If there were a word to most aptly describe the state of the Web today, Stochastic comes pretty darn close.
The Web is not linear, it is not predictable, and it is far from knowable in its entirety. It is always surprising, random – stochastic.
I have a childhood friend, Pete Wilson, who works for the Vanderbilt University Library and is arguably one of the smartest people I know or have ever met in person. In addition to being a very smart guy, he hosts a weekly Jump Blues radio show on the VU student radio station, Friday mornings. Pete has an encyclopedic knowledge of blues and musicology, gained over many years of listening. Pete has a built in sense for tying together seemingly disparate and unconnected sets of influences and sounds into a cogent thread. Not everyone can do that, and it seems like magic to us lesser beings who stand in awe at such talent.
The best political operatives and junkies operate in the same way; they have the innate ability to take seemingly disconnected and discontinuous events, past and present, in order to conceive a cogent narrative for his or her campaign. What may seem like a random morass of chaotic events, people, and places to most seem to these folks like a crystal clear picture of things “as they are.” They have the ability to extricate the context from the chaos.
For the sports minded, this is the same phenomena you hear from Quarterbacks who say that after a few years in the Pros the game “slowed down for them.” What this really means is that, after years of being deluged by the fast moving “facts” of the game, with enough experience, the background context of what happens in a game becomes internalized until it is visceral and not cerebral. If you’ve ever wrestled (not ‘Rasslin, wrestling) or played hockey at a high level, you understand – it takes many hours of sweat and repetitive workout so that the mental ANTICIPATION of doing subsumes to the ACT of doing without conscious thought.
What does this all have to do with the Web and Stochastic processes?
Well, for one thing many of us long for a unified means of messaging (IM, Twitter, Email, Voice, SMS, Video, …) – or long for a single social network that will aggregate everybody we know and are interested in – something that in fact will never occur.
Why will this never occur?
Because all of us gather and understand context about the world around us differently; some of us are visually oriented, some of us are verbally attuned, and some of us have to accumulate mass amounts of data before the skies part and all is made clear. No single network, no single communications mechanism, no single channel will ever be able to do this for us. We have to “grok” it on our own, and it is those people who can do this “out of band”, now, that are the social media superstars.
If you want to find the next winner on the web, it will be the person who can make the distance between unrecognizable chaos and understandable context attainable by the common man.
Until then, we’ll have to continue to admire the talents of people like Pete Wilson who can contextualize chaos for our enjoyment and entertainment.
And hope some day to slow down the game.