A Q&A With Computer-Human Interaction Expert Anind Dey
Years ago, experts were already heralding the death of the blog. Yet blogging doesn’t seem to have gone away as much as mutated into new forms. Platforms like Tumblr and Medium have already complicated our idea of a blog as a stand-alone site with a single author. What new developments could the future hold?
It’s a fascinating question. So we turned to Anind Dey, a professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, to share his vision of the blog of the future.
DreamHost: How would the blog of the future look different from today’s blogs?
Anind Dey: In most blogs I read today, the connection of blog posts is either serial/sequential, or somewhat independent. Either way, you have to scroll through a list of titles to get to individual posts. In future blogs, that kind of information might be presented through augmented reality. You’d actually be navigating through an information space: if you head to the East, you see the author’s opinions of the Republican presidential candidates; if you head to the West, you see other things that are interesting to you.
But I really think the blog of the future would mostly be about easier creation. You’ll be blogging in your car on the way to work. There would be different ways to create blogs even if they still look the same.
DH: What will those “different ways to create blogs” look like?
AD: It’s hard not to think of all the bad ways the way we create blogs could change. I can easily imagine, given the work I do, that you will one day have blog posts that are automatically written for you.
For instance, let’s say I have an automated personal assistant that knows what I did today. It could choose the most important events from my day based on metrics like the number of people I interacted with during a given event and how my heart rate changed. Based on that, it could create a blog post that matches the way I write.
DH: The app will really be able to write like you?
AD: Yes, definitely. We already have systems that can match the way that we perform different activities. When you and I both go to the New York Times website, for instance, we’re each going to see different articles because the system knows we like to browse differently. There are also already systems like this for driving—they’ll give two people two different sets of directions to the same destination, because they like to drive differently.
Writing is similar. The app just has to answer questions like: do you use passive voice a lot? Are your sentences shorter or longer? Which phrases do you use most often? There is already an app that can write sonnets in the style of Shakespeare.
DH: Sounds creepy! What’s a good way that the way we create blogs could change?
AD: The reason why I start and then fail to blog is that I’m not sure what to write about. If you take that idea of the automated personal assistant and dial it back, it could be an app that says “here are some suggestions of what to write about.” It could be something that assists you, but doesn’t take over for you.
It could be even more intelligent and say: “You experienced this or that event today. Did you know 10% of other people around the world also experience the same thing?” It would point out something common to other people that you could still have a unique perspective on.
Sensors can also provide a lot of contextual information that could be relevant to the post, even if it doesn’t make it in the actual text of the post. Like the fact that it was raining when the author wrote this, or they had just came back from vacation, etc.
DH: Any last thoughts on the future of the blog?
When we’re thinking about blogs, we have to make sure we’re thinking about all three major stakeholders: advertisers, producers, and consumers. Too often we have platforms that serve the producer with all these nice tools for creating content, but don’t offer a great user interface for the consumer. And then on the other hand we have platforms that are great for the consumer but don’t have those tools for the producers, or a way to monetize their work through advertising. The blog of the future will have to combine those angles.