The Rhythms of Information: Flow-Pacing and Spacetime

Ryan Tanaka is a blogging resident visiting us from ryan-writer.comFor every article that he writes, Ryan also improvises a live musical piece as means of organizing his ideas. (Below, or here.)

“Flow Pacing” is a phrase used in chemical, sewage, and water facilities in order to describe the treatment methods of its contents, often referring to techniques that inject/extract chemicals and materials into its flow.  Flow pacing can be a very interesting challenge for engineers, because in addition to tracking physical dimensions and working with limitations of resources, you also have to take time into consideration when dealing with its problems and potential solutions.  When the flow of content is non-stop and never ending, you don’t really have the luxury of measuring change in terms of absolutes — it must be introduced gradually, as a series of iterations or applications happening over time.


If today’s improv were to be written down in musical notation, it might look something like this.


Chlorine injections that flow too slowly leaves the water tainted; too fast, poisonous.  But the solution is never to dump chemicals into the flow as a one-time event: the process is always ongoing, constant and never-ending, so long as the mechanism itself exists.

I think that it makes a lot of sense to think of the internet in this way, since we already tend to conceptualize information networks as though they were servicing liquids of some sort.  Information “delivery” was an oft-used phrase in technical fields in the past, but due to the increased reliability and consistency of today’s information networks, it’s more common now to conceptualize information as “flowing” from one point to another.  We have increasingly begun to see information as being fluid rather than solid, in other words.

Flow as a Metaphor

The “information pipeline”, “flow content”, “channels”, “tubes”, “streams” and so on, are all metaphors that were derived from tools meant to handle liquids (or gasses) in the physical world.  We order our internet in the same way that we get our water: as a utility service that runs indefinitely, with 24-hr availability and virtually unlimited access. (Metaphorically speaking, we’ve now moved into the “cloud” at this point in time.)

What’s not very well understood at this point is how the “never-ending” flow of information and technology affects the way we think, perceive, and interact with the world at large because we haven’t been in our current state for all that long, at least by historical standards.  In the past, personal computers used to be large, self-enclosed, and largely immobile — buying one meant that you had to seriously consider where it might actually physically fit in your room or home.  Today, most computers are miniaturized, everywhere-connected and extremely mobile, no longer bound to being in only one place at a time.  In the past, getting “updates” to your devices was something that you did only on rare occasions; today, it has largely become the norm of everyday life.  This forces us to conceptualize technology in a more dynamic kind of way, since it’s no longer possible to think of technological devices as static objects anymore.

The mentality shift from “static” to “dynamic” implies the introduction of time into the way we conceive patterns and trends happening…over time.  If the previous sentence sounds counterintuitive or redundant, it may be because it happens to represent a way of thinking that’s relatively new in today’s software practices.

It’s fairly standard practice to keep track of page views/clicks/POs/cashflow over the course of days and months, for example, but these conceptualizations tend to be more static than dynamic, due to its practice of comparing absolute values over a linear timeline.  These graphs may be able to paint crude pictures or narratives to a certain degree, but their explanatory powers are limited to the measurements of simple patterns and depictions of short-term trends.

Our conceptions and frameworks of how we think about technology and technological trends haven’t kept up with the realities of what’s actually happening, in other words.  We’ve yet to develop the language, methods, and theories for dealing with today’s dynamic software-as-a-subscription-service model, which represents a significant departure from the software-as-purchase-order business models that had existed prior.  Flow-pace charts, however, may be the next logical step towards bridging the gap:

Flowpace Chart

The effects of heart-regulating medicines on cardiovascular systems during exercise.

The chart above comes from a medical experiment where researchers measured the effects of various medicines on subjects’ heart rate and cardiac workload, in a manner now typical of modern medicinal research.  Rather than measuring the drugs’ effects by amount taken (e.g. 5 grams ingested orally), chemicals were introduced to subjects as a flow-pacing process measured in milliliters per seconds, an axis of which contains a time-axis in it of itself.

