Being Robert Scoble

Traditional journalism is static. Its basic units are the article, the story, the piece. The new journalism is live. It doesn’t have a basic unit any more than a river or a storm have a basic unit. It’s process, not product. Even these things we call posts, texts, tweets and wikis are less unitary than contributory. They add to a flow, which in turn adds to what we know.

In 1959 Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker” and compared managing in business (a subject about which he remains the canonical authority) to leading a jazz band. You surround yourself with skilled folks who only get better at what they do. Drucker lived a long time, but it’s too bad he’s not around to see what the Live Web is doing both for knowledge and the work that increases it constantly.

To bring this into focus, dig Jeff Jarvis’ Replacing the Article. Specifically, Jeff is looking for a new “unit of coverage” that includes at least three subunitary components: 1) “Curated aggreagtion”, 2) “A blog that treats the story as a process, not a product”, and 3) “A wiki that give us a snapshot of current knowledge”. He’s looking for discussion as well (as he must, else all he’s got is another article, no?). “Where do you think the best – most intelligent and illuminating – discussion is going on?” he asks.

Problem is, the Live Web is getting more and more flowy and decentralized. The unit Jeff wants may be all of the above and a lot more that isn’t here yet. Somebodies have to go invent them. And they will. When they do, it’ll be in the river, not alongside it.

I found my way to Jeff’s piece through my FriendFeed, which I visited after scanning Twitter Search; and from Jeff’s post I pivoted off to MoneyMeltDown, Calculated Risk, Monitor Credit Crisis Blog and Inman blog, all off Jeff’s links. None, he says, do the job he wants. “Can anyone point me to a reporter or expert who is using a blog to both report and discover?” he asks?

Well, there’s Scoble and his FriendFeed top 165 list, about which Paul Boutin says,

If you follow Robert Scoble at all — and you sort of have to unless your DSL is dead — you know he can’t help overproliferating everything he does. While the entire staff of Vanity Fair takes months to assemble its 100 most powerful list, Fast Company’s token webhead spews 165 names in one pass for his “hand-picked list of the people who provide the most interesting tech blogging/tweeting/FriendFeeding.” Robert, let me put on my old Condé Nast editor’s hat and redline this back to you: GREAT START, BUT PLS TELL US WHO THE FK THS PPL ARE

Jeff’s point exactly. (Aside: I once had lunch with Jeff at a cafeteria in the Condé Nast building, where Jeff worked at the time and that our kid called “The Candy Ass building”.)

Here’s what’s even more new: Scoble isn’t managing the people who inform him. It’s the other way around. He’s being managed by the jazz in his band. Scobleization is more like what happens in Being John Malkovitch, where all these people take trips down a portal into Malkovitch’s head. Those of us being FriendFed are all being Scobleized, but (as Dame Edna says) in a nice way. That is, we’re being fed knowledge even as we flow with the river as well. Process, not product.

Yet we aren’t subordinating ourselves to the process, unless all we want to do is SEO and AdSense fishing. We’re increasing the worth of ourselves as the sovereign and independent units we call human beings.

To be Scobleized is to be human, and to grow. Because that’s what we do at our best.

The other day I was hanging with Scoble when he said “Isn’t this a great world?” Louis Armstrong, the great jazz player, couldn’t have sung it better.


  1. Mike Warot’s avatar

    I like Robert Scoble, he seems like a cool guy, was pleasant and friendly to me the one time I called his cell. I can’t handle the flow he swims in though… RSS and Twitter, and the always on life just don’t work for me… it’s an impedance mismatch.

    I like to take things a bit slower, but the tech for someone like me isn’t here yet. I know some of the pain points for myself are wildly different, because I live a live split between work/commute/home.

    My personal laptop is FULL ( < 100 Mb free until I gave in and pruned a bit this morning), but my machine at work is a desktop which can essentially be infinite. Syncing works only if I keep free space on the laptop, which is a huge pain.

    There’s no internet on the train, which means I’m disconnected for 2 separate 45 minute commutes each day, during which I have peace and quiet (with headphones), but no net to interact with.

    I have a 2 year old daughter, so there’s no real free time until she’s asleep… and that’s sleep deficit spending.

    Wow… maybe this should just be a blog post instead?

    Nah… I’ll hit Submit Comment

  2. Ayala Rahav’s avatar

    I think you are taking it only part of the way when you say “We’re increasing the worth of ourselves as the sovereign and independent units we call human beings” and “To be Scobleized is to be human, and to grow. Because that’s what we do at our best.”

    As the web is increasingly a natural habitat for us, where, how and through what channels we express ourselves, converse and interact is as fragmented, eclectic and diversified as our way of free and associative thinking. It’s not that we are all being Scobelized or “jazzed” (great metaphor), it’s that our contexts are dynamic, scattered across all channels of communication, in short: it’s all over the “place”.

    Today, when you want to follow Scoble’s threads of thought live, as you call it, as it evolves through all the channels he uses, you have to actively aggregate it and tailor the jigsaw puzzle.
    This is a great example of how the web is becoming the people’s web and Scoble, you, me, everyone, are individuals atoms (or Itoms as we like to call it ) in a people’s grid.

    To be able to really follow his mind and ideas in the same natural way that he expresses them, through all his channels of communication – a mind shift is needed for taking a holistic view of contexting people and not just their fragmented interactions.

    Enabling such a holistic harmonious view, without fear of a big brother with all its implications, begs for an Icentered world (www.icentered.oerg) where each of us alone has the key to her holistic view and the ability to share at her discretion. That will turn not only journalism, but all our scattered web based conversations into a true “web of life” with individually unique finger prints.

  3. Dan Guy’s avatar

    Please don’t christen it “being Scobleized”; the guy is an annoying hack who yells and giggles overtop of the people I’d rather be hearing.

  4. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Well, Dan, it’s a big Web. I’ll bet the people he interviews can be heard elsewhere as well.

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