Welcome to Shuffleworld

College dorm 1979, every kid had three dozen albums. You picked the one
you wanted to listen to while you did your calculus homework (you knew
them all by heart), took it out of the sleeve and played it. (small aside: every single woman I knew had: James Taylor, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, Carly Simon and perhaps one other. Not sure why this is relevant, but there you go.)

Driving the car yesterday, I realized that I haven’t listened to any of my Elvis Costello records in a while. The reason, it turns out, is that they hadn’t been picked out for me by the magic of shuffle. I’ve got enough music on my hard disk that some of it has become invisible.

The same thing is true, times a million, with websites. Every blog, every site is invisible… until it comes up on shuffle. The shuffle of reddit or digg or a cross-reference in someone else’s rss feed.

The page that Ron and I did was #1 on Digg and Delicious yesterday, at least for a little bit. And the traffic was huge. It really is like winning the attention lottery.

And that’s what has happened to all of us. The local newspaper never had to worry about an attention lottery–everyone in town read the paper. Today, because it’s become molecuralized, our attention flits around, shuffled by one automated (or handbuilt) editor or another.

Which brings us back to subscription. The only win I see in the long run is for the winner of today’s attention lottery to earn a subscription (an RSS feed or an email sign up or a podcast subscription) that gives them a chance to be noticed tomorrow as well. Depending on the magic of shuffle for your success is too painful and too unpredictable.