Why is flow-pacing an important concept for technology to embrace in the years ahead?  For one, in environments where change is the norm rather than the exception, flow-pacing becomes an essential tool for understanding where things are and where they might be headed in a more realistic manner.  Flow-pace charts can map data more organically than its linear counterparts, since it contains an additional (albeit hidden) time-axis within it for greater statistical depth.  In today’s constantly changing technological environments, flow-pace conceptualizations are much more likely to produce more nuanced analyses and results due to their ability to account for rates of change within more complex frameworks.

Flow-pacing is also important, especially for software, because its conceptions can be represented using mathematics and logic, which allows programmers to introduce systematic changes at variable rates.  As it stands now, updates, bug fixes, and patches are conceived as isolated instances that occur haphazardly, whenever the company or developer(s) feels “appropriate”.  Major updates can sometimes be jarring and disorienting for the product’s  users, depending on how many things have been changed since the previous version.  In order to reduce the amount of friction that’s generated between each iteration, flow-pacing can be used as a way to introduce/remove features as a gradual, streamlined process — making it possible to apply and represent Milo’s Criterion in a mathematical/statistical manner.

In the medical experiment above, the subjects were literally hooked to a doppler wire and injected with medicines at variable rates as the researchers observed its effects and results.  This process partially explains why flow-pacing methodologies might feel counterintuitive to conceive or apply: on top of the extreme levels of attention to detail it requires, it also contradicts our tendency to think of our experiences as being independent, isolated incidents happening in time.  We’re more likely to say “I drank one cup of water” instead of “I drank one cup of water at a rate of 1 ounce per second over the course of 30 seconds”, even though the latter is technically more accurate.

If you pay enough attention to your surroundings, however, flow-pacing processes can be found virtually everywhere in life and in society.  We breath, eat, walk, work, exercise and socialize in a regulated manner, both with ourselves and with others. (You can’t eat and breath twice as much to make up for not eating and breathing the next day, after all.) We just tend to not to think of it too much because it has become second nature for most of us, and we usually leave it at that for the sake of simplicity and candor.  But underneath the actions and interactions of everyday life lies a multitude of channels in which time itself is regulated by pacings and flow.

The internet has historically had a lot of trouble organizing and representing time as a meaningful construct within its systems and frameworks.  It tends to be very poor at archiving/recalling past conversations and events, representing historical timelines accurately, or preserving people’s work for the long-term, due to its overwhelming emphasis on the cutting-edge and new.  These problems are also reflected in the practices of the web’s UI/UX strategies, conceptions, and design.  Time is the missing axis of the internet in its current state, but within it contains the possibilities of future innovations and advancements to come.

The UX of Time

Somewhere between the decline of MySpace and the rise of Facebook (2003-2008), the internet collectively decided that having music as part of the web-browsing experience was no longer socially acceptable, for either personal and professional reasons.  Enough people felt that the auto-play song choices made by MySpace users were appalling enough to warrant its elimination from web browsing altogether.  When Facebook finally overtook MySpace in 2008, users no longer had the option to customize their own profile in any significant way, both visually and aurally.  Web browsing and streaming music were able to co-exist to some degree, but only as separate, self-contained entities — the two would rarely be seen together as an integrated experience from there on out.

Over time, these practices have set the tone for how websites are largely conceptualized today: we tend to think of web pages and web profiles as visual objects to be quickly looked at, rather than as performance mediums to be experienced over a period of time.  We want our interactions with our web pages to be efficient and non-committal, done with as little clicks and movement as much as possible.  When we’re done with one article, we quickly move onto the next, then the next, then the next, and so on.  Web developers and marketers quickly caught on to this trend, tailoring their work and strategies to match the new status-quo.

The unintended consequence of these developments, however, was that developers have largely ceased to think of the web experience in relation to time, since it became no longer necessary to do so.  The ultra-minimalist aesthetic of Web 2.0 practices were designed to accommodate the new high-volume, low-commitment norm of the web browsing experience by reducing the amount of viewable content on individual pages to as little as possible.  Analysts actually did measure the time people spent on each page to a certain extent, but only to come to the same conclusion: that people’s attentions spans were getting shorter and shorter, and there was nothing that anyone could really do about it.

