When Steve Rubel closed the doors on the popular blog Micro Persuasion and set up shop on Posterous.com, the move was hailed by many as a landmark moment for lifestreaming, which Word Spy succinctly defines as the recording “of a person’s daily activities, either via direct video feed or via aggregating the person’s online content such as blog posts, social network updates, and online photos.” Rubel explained the motives for his move this way:
“Blogging feels old. Publishing today is all about The Flow. Posterous, my new home, feels more like flow and where the web is going so it’s time for me to do the same with my publishing, which will become daily once again!
This concept of “the Flow” is taken from an article on Stowe Boyd’s /message blog (irony not lost here), in which Boyd argues that blogs and associated comments are an outmoded form of online communication. According to Boyd, “conversation is moving from a very static and slow form of conversation — the comments thread on blog posts — to a more dynamic and fast form of conversation: into the flow in Twitter, Friendfeed, and others. I think this directionality may be like a law of the universe: conversation moves to where is is most social.” Boyd suggests two competing metaphors for thinking about how we converse online: the Web of Pages, according to which users stumble around in search of information; and the Web of Flow, according to which information comes to users via social applications. Although Stowe concedes that blogs will still serve an important function as “the place where we archive our posts, so that people can find them when they need to search, which still is a necessity,” they will never be the central hub of our online lives – the locus of the lifestream.
So, Rubel opts to go with the Flow, so to speak, and moves his publishing enterprise to Posterous. That’s all well and good, but is Posterous really a Lifestreaming technology? Well, sort of. Mark Krynsky offer his thoughts on Posterous as a Lifestreaming platform, arguing that it’s not a “true Lifestreaming service,” and I tend to agree. Krynsky makes an important methodological distinction between “true” Lifestreaming technologies and Posterous:
“Using the Lifestreaming method you post to various web services and then aggregate the content generated at each of them on your Lifestream. Your Lifestream can be located at a service like FriendFeed, Storytlr or many others, or it can be self hosted using WordPress, SweetCron or many other options as well.
Posterous uses a different methodology in which you post all your content to their service first via email, bookmarklet, or a custom form and then optionally autopost that content to external services such as Twitter, Flickr, Delicious, and Youtube. The options for posting by email are flexible and powerful. You can specify which of the external services you want to autopost to on a per email basis by using specific settings.”
Essentially, while Lifestreaming theoretically allows users to publish from any external source with an RSS feed or API access, Posterous limits users to publishing with the tools native to the site. Because Posterous doesn’t allow importing from external sources, Krynsky doesn’t consider it a true Lifestreaming tool. That’s not to say that he doesn’t find Posterous useful, nor does he deny that it can’t serve a limited Lifestreaming purpose. However, the distinction he draws is an important one. As long as Lifestreaming platforms rely on native tools, they will be limited utility hubs. And this goes back to Boyd’s post. The only difference between traditional blogs and Posterous is the ability to publish to external sources. As WordPress and other blog services begin to incorporate these external publishing applications, the differences between blogs and Posterous will dwindle.