10 Ways to Eliminate the Echo Chamber

These suggestions are not mutually exclusive:

  1. Don’t live inside your news aggregator. You don’t see me getting caught up in the daily din largely because I save my favorite tech friends for “dessert” – catching up with their feeds at the end of the week. Doing this has largely kept me from commenting on commenter’s comments on commenting comments commenting on commenters.

  2. Say something original at least once a day. Believe me, this is a tremendous challenge. I’ve been trying to do this since 1996, with the launch of Lockergnome. There are times it’s just easier to regurgitate something that somebody else said. If you think it can’t be done, you’re not thinking hard enough.
  3. If warranted, quote an “unknown” source. Instead of going for the pundit’s line, why not elevate a non-pundit instead? There’s enough room in the ‘sphere for feeding everybody’s ego.
  4. Don’t link to the same site more than once every two weeks. If the situation is large enough to be covered by a large amount of people, then we’re going to find related perspectives easily enough. Force yourself to stop seeing and seeding the same stuff over and over and over and over again.
  5. Wait a week before publishing your thoughts on hot topics. I realize this point could be taken as an anti-social move – but when everybody’s talking and nobody’s listening, what are we really accomplishing? Scoble (and no, I’m not trying to invoke the Pirillo effect by dropping his name) made me think about this a few weeks ago when we were talking about “me too” trends.
  6. Create, don’t regurgitate. It’s fun to talk about new stuff, especially if everybody else is linking to it (and it’s of interest). But what about creating something new every once in a while? And if you never do something original, then how do you ever expect us to rise above the din?
  7. Think twice before using buzzwords. There’s a time to employ jargon, and there’s a time to destroy it. My mom thinks that AJAX is a cleaning product – and so does 99% of the galaxy. Don’t merely mention a function, but how it actually makes the experience better (or worse); tell us about the features, sell us on the benefits.
  8. Make yourself uncomfortable. I don’t do it often enough, but whenever I step outside my comfort zone – I grow. I’m an introvert at heart, and the only way I can overcome this social shortcoming is by being gregarious when my gut reaction is to retreat. When you force yourself to do something that you don’t understand, the results might be messy – but they’ll be genuine. It’s cool to swim alongside the cool kids, but it’s more cool to be in a clique of one.
  9. Stop whining (or worrying) about what list you’re on (or not on). Dude, it’s not about lists anymore. Lists were designed to be exclusionary and are largely done for marketing purposes. I’m referring to lists of top people, places, or things – not lists like David Letterman’s Top Ten. People know who you are and where to find you – and no matter what you say or do in the future, their conceptions and misconceptions are ultimately going to cloud their judgements of who you really are.
  10. Stop saying we need to get out of the echo chamber. We all realize that we need to get out of the echo chamber, so what are YOU doing to help us get out of the echo chamber? Just saying we need to get out is not actually going to help get us out. Many of us have similar beliefs – great. The day for blogging about blogging, and podcasting about podcasting, is long gone.

I dare you to go a full week without touching your feed reader. I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again next week. The world will still be here when you get back. And I don’t need anybody to link back to this list in order to feel validated – I’d just like everybody to start thinking about “thinking about” different things.

139 thoughts on “10 Ways to Eliminate the Echo Chamber”

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  26. Hmm.. “echo chamber”. That might be some term people are using everywhere, but it’s the first time I’ve heard it used in this context. Makes sense. It’s also the reason why, even though I have a blog, I only read a handful of them. There might be 10 million blogs on the web, but they are all talking about the same things.

  27. Dude you are crazy. Do you know how big my feed que would be if I neglect it even for 1 day let alone a week?

    In all seriousness, great post and it is something I struggle with is to not run with the crowd in recycling the same stuff everyday.

  28. So in other words you try to remain aloof? In your case Chris you are marketing “Chris Pirillo” so this works but even you have to link to accurate sources from time to time to do well in search engines. Can I add an 11?

    11. Be careful not to become too preachy with “10 ways” type posts, just as with lists there are already many people doing this as linkbait. If you are going to become a blog evangelist fill a slot that is not already taken.

  29. I scan dozens of blogs a day, and don’t use a feed reader, preferring to use bookmarks opened in the left sidebar. It’s faster, plus you get to be on the actual site and have the look and feel.

    Your comments are on target. Yes, it is hard to come up with new stuff. But that’s what keeps people coming back. Also important is knowing what you want to do. My main blog is hard left antiwar political. It’s gotten bigger than I thought it would, but the focus isn’t hits, it’s convincing people and creating new organizers.

    The good blogs have focus. Plus, regular and steady posting. That’s also key.

  30. I think that you are suggesting we all do the collective and honorable thing when you look at the web from a world-view. However, I would imagine, that each blogger tends to view their blog as a mini-world. If I don’t speak to current events on my blog, then I am less relevant. Perhaps my readers rely on me to aggregate the hundreds of sites & topics they don’t have time to track. Likewise, I don’t read dozens of blogs a day in order to mathmatically figure out which gaps have been left, and then fill them for the common good. I like these voices, these topics. As a human being, I want to be a part of these conversations.