But this is a case where confirmation bias is present in the framework itself.  Are people’s attention spans really shrinking, or is it because the products and services themselves are designed toward those types of outcomes?  If the content and curation of websites are systematically geared towards 15-second interactions, it’s reasonable to expect its users to do exactly that.  (You can’t measure what people aren’t doing on your site, after all.)  Behavior analytics has less to say about the nature of human behavior in itself, but more about the ways in which the systems themselves are designed.

The high-volume, low-commitment model also poses social and PR problems for the tech community overall, because it has a tendency to paint an image of people “overconsuming” information in the same way that they might do with drugs, alcohol, or junk food products.  Nobody gets punished for playing sports too hard, reading too many books, dancing too much, or putting too much passion into their artistic craft.  But as soon as technology becomes involved, the activity suddenly becomes a form of deviance, an addiction, an act of self-destruction that’s bad for both the body and soul.  Hollywood satirizes the tech community on a regular basis with very little resistance; China has been sending teenagers to re-education camps in order to cure them of their “degenerate” online addictions.

For technology companies, the solution is neither to suppress nor revive the conventions of rituals and routines, but to simply acknowledge that they exist.  By doing so, they may be able to convince people that their interactions with technology are not “addictions” but a part of one’s daily routines.  A routine is something that can be considered healthy, an “addiction” is not.  And the difference between the two is simply a matter of having a more disciplined approach to the idea of time.

The Beginnings and Endings of Things

The dial-up modem — the screechy and annoying sounds of the modem connecting to the internet with your phone jack has become a relic of the past at this point, but the legacy of the sound itself lives on in the minds of many.  Despite the sound being neither useful, beautiful, nor pleasing, those that have lived through the era recall the sound with a degree of fondness, since it has become part of their history and identity.

Why does the annoying sounds of the dial-up modem get a lot more attention than, say, the whirring spins of the hard drive, or the computer fans blowing in the background?  The latter sounds are a lot more pleasant and comforting to listen to, if anything.  The reason is because the dial-up connection represents the beginning of something: the ritual of the user connecting to the world of cyberspace.  The Microsoft Windows 95 theme (composed by Brian Eno) gained an post-retirement appreciation for similar reasons as well.  (Reading through the comments in the video highlights how these simple sounds are able trigger past experiences and memories among the people that heard them.)

Like many of Eno’s music and philosophies, these sounds weren’t meant to become massively popular or viral in themselves, but were composed to exist as part of the environment and background of the everyday experience.  The sounds’ meaning is derived not from its lyrics, image, or identity, but from its integration into the rituals and routines of the audience’s experience.

In the past, computers were too energy inefficient to be left running all the time, while internet connections were too inconsistent and unstable to be relied upon in any meaningful way.  This meant that computers had to be turned on and off, connected and reconnected as necessity dictated, creating starts and stops to the interactive experience.   Though considered an annoyance and nuisance by most, these intermissions and interruptions were subconsciously ingrained into our memories simply because they came to represent the beginnings and endings to the experiences themselves.

The annoying sounds of the dial-up modem was the theme-song of the internet itself, in other words.

While no-one would suggest that we should hark back to the good ol’ days of dial-up connections and energy-inefficient computers, what technology has lost in recent years is the understanding that beginnings and endings can be very important concepts for creating experiences that are both meaningful and memorable.  Facebook imports memorable moments from the real world then allows their users to distribute their likeness (status updates, photos, videos) to one another, but is largely unable to create memorable moments in themselves, for the simple reason that its content has no discernable starts or stops to its flow.  When we’re online we’re immersed, while we’re off we may feel anxious about missing out on what may be going on, but in the end it doesn’t tend to amount to anything more than the simple passing of time.

