You never know how much you love someone until they are gone.

If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you’ll know what I mean.

The same is true with new technologies. I’ve often said that there are five types of technology (I’m sure I’ve blogged this before but I can’t find it atm):

1. Those that are just stupid and a waste of time.
2. Those that are solutions looking for a problem.
3. Those that are occasionally useful but if they were taken away from you, you would hardly notice.
4. Those that are so useful that if they were taken away from you, you would sorely miss them.
5. Those that are so important to you that if they were taken away, you would fight in the streets to get them back.

I’m sure you can all think of technology you’ve seen over the last decade which fit into each category.

While I was in Perth, for some reason I had real trouble connecting to Twitter from either my laptop (accessing the net via my 3 USB modem) or my mobile phone (also accessing the net via 3). And I missed it. A lot.

Until I was away, I hadn’t realized how much a part of my daily connectedness Twitter had become. Sure – I like Twitter. I have it running in the background for hours every day but not all day – I often turn it off to avoid distraction. Yet when it was “taken away” from me for three or four days, I found myself getting cranky and going into serious withdrawal symptoms. I was checking it every few minutes to see if 3 had sorted out their network issues. I even resorted to sending and receiving a few twits via sms, something I never do anymore.

It’s a sweet relief to be back at home now on my regular connection and have Twitter working seamlessly (or as seamlessly as it normally does with their regular issues) in the background.

However, if anyone asked me why it has become so important, I really couldn’t answer it logically. It’s not like I learn much of significance, although I do pick up a lot of late-breaking news from there. And it’s not like I primarily use it to keep in touch with friends or market my business or anything else. I have more of an emotional connection to it – it’s that same feeling of connectedness that I miss when I’m offline (not by choice) when I travel to places like Bundaberg… that disconcerting feeling that I’m not plugged in, that there is a conversation going on… and I’m not part of it. That I’m on the outside. That I’m in a cone of silence. And I hate it.

I’ve come up with a name for it. It’s not entirely original but it surprisingly only has a few thousand google results, so it’s as good as original. 😉 Kind of reminds me of when I started podcasting. There is that famous Doc Searls post where he can only find a few thousand google results for the word “podcast”.

Anyway, the term I’m using is “meta-conversation”. That’s what I was trying to refer to in my post from Perth the other night. This conversation that is emerging from the combination of all of the new tools, swirling around, popping up waves from time to time, taking on an emergent life of it’s own. You are part of it. But it is greater than you, greater than me, greater than any single conversation or person or even tool, technology or start-up. It’s the sum of all of our conversations, the sum of the 24×7 connectedness, the pulse of the new society, the hum of a billion brains working together to dream new dreams, plot new adventures, the drum-drum-drumming of a new emergent intelligence being born right under our noses.

I welcome you, Lord Meta-Conversation, to our little world and I hope you enjoy your stay here.

8 thoughts on “You never know how much you love someone until they are gone.

  1. meta conversation, or the hive-mind?

    In this context, the hive-mind I mean in a non-perjorative manner. The digital-conciousness.

    I have found myself un-following people who are part of other conversations, and do not respond to my main conversation stream. Yet inviting and involving new people is easy. One-way is out, two-way is in.

  2. Regarding 3 – I am on a prepaid plan with 3 and each $30 top up gives me 150 “free” SMS included. Even though twitter for text messaging is an international number (+44), it is still included in my “free” SMS, hence I twitter every now and then from my phone.

    Twitter on 3 SMS went down for me Saturday morning (around 1am) and didn’t come back online until 430pm(ish) Monday where it proceeded to “cough” up 40+ text messages.

    I have noticed this is not the first time that 3 “blocks” SMS from Twitter. I think it is around once a month. I don’t know if it is a network problem, perhaps I have broken some sort of SMS “limit”, however, on previous occasions I have called 3 Customer “Care” and am told rather directly it must be the international number (even though I tell them that number is works on Optus).

    I would be interested to see if it is a network problem or if 3 is “shaping” my text messages.

  3. nick I think “hive-mind” nicely describes what twitter does, but the broader meta-conversation is what I was pointing to the other day, what you get when you include twitter + blogging + podcasting + facebook + secondlife + IM + real life events.

  4. I’ve only recently hooked up to all this new social networking and the constant theme I notice and I think others are noticing is that it’s not so much the content of the conversation but the fact that there is a conversation at all. It’s an increadiably human activity.

    To have any true conversation you have to connect at some level emotionally, at least a bit. Then you start to see patterns in others and form bonds. Traditionally we call this a friendship. When we form bonds we have community. It may be minute and fleeting but it’s still there.

    When we are disconnected from our community we feel loss and the emotions that come with it. That’s what I think you felt Cam. You simply missed your community, your tribe, your family. It happens in all forms of socialising. This is what is the most exciting thing about these new forms of interconnectivity, they are bringing people together who would never normally connect. And that has to be good for all.

    So yes this is a “meta-conversation” within our “meta-community”

    Bring it on…

  5. Ambient Intimacy is the best term i’ve encountered for describing being on the edge of so many conversations / pseudo-stalkin’ ppl – be it via Twitter, Facebook status etc.

    And being cut-off from that is almost painful, init..
    It’s like phantom-limb syndrome or something.

    That’s why I setup Twitter via SMS, until I finally upgrade to 3G land.

    It’ll be interesting to see how these meta-conversations evolve beyond text – especially if the plans for payloads for Twitter get implemented…

  6. Over the last few days when I’ve been at home, twitter has been great. It’s like a friend who’s always there ready for a chat. And even though I’ve been disconnected from work, I am still connected to the world through my twitter friends. It has made me feel so much less lonely than I have been when I’ve previously been working at home. Thank you twitter friends.

  7. Aw man, now you’ve gone a stuck a label on it. I thought I said it didn’t need one yet. No, but seriously, I think the intellectual rigor you bring to this ongoing conversation about conversations is refreshing.

    Sure, meta-conversation does seem like an apt name for what’s going on right now across various social media, including at live events like meetups.

    I feel the same way as you about Twitter, but I tend to watch it out of the corner of my eye pretty much all the time now, whether that be by computer or mobile web. Call it an addiction if you will, but I think of it as a need for a connection to a community of like-minded people. People who ‘get’ this new state of consciousness, from many parts of the world. I’m not averse to introducing others to the benefits either.

    The longer I use these new tools, the bigger my various networks grow and the more connected I feel. The larger the network, the more powerful it seems as a community. It becomes very easy to reach out to people whenever and wherever you like (unless the network goes down) – whether than be through blogging, on Twitter, Facebook, Second Life, in real life, or wherever.

    I get the distinct feeling that young people who are starting to use these social tools now will not think this whole concept is such a big deal. It will be second nature. It will be a normal state of connectedness. That’s why I’m really not sure we need a label for it. It is just becoming part of who we are and what we do.

    As you say, it’s the pulse of the new society. I like that very much. Let the beat go on, and may it get stronger.

    jj

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