Actions Are The Body Language

If the words I write in these blog posts are my acts of speech, then the trail of actions I leave around the web must be the body language that accompanies them. So I made a page to capture what I’m doing around the web.

If you read my blog in HTML (as opposed to via the feeds), you’ve probably seen a short version of this on my sidebar. Now, I’m not supposing that all of this information is of interest to everyone reading this site. And in fact, there have been some pretty good essays written about how some of these more trivial updates can be perceived:

We’ll finish up with Anil Dash’s blog. Anil has been blogging for a long time and he places a prime importance on good, clear, effective, writing. His articles are always a great read. Most of one of his sidebars, however, is filled with a neverending Action Stream that only kills the freshness of his blog. Perhaps Anil is playing along by employing the Plugin on this site — there’s a lot of peer pressure to Twitter and Action Stream if your friends are doing it — but I somehow expected Anil to be above that sort of verneration of dead deeds.

I appreciate David’s kind words about my blogging there, but disagree strenuously with his conclusion about sharing one’s actions online. As he notes, I do have a dog in this fight — I’m an unabashed advocate of the efforts my coworkers have put into technologies like Action Streams. But I support it because of its ability to capture the many actions we perform online, not despite that fact.

Part of it is that I know some people with whom I have a real personal connection do read my site, and may well find it interesting to see which YouTube videos I’ve marked as favorites. If you read this site years ago when I had my Daily Links blog, you might well be the kind of person who appreciates that.

It’s just as significant from a technical perspective, though, that the most useful types of metadata are those which are captured passively. If you let people tag and share things themselves, you have to deal with spam and inaccurate data and any matter of other social complexity. But look at the data that’s automatically captured, like when Microsoft Word tracks the number of times you’ve saved a document, or when Facebook lets people know who you’ve added as friends. That data is captured on the fly, and thus tends to be accurate and useful while requiring very little effort on your part to share.

I think that’s a promising new area of sharing data online, and I think it’s key that this kind of data is shared using open standards. But ultimately, I think the highest goal is that we enable more nuanced, complex communications online, where we don’t just have our spoken words, but also the body language and gestures and facial expressions that inform those.

Words should be accompanied by actions. So now mine are. Take a look, and let me know what you think.