Since the technologies we use now are vastly more reliable than before, we can no longer count on mechanical interruptions or intermissions to regulate our intake, or create such memorable moments for us any longer.  Beginnings and endings will now have to be introduced into systems through deliberate cultural intent.  This may actually be a good thing in the long run, because it allows for the possibility of humanizing our experiences with technology in ways that were previously never possible.

People don’t become water intoxicated because water itself is poisonous — it happens only when they consume too much of the “good thing” than their body can handle.  People wouldn’t need to take “vacations” away from their devices if they can simply learn to co-exist with them peacefully on a day-to-day basis.  For that to happen, however, our devices must be designed in a such a way that allows people to integrate technology into their lives in the matter of a ritual or routine, rather than as an “addiction”.

The solution to these problems is, again, to introduce the concept of time — more specifically, the concept of rhythm — into the internet experience as means of regulating its flow and pace.  Rhythm is the happy medium between things that begin-and-end, versus something that goes on indefinitely; it allows both concepts to exist simultaneously and in a cooperative manner.  Put another way, rituals and routines being a form of rhythm in itself, the integration of technology into our daily life will require its devices to have internal rhythms of its own.

The Rhythms of Information

On its most basic level, rhythm is just the regular recurrence of something, a repeated, recognizable pattern that iterates itself over a period of time.  This creates intervals, periodicities, successions and arrays that allow for the creation of larger organizational scales and structures.  In music, we’re used to thinking about rhythm in relation to what the drums are doing, because they typically provide the “beats” behind everything else happening on top.  Music can exist without lyrics or melodies but cannot exist without rhythm, because rhythm is the fundamental building-block in which everything else is derived.

In life, the concept of rhythm can be seen in the things that we simply do on a regular basis.  Eating breakfast in the morning, coming home from work in the afternoon, going to sleep at night, going out for the weekends, etc.  Our rituals and routines of the everyday, in other words, are the rhythms in which we structure our daily lives. Our ideas about how time passes isn’t measured by distance (from A to B), but by counting how many times the Earth happens to rotate and circle around the sun.

Some rhythms are derived from nature, others from society, some from our friends and family, others created purely out of our personal habits and routines.  But, as with music, rhythms help us tie our individual efforts to what’s happening around us — to our peers, the changes and trends in society, and the rest of the world at large.

Music is, in many ways, an attempt to synchronize personal, social, and worldly rhythms together in such a way that’s both pleasing, productive, and fulfilling.  Synchronization is the source of where its power is derived: why it makes us happy, why it says a lot about who we are, and why it can be both useful and fulfilling for us to learn the inner-workings of its craft.  When musicians “work together” in a band or ensemble, what they’re really doing is adjusting their sense of time in ways that allow them to be in sync.

Contemporary technologies, however, have a tendency to ignore the existence of these rhythms for the most part, which has a profound effect on the way they influence their users’ sense of time and space.  The internet often takes you out of the cycles of natural and social rhythms because it presents its content in a way that’s largely indifferent to the world’s existing temporal patterns.  The now-common sight of seeing people glued to their cell phones in public spaces is a good example of technology’s ability to “steal” people’s sense of time and space — it captures our attention in such a way that leaves us oblivious to the things happening in our surroundings, both physically and intellectually.

It might seem strange that a tiny device like the cell phone seemingly has the ability to affect our interactions with the physical environment in this way, but the idea that time is intrinsically related to space may not be all that surprising, given that the concept has been a well-defined and accepted scientific fact for over a century at this point.  (The spacetime continuum, as conceived by theories and principles in relativistic physics.) When you give technology your time, you’re also giving it a part of your personal space — quite literally.

As such, it makes sense to conceptualize certain aspects of software engineering/design in relation to space-time principles, since our screens and monitors are made to display things dynamically, rather than statically.  The concept of real estate markets in digital realms are measured both by space (screen portions) and time (duration), which necessitates perspectives and frameworks that can effectively accommodate the complexities involved in both.  The internet will have to evolve from its classically-minded mechanical principles to a more relativistic-minded one, in other words.

