Activity streams emanating from the business
Activity Streams seem to be everywhere. Even business tools are starting to publish them. I wonder if this has implications for how we consume streams?
Most of use know about activity streams from the various social tools we are using that publish some kind of history of updates or statuses: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, etc. The fun thing about activity streams is that you can mix and match them to your own purposes. Only want the activities of your family, go ahead and bundle those and pay attention to your family news and photos. Only want activities from people on a specific topic? Bundle them. Of course, most of us are used to the firehose of all the updates coming form Twitter or Facebook or the like - essentially unfiltered news from all of your contacts. One thing people have had to learn is that we can't possibly see everything. Just dip your toes into the stream when you have the time / feel like relaxing. But don't expect to see everything. It's not possible, once you get beyond a certain size.
This aspect of being okay with tasting the waters, rather than drinking them all, has me curious about the proliferation of additional activity streams in our world. I think people can (almost) forgive you if you don't see their every written word or photo or Spotify-shared song. But what if your billing system or shop-floor management system starts sharing an activity stream, as discussed in Derek Singleton's The Benefits of Activity Streams in Manufacturing UIs? Does this mean that I must monitor the full history of the activity stream to find out what's going on? Or can I dip my toes from time to time? Of course, the purpose of the activity stream from a system or process is very different from the people-based activity streams of our social tools. These activity streams let you know the health and status of the process. If it's your job to know this, then it is probably something you follow closely. (Of course, if it's your job, maybe you live in the tools, rather than needing an activity stream feeding into a different location.) One of the great things about these kinds of activity streams is that they should be able to live outside of the tool itself - even bundled into a general feed of information that you carry in your pocket. (I'm assuming security and permissions are handled well - the bane of easy access.)
I don't think the idea of activity streams everywhere is brand new. People in the blogging world - those familiar with the technology - have been touting the benefits of "web feeds" (based on RSS or Atom) for many years. That's the underlying technology of activity streams, and the benefits still hold. People and devices and processes can spit out updates in a specific format, and these can be repackaged and filtered and bundled into just about any form or place as needed. And even software / hardware that doesn't have the capability built in can be enhanced with activity feeds. People have written scripts on top of business intelligence engines and even for simple machines that can convert events or data points into a time-stamped activity stream for consumption elsewhere.
[Photo: My own photo, taken in Cascade Park, North Adams, MA, October 2011.]
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