  31. I agree about point, um, 11, about staying away from the feed reader. I did this for most of July, and it reminded me of two things:

    -It’ s a big world out there beyond this hopeless little screen.
    -Topics on the blogophere are (and I’m being charitable) spurious. Try going back three weeks and commenting about something. everyone’s moved on. Heh. Significance has a shelf life? Only on the Blogosphere

    So now I have my feeds set to only show the last three days of feeds. If I’m away for a week, I’ll “miss” a bunch of stuff….

  32. Perhaps I’ll put up the egg crate acoustical foam on the walls of my blog to help eliminate the echo chamber.

    By the way, isn’t it interesting to see all the “me too” trackbacks for this post? :)

  33. A week w/o touching a feedreader? Easy. I’m one of those people who’s still cultivating a habit to try and use the danged things! And why? Because Yahoo! went and bought http://blo.gs and have now broken it but good. No way I can add new sites to my favorites list when they disabled the search there.

    Otherwise, good points. Which reminds me of a post that’s hanging out in draft mode that needs finishing.

    I’m happy to say, looking at my site, that there are quite a few original posts, from musings on a book, to a recollection about a threatened local establishment, to a new flickr group I started to have social software pile-on goodness meet the uh, oh yeah, been meaning to parts of disaster preparedness, original photos of the Kennedy Space Center crawler (in light of news about the shuttle off the pad, no it’s on again).

    I’ve been outside the echo chamber for goin’ on 6 years now! Guess this comment will end it. ;)

  34. I don’t think blogs were designed for the sole purpose of just expressing so called ‘original thought ‘. Blogs also serve as a reference point and source of information for many.
    I have a small but loyal following (mainly clients) who rely on my blog to bring them interesting stories about what’s happening in the space they (and I) find interesting. Its true, they could troll the blogesphere and find many of those stories elsewhere – but they don’t have the time and anyway why bother when they have a trusted source to go to?
    I don’t aspire to be an A lister – I aspire to bringing relevant stories to my clients’ attention (no matter where they come from) and then adding a unique ‘Zealot’ perspective on what those stories may mean to my clients business and mine.
    So happy to admit that many of the ‘stories’ are not ‘original’ – however what is unique is …
    1. The ‘space’ my blog has defined for itself (a unique ‘combination’ of stories and points of view) AND
    2. The ‘perspective’ (the ‘so what’ of the story) that is mine.

    OK I’ve had my say!

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  36. Entertaining and good advice, but you wouldn’t think, I’d write about the “echo chamber” and trackback to your story ?
    Would you ;)

  37. If I might add one more…

    “Don’t bother with the posts letting us know that you won’t be blogging much in the next [timeframe], especially if you need to tell us that you can’t tell us why. Example: Light posting here the next few days – meeting with [big player name drop], will tell more later but mostly under NDA.”

    When I see those, unsubscribe is a reflex action.

  38. I think this is easy advice, Chris, from someone with about a gazillion hits a month to his site.

    On the flip side, my coauthor and I have practiced I’d say 10 out of 11 of your suggestions here for a long time. We have a good steady readership, and I’m “proud� of the site.

    But it has consequences. We don’t get asked to speak at all the big conferences, appear on TV, etc., and we rarely get linked to by the “A list� bloggers. I’m 98% certain that it has nothing to do with our content, but is more about not being in the echo chamber as much as we “should� in order to maintain a higher level of visibility with that crowd.

    While I sometimes find the situation a little frustrating, I don’t blame anyone but myself, especially since I’m not following my own advice I’ve given so many other people and even wrote about in my book. The idea that just continuing to put forth good, original content and your site traffic will grow is just a lie. You have to participate in conversations to a certain threshold or all your great content will go largely unread, at least until you reach the critical mass of the A-list.

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  40. Yeah great topic! I do kinda like the echo chamber effect in a lot of ways, since I feel that it allows me to run across stuff and websites that I wouldn’t have run across otherwise.

  41. There must be two internets. Rather than blogging about technology for technologies sake, why not blog about how you are using technology to affect change in either your life or the lives of others.

    For the last 20 years, my computing peers have always been results oriented as opposed to process oriented. It’s not important what technology a person is using, it’s how they are using a particular technology and what they are producing with it. This mindset has been at the heart of the Macintosh user experience since 1984.

    Whether making music, books, movies, or friends; accomplish something with your tech.

    If you are in an echo chamber, you’re doing it wrong.


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  44. I was wondering how exactly I would go about this, and what i could write about that wasn’t off my feed or from someone on twitter, and I realized, maybe I already have. What do you think? Also, anyone wondering what you would write about other than the ‘hot topic’ of the minute, look at Chris’ blog topics. He goes from Michael Moore to finding loose change, to building a wireless light switch. Amazing as always Mr Prillo.

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