NPR, Facebook, Netflix and the Crisis of Abundance

Yesterday, Vivian Schiller the president and CEO of NPR, resigned. She told the media that she was trying to head off the threats of defunding of NPR that are swirling around Congress.

And there's no doubt that there's a mood in the air that says -- we're all overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tweets, posts, updates and check-ins. Media observer and GBN co-president Andrew Blau says: "Now that everyone can speak -- we can't hear anyone." So sure, less folks making "media" seems like it might be soothing, The problem is -- who should be silenced?

Republicans would like to silence what they perceive as liberal media. Democrats would like to 'outsmart' the opposition by providing a thoughtful albeit 'balanced' view of the world.

Neither is right.

Silencing voices isn't the answer. In fact, that's impossible. And the target of objectivity is getting harder and harder to meet, as successful networks like Fox News prove by scooping up a large audience with provocative, partisan broadcasting.

The new drivers are transparency and community.

But that's not were we are today.

Eli Pariser, the founder of, told the audience at TED last week that he was fearful that both Google and Facebook were creating a bubble around his web experience, filtering out dissenting voices and promoting friends posts and search results that reflected a partisan pattern in his clicking habits. Sure, Eli's a Democrat, but he's friends with people with diverse perspectives, and he never asked an algorithm to restrict what he reads and watches.

We're entering a critical, and dangerous, time in the content ecosystem. A moment where partisan politics could shout down or shut down diverse points of view, and lumbering algorithms could blithely filter out diversity and turn the webs discussion and debate into a homogenized gruel.

Now Facebook has entered the content distribution game, offering a movie on demand service to compete with Amazon, Netflixs, Hulu Plus, iTunes, and to some extent, Hollywood.

I've been betting for a while that Facebook would enter the video world -- but it appears I bet wrong. Rather than provide a user-controlled recommendation system that could be the pillars of transparency and community, Facebook has chosen both the wrong content and the wrong implementation.

Movies are entertainment. They are inherently of a certain quality, and Netflix's recommendation system is already doing a great job of filtering noise, and surfacing entertainment content.

The place where we need innovation is in filtering, recommending, and sharing fast moving topical information. Video, text and photos about events, people and places that are emerging in real time.

When I want information about tech and media I follow Jason Hirschhorn on Twitter.
When I want the latest in science, and medicine, I read Jason Silva on Facebook.
For food tips and recipes, my family counts on -- all user generated!

The future of our nation's digital conversations isn't about censorship, or restricting voices or sources. It's about curation -- and the empowerment of a new layer of finders and filters. Eli is right to be fearful of robots, because they can't find the esthetic threads that turn a bunch of wool into a quilt.

We need to makes sure the voices that matter to us aren't shouted down, or filtered out. Thoughtful people need to have unfettered access to a diverse pallet of ideas, anything less teeters on totalitarianism.