Space-Time Real Estate

In the highly competitive worlds of internet marketing, screen space has become somewhat of a premium for website owners, marketers, and content producers alike.  Among economists, the rising cost of attention marketing has become a cause for concern, because current trends point in the direction that the internet may soon become inhospitable for startups and small businesses as the costs of advertising and marketing continues to rise.  In many places, the landscape has already become desolate — either from market cannibalization by newcomers or monopolization by incumbents, especially in regard to some of the more popular of topics on the web.

In theory, if advertisements could be “targeted” to the proper audience, the user’s experience would be tailored to the individual’s tastes every time, and the limited amount of screen space/time wouldn’t pose much of an issue.  Every interaction would be relevant, authentic, unique and productive.  Every vendor would find their way to their ideal customer every single time, visa versa, and every transaction would happen without any friction or problems along the way.

As most people already know, however, the effectiveness of advertising practices on the web have proven to be limited, at best.  Finding an irrelevant advertisement — even to the point of insult — tends to be more the norm than the exception, and many people have already developed long-standing habits of ignoring ads that they see on the web altogether.  People may have tolerated these kinds of practices while the web experience itself was still somewhat of a novelty, but consumers have come to expect higher and higher standards as the medium becomes more and more the norm.

Some companies, such as Facebook and Google (and my current employer, YourSports), have been experimenting with space-based solutions to address these problems, using geolocational information as means to come up with better queries and targeted content.  Creating a geographical layer on top of existing networks and algorithms have the ability to expand the amount of real estate space on the web, both in size and in scope.  An ice cream shop in Aiea-HI, for example, no longer has to compete with an ice cream shop in Los Angeles-CA, which is a benefit for both businesses and customers in an overall sense.

These practices are still in their infancy and may take some time to perfect.  But it’s likely to get there at some point, given that there are enough people and resources dedicated towards achieving a near-complete record of where things are located in physical space.  The road less traveled, however, lies in the idea of time locations.

As it stands now, most sites run on the “one live version” principle: there’s one, “most updated” version of the site that serves as the face of the company, running on its server all the time, blasting information to its users in every place possible.  Some companies may occasionally run A/B testing projects or publish several different versions of a site simultaneously depending on the user’s geographic location, but for the most part, the experiences of the site itself tends to be near-identical, or at least very similar.

The concept of time locations proposes something entirely different: that the content, design, and functions of the site itself will change according to the time of day, the day of the week, the seasons of the year, and so on.  (The user’s “localization” is adjusted by geo-time rather than geo-space, in other words.)  Most websites now don’t even make a distinction between night and day, even though they exist as a basic part of human existence — such gestures could go a long way towards humanizing the web experience in ways that can’t be achieved by visual content alone.

More sophisticated gestures would require better organization and timing on part of the developers: having regularly scheduled update and maintenance times for websites is one example of this idea put to practice.  (Rare, but they do exist.)  The execution of these schedules may not always go exactly as planned, but a regularity that’s both understandable and perceivable by all creates a common rhythm between everyone involved, allowing for longer-standing projects, agendas, and trends to emerge out of the process.  Time can serve as necessary scaffolding for establishing beginnings and endings in which meaningful and memorable online interactions become a real possibility.

A meeting that happens at the same time every week is much easier to remember and a lot less work to organize than one that’s called for at random times, after all.  Long-standing institutions all have the ritual of meeting with one another on a regular basis, which is part of what has contributed to their endured success.  For leaders, managers, community organizers, and content producers, most of the ideas mentioned above might seem so basic that it’s not even worth talking about.  Yet, systems that support or encourage such endeavors tend to be exceptionally rare in today’s web environments, despite the technological hurdles for building out such features being largely non-existent.  It’s a conceptual and cultural problem rather than a technical one, in other words.

