In the context of content delivery, information can be communicated via either “push mode” or “pull mode”.
Push mode is when the publisher “pushes” the information directly to the consumer, and includes such methods as newsletters and direct mail. The publisher controls the content and the timing of the message, and conversely, the consumer has little or no control. It is convenient for the publisher, and it is also convenient for the consumer IF the information is desired. However, it is often inconvenient or, in many cases, downright annoying (“junk”).
Pull mode is when the publisher makes information available to the consumer, who then “pulls” the information from a known resource. This method includes web sites and newsgroups, as well as more traditional media such as print periodicals. It is convenient for the consumer, who controls when to obtain the information and, to a greater extent, which information to obtain or ignore. While publishing is just as easy, it is more difficult for a publisher to get and keep the attention of the consumer.
Both push and pull modes, using the above context, refer to information flowing from publisher to consumer, either the former doing the pushing or the latter doing the pulling. This is a convenient distinction to make when discussing a single service or protocol, but it does not apply so easily to the evolving concept of online communities. In this context, participants are (or at least can be) both publisher and consumer, which is a much more natural social structure. It is “give and take” instead of “master and pupil”.
Looking at this from the perspective of an individual in a community setting, it makes more sense to redefine “pushing” as providing information (i.e., publishing) and “pulling” as consuming information. Except when in a dialogue (or monologue), one is outnumbered. In other words, there are always more people pushing information than the single individual trying to assimilate all the data, which leads to the possibility of information overload.
In just over a decade of using the Internet and the prior decade using BBS forums, plus traditional research and learning throughout my life, I have realized that I have more ideas and plans than anyone could complete in a lifetime, yet I continue to spend valuable time on “pull” activities that are progressively less effective. Most of what I read online, after filtering/ignoring the junk, is information I already have but, ironically, have not found time to properly utilize. More and more, I find the benefits of such activities to be either inspiration to actually do something or just the hope of finding that diamond in the rough.
As an attempt to find a solution to this problem, I am embarking on an experiment with my own version of push mode. For the next six weeks, I will forego all general data research activities in favor of publishing more of my own work, plus utilizing information and implementing ideas I already have. I will still participate in forums where I have an integral role (such as the Action Solitaire beta forum) and in email dialogues, but I am going to greatly reduce the incoming flow of non-specific information. My goal is more tangible results and fewer unrealized ideas.
We shall see…