and idioms- ontologies, semantic tagging, media sharing, presence awareness- seeking not to supplant other forms of electronic contact, but rather to complement them. As platforms like IM and SMS increase in popularity, SLOWmail explores the possibilities of less instantaneity and more calm in communication, creating a new rhythm of social interaction.

A third example is inbound call center queuing. 100 humans in a call center can only handle 100 calls at a time, so a throttling mechanism is introduced implicitly in the form of the queuing engine. This is implemented in the form of a tinny version of Girl from Ipanema played in an endless loop to anyone with the audacity to call at a time when the demand to speak with a live person exceeds the company’s supply. The company can implicitly throttle the number of inbound callers by simply decreasing the number of reps – how easy!

Now, I don’t expect any technology that slows down the speed of incoming messages to ever amount to much unless it can be monetized (like with ACD queuing). But their existence resonates with an idea that I thought important enough to include in my conceptual architecture and that is worth a pause to think about … before being slammed with the next batch of messages.

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