Time locations also opens up additional viewing space for additional content, designs, and functionalities for websites in an overall sense, since they would have the option of dividing up its functionalities and content according to different times of the day.  In the manner that geo-location networks have opened up new doors in the content space, time-location methodologies can help to give websites a little bit of extra breathing room to fit more content into its limited space-time.

This does, however, require builders and developers to have a deep and intimate knowledge of the rituals and routines of its users and audiences.  Sports fans are more likely to respond to the changes in sports seasons, whereas fishing enthusiasts are more likely to be interested in the lunar calendar and the changes of the tide.  Websites will also have to be properly curated as to make a distinction between content that may be appropriate for mornings, afternoons, nights, and late nights, depending on where and when their users might be.  Once these processes become well-understood and commonplace, however, the “one-size-fits-all” approach to time may eventually become obsolete as newer features and methods are built to greater sophistication.

Targeting the “ideal audience” for software systems means having a better understanding of people’s ideas, habits, and rhythms — about where they’ve been, what they’re doing, when and how often.  For technology to integrate itself into people’s lives as rituals rather than addictions, these concepts have to be built into both its engineering and design, a few steps further than what content itself can provide.  What tech companies can do is to simply create platforms that better mirror the ways in which its users see and experience the world itself – by time, space, pacing, and flow.

In many ways, most of the ideas presented here are nothing really new.  Traditional media has been programming content with ideas of time in mind, scheduling certain shows, delivering newspapers, broadcasting shows at certain times of the day where they felt its viewership would be most attentive and present.  It would be ridiculous for TV networks to air the same show over and over on a 24-hour loop, or program content without any regard to what time of the day it was to be aired.  But this is largely what we have settled with in our understanding of how content works on the internet as of today.  In broadcast media, programming means an entirely different thing: it’s a process of organizing information into distinct time-locations, and there’s a lot that developers and designers may get out of studying the intricacies behind its methods and practices.

Given that the groundwork for improvement has already been laid, it may be an opportune time for tech companies to experiment with and implement features that incorporate time-based concepts and designs.  Largely uncharted and uninhabited, time is the new frontier for “Web 3.0” practices and beyond, and its space is likely to be populated by the next generation’s pioneers and innovations in the years to come.

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About Ryan Tanaka

Ryan Tanaka is a writer, musician and technologist. His ribbonfarm posts explore the nature of ritual, gaming culture, and themes in UI/UX . Follow him on Twitter.


  1. Really interesting synthesis of ideas

  2. Wow. Although this post falls on the margin of Ribbonfarm’s usual thought experiments, I think it sums up one of the most important questions of the next 10 years of technological development. Mr. Tanaka, whatever is inspiring you to write these incredibly insightful posts about the nature of the internet and how it can be improved, please keep doing it.

    In recent months I too have been investigating the idea of time and internet media, especially in relation to smartphone notifications. Our tiny handheld computers do not only “steal” our personal attention for extended blocks of time, like your subway scene; they continually interrupt and divert our attention throughout the day. Ways to manage this *flow* of data are few, and are either too heavyhanded to be useful (the silent or airplane mode) or too limited in functionality. The end result is that our attention is increasingly directed by the uncontrolled information flow. It is a system that fundamentally disregards human patterns of behavior, whereas what we should have is the reverse – regular patterns of human behavior and attention determining how the information is delivered.

    • Hi Donburi, thanks for checking out my article. I think that in the long term it’s important for technology to emulate how reality works to some degree in order for it to gain a more meaningful stature in society and everyday life.

      Texting while driving is illegal, but using mapping software is perfectly legal, according to most courts out there. They both run on the same device, but one app takes you out of your environment (thus making you dangerous to the people around you) while the other is simply trying to reflect what’s there. I think this type of distinction can help people make decisions about what sorts of features to build, especially when it comes to social media and content feeds.

