Remind me – what is so hip about real time?

When real time fluff got loud enough to pierce my hype-proof bubble I honestly thought it was misunderstanding. I mean what is the purpose of hyping concept so inherently flawed, except by mistaken association with services like Twitter.

Apparently it outlived my expectations and managed to create trend of perceived values appreciation, where there is little amount of real ones.



Image by Robbert van der Steeg


…is good. Or at least supposed to be.

Real time is strongly associated with instant access to information. People claim that such instant stream has changed their lives and is vastly better than usual information consumption.

Human being sleeps eight hours a day. Less and you might have a problem, more and I envy you.

Concept of instant information being extra important is nuts when you spend one third of lifetime out of information loop. I have great trouble with practice of subscribing to multiply sources of information and then discarding outdated items because you can’t cope with a flow.

I choose my subscriptions on absolute certainty that I will find valuable info in most of content. It doesn’t matter how instant it is, I will go through every piece of it anyway. Throwing this value out of the window for massive stream of information that is worse, but real time – is crazy.


…is needed. Or information becomes speculation.

What the fuck had just exploded!?

(pardon my French) Would be good example of how much accuracy goes into real time information. It tells you:

  • something dangerous had happened;
  • someone was unlucky enough to be close;
  • and it is an event with strong emotional impact.

Or fridge fell in that someone’s kitchen.

I find it highly improbable that complex and interesting events can be correctly perceived and described in real time.

Yes, it can draw highly emotional picture. Same sad crap factor news love to nurture, because people are suckers for it. One of my informational goals is to encounter as little negative and dark stuff as possible. I don’t want it and I don’t need it. Sad crap that ended up being a mistake is even dumber to spend your attention on.


…is needed. Or why do we even care.

Real time news are mistaken for table tennis. Fun, cool and if you are fast enough you can also play.

Life isn’t small white ball. Most people won’t admit it, but in many cases we lack brain and skills to assess how important for us information really is. In such cases we (knowingly or not) rely on assessment of others, who do possess skills needed or are simply smart enough to interpret complex information better.

Real time takes third party out, you get fast and raw stream without extra notes.

For information that requires to take important action I would like a second opinion. For information I have trouble understanding I would like clear explanations. I do not want to hear same thing shouted hundred times instead of clearly spoken once.


Real time information seems like a really nice thing. But priorities are upside down. It is fast and emotional, features that may increase entertainment value, but grossly decrease informational part.

You do not lose track of life by going to sleep, you simply postpone it a bit. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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  • Angelo R. #

    I'm with you 100% on this Rarst. I think what happened is that when developers figured out "real-time" updates were possible they were ecstatic. The idea that the internet, a place where BBS once ruled could be brought into near real-time was a huge feat for programmers, and they hyped that up. People want things to be fast, and now we've worked our way to the point of near instant information. Too bad we just can't handle it. I twitter, but after about 5 minutes of staring at my stream updating every few seconds it comes too much. I have to ignore it for a while. Not only is there too much going on, it's all happening too fast to read an comprehend. Not to mention if you need to respond to something, by the time you finish it's pushed off the screen.
  • Rarst #

    @Angelo Yeah, techies are being large part of it. Twitterfeed had recently implemented new protocol [with weird name I can't spell]. Anyway my posts are now tweeted in seconds after they go live at blog, instead of hours as it was before. 1st thought - wow this is so cool. 2nd thought - and why exactly I give a damn when it gets tweeted? same people will see is and same people will ignore it. Twitter is probably worst case of real time overhype. In fact it doesn't have to be real time at all. I can easily miss a day and read my stream later. If I can't - that means I am trying to chug more information than I am capable of digesting. And Twitter search is even worse than Twitter itself. It is presented like some search miracle, but can't even keep two weeks of tweets in its crippled real time memory.
  • Jim Sefton #

    Interesting post, I completely agree with you. I dart in and out of twitter depending on my mood and how busy I am, but it is not exactly part of my daily workflow, it is more of a hobby. I do find 99% of my messages are now "real time" though... IM, SMS, twitter, even email is so fast now the messages are more of a one liner than a proper message. In the old days (wow, how old do I sound now?) I used to send and receive proper emails which were worth reading. I cant remember when that last happened though and it is a shame. I does seem like everyone (myself included, I suppose) has become more impatient, and everyone needs to know things straight away. I'm not sure what will happen with Twitter... the novelty seems to be wearing off with a lot of people now, I wouldn't be surprised if we see the revival of the blog at some point, with people getting away from the self-imposed character limit of twitter. Probably not in its current form though, as I think twitter has proven the "social" side of things works, so perhaps some kind of hybrid will emerge... "blitter" perhaps? LOL
  • Rarst #

    @Jim IM is around for so long and no one ever glorified its "real time" awesomeness. :) When things that are nothing special are suddenly served as revelations - you know you are looking at bubble. As for me Twitter is just a place to vent. It sucks as communication tool and those who regard it as such usually mean you-read-my-advertisements-and-feel-glorified-that-I-follow-you under communication. It will be fine as place to vent, but I think most of retarded real-time values will wither away.
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