The Fresh Input Snack Theory

April 26, 2007 at 11:09 pm Leave a comment

So that’s my theory. I will explain it later, but first I would like to give some anecdotes, some of which may seem familiar to you, if you are actively participating in the 21st century lifestyle. And if you are reading this blog, my god, you must be fully engulfed in it.

  • A friend of my girlfriend has got a Blackberry. She can’t stop checking it for new email messages.
  • My colleagues and are drawn to our Newshutch blog collection to see if anything interesting has popped up.
  • I regularly check four newspapers sites, one after the other, to see if there’s any news.
  • There’s this forum about house construction which I regularly check for all the posts that have been modified since my last visit.
  • My girlfriend likes it when there’s a new issue of a home decoration magazine she likes, full of images to glance over.
  • A lot of teens are compulsory users of MSN clients and mobile phone text messaging.

In fact this list could go on for quite some time. I haven’t even mentioned MySpace, Flickr and Youtube.
What’s interesting about this list, and it may be so obvious that you have never given it any thought, is that every item involves people being drawn to fresh input.

So I have named my theory : The Fresh Input Snack Theory.
It states that people like things that produce fresh input for them, related to their field of interest, in snack-sized items.

You could say that this theory is too blatant to reveal anything new : people are interested in their field of interest, big deal. However there’s more to it. If people would just choose things based on their field of interest, people would be just as addicted to books and documentaries as to internet news readers and chat applications. But since books and documentaries are not snack sized, the attraction of these items is not that high.

The reason behind this gravitation towards fresh input snack is not really clear to me, although I would think it has something to do with people wanting to feel connected and secure. The human is a social animal, that generally likes to be in a group, and likes to have an overview of its surroundings to make sure it’s safe. The input snacks continually update someone with easy to process data about its virtual surroundings, and the social aspect of the new media give a sense of peer connectedness.

The stream of input snacks has to have a certain sweetspot rate – i.e. number of items / time – , at which a person feels comfortable. If the rate is too low, one tends to feel left-behind, and if it’s too high, there’s a feeling of insecurity, or loss of control, due to not being able to process quickly enough.
This rate bears a striking analogy to real-life, where too much input can make people anxious and not enough input makes them feel abandoned. So at the sweetspot rate, the feeling of connectedness and sense of control intersect.

Look at the graph for a visual representation of the sweetspot rate :

Sweetspot Rate of Input

It would be interesting to do research in this field to see if there’s a way to optimize the way feed readers update their feed items list. The current trend to cut down on the number of items, is to filter on keywords. Sometimes these filters are produced by artificial intelligence, so that the user isn’t confronted with too much bookkeeping. This AI solution is not bad, but should be adapted to incorporate the rate of the items.
If the rate is below the sweetspot rate, filters should be dropped. The items will get less interesting as filters are dropped, though not uninteresting, but more importantly the user will feel connected due to the sweetspot rate being met. And if the rate is too high, filters should be added, so that the user will always feel comfortably in control when accessing his news reader.

Anyway, it’s just a theory.

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Entry filed under: Truly important stuff.

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