      • I think part of the reason it’s been difficult to realize such distinctions so far is because our computers have been either stationary beasts or encapsulated, standalone objects. Our technology is very good at figuring out where we are, but is terrible at recognizing our environment and acting accordingly. So far we have used simple tools like IFTTT or significantly more complex ones like Tasker for Android to help program our devices and services to make these sort of scene-based adjustments, but we’re nearing a time when that won’t be necessary anymore. The days of connected cars, ubiquitous wifi, and the ever buzzwordy “internet of things” will probably make possible the sort of advancements you mention.

        The world needs smart UX designers like you and I to build the platform that takes advantage of such an environment, though. *wink*

  3. I had an interesting conversation this past week with a Coke fiend who vividly remembered the launch of New Coke back in ’85. Hearing the stories and the indignation I was reminded of the fatal launch of Digg v4. The missteps and the failure to think through scenarios carry through almost exactly. I’ve been thinking about these stories as “failure to listen to users”, or something akin to Conway’s Law: product changes made without input from users will have a predictable reaction from users. Now I have a third lens through which to think about them. Thanks!

    • I used to love New Coke and Crystal Pepsi when it was out…although that’s another story.

      I think that the problems presented in the article are “invisible” to most users out there, because it’s generally not something most people think about on a day to day basis. Most of these things become second nature once we get used to it, and the effects that they have on us usually isn’t “newsworthy” because it flys under the radar of our conscious experiences. But there’s a certain rhythmicity to anticipation, development, and experience that gives traditional activities its meaning that you don’t often see applied in tech.

      New Coke probably could’ve gotten away with it if they didn’t make such a huge marketing blitz about the new product, I think. They could’ve introduced the changes gradually until people got used to the new taste, which people seemed to have preferred anyway, at least according to their taste test results. But I think it’s hard to resist the temptation to make a big deal out of the changes we implement sometimes, because we tend to want recognition and notice for all of the hard work that we do.

      There’s a kind of respectability and memorability that can be acquired when transitions are allowed to “flow” naturally from one point to another, though, and for tech it could start from simply recognizing the differences in night/day and seasons. Maybe I could write something about how repetition is used for memory retention at a later date, since it’s somewhat related.

  4. Thank you for this, Ryan.

    I moved to China ten+ tears ago, and was struck by how little television programming seemed to be built about the kind of schedules I’d grown up with. Instead of switching on at 8pm on Thursday for the next installment of a given show, I found that stuff seemed to be on all the time. There would be multiple episodes of the same drama on a given day, and it would run day after day. I just couldn’t get a grip on it.

    At the same time, relatively few people in the area I was living, seemed to have the same kind of working rhythms I’d imagined were normal. Many people got two or three days off each month, and worked seven days a week. Plenty more simply lived at their workplace; working, eating and sleeping as and when. As relatively few people seemed to think in terms of working time and free time, as I’d understood them, I suppose regular weekly TV shows made rather less sense.

    At that time, newspapers back home were still quite locked into the idea of their daily edition, and their websites would be updated accordingly – as I was well out of the time zone, it was fascinating and disconcerting to find my morning news still stuck on the previous day, and see the new edition update in dribs and drabs. This effect is probably still evident, though to a much lesser extent now, but newspapers are still grappling with how to adapt to this ‘new environment’. Maybe they could go back to producing a daily edition, and limit their efforts to be all things to all men.

    Rhythms are fascinating, and I know this is not lost on Venkat, but there’s so much to go at; mealtimes, Books of Hours, TV schedules…and the tides, seasons, days, years…and language.

    The only blog I read regularly now – never miss a post – publishes once a week, on the same day, at more or less the same time. But then that’s what regular is.

    • Yeah, those are pretty nice examples of some of the things I’ve been thinking about in the article. There’s a lot of different possibilities and configurations, but most of it revolves around really understanding the rituals and routines of your audience and customers. I think that paying attention to what people are actually doing in their day to day lives can produce results that you won’t be able to get from simply profiling them on a psychological level.

      It’s kind of a field wide open at this point because the tech industry has largely overlooked it, while at the same time, traditional media has seemed to have lost its grip on how to make it work in the new environment and new generation of audiences. It’s now a race to see who can perfect it first, I think.