River of Data is like an Activity Stream like River of News

As we’re all trying to figure out how to manage the information flow that comes through various websites, social networks, blogs, video sites, online communities, what have you, there’s a layout that’s becoming more and more common, but I’m not sure what that format is being called.

The format is this: display a list of items with the most recent item on top, aka reverse chronological order. Each item is typically listed as a title and excerpt, whether truncated from the body text or specifically crafted as a teaser. An icon or thumbnail photo or avatar or date or author or location may accompany the item listing. Aside: This format is somewhat related to blogs and microblogging. Blogs typically present a list of posts with the newest post at the top; some bloggers will only list excerpts so readers have to click-thru to read a complete entry. Faster load time. More stat trackability. Microblogging like Twitter has acclimated us to scan a list of short messages and respond (with a retweet, reply, or click a link) to the ones that catch our attention. [[ update 1/3/11 – this format is also called NEWS FEED, cf. CNN’s NewsPulse, NY Times’ Times Skimmer ]]

I wanted to find out what to call this format as I’m working on a redo of the Leadership Network flagship website. While I won’t say too much about the back stage activity (who’d want to see sausage made?), I will mention my favorite new feature: the stream of most recent items across all channels. I tip my hat to Todd Rhoades for coming up with the idea. This format isn’t new. It’s actually ancient. I just don’t know what it’s commonly called.

I searched for over an hour for the name, though it is being used more and more. “Activity stream” is what they call it in the social network world, where real-time information gets displayed. It’s called NewsFeed over at Time magazine. BBC called it like being a sushi belt. I was surprised that “river of data” was buried in the search results, though it does get referred to as such.

Here’s a quick summary of its genesis — the format (or presentation style) was first called “river of news” by Dave Winer back in 2005, though he’d been using it since 1999. (you can look at my history research in my Diigo library)

Take a look at planetaki.com/leadnet to see how a content stream could look like. This one is pulling the latest from the 3 Leadership Network blogs. That’s the idea of what we’re after. It won’t look exactly like that.

The new website is coming. Soon. You’ll probably hear more about it on The Nines – FREE online conference about game changers on September 9th – Register at thenines.leadnet.org

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