Over the past week or so I've had a couple of twitter discussions around 'frictionless sharing'. Brian Kelly captured some of this discussion in Storify and then followed up with this post (like a dog with a bone, Brian has also created a wikipedia stub :)
The term has been somewhat corrupted by Facebook, which has inevitably led to it being rather sneered at. Particularly worrying I think is unintentional sharing, ie Facebook simply broadcasting your actions. Sharing should always be a conscious decision I feel.
Pete Johnston made the point about context, which is another concern around frictionless sharing. Consider the following examples:
1) You 'favourite' a number of offensive tweets from people to be used in a talk about online behaviour.
2) Your daughter borrows your iPod and listens to some teeny bop music, which is displayed in your LastFM profile.
3) You collect a number of articles in Scoop.It which demonstrate fallacious arguments about the net generation.
In each case you wouldn't want the casual observer to infer any endorsement of the resources by yourself, but without any clear context, that could happen. Nonetheless, frictionless sharing represents a significant practice for academics I feel. Much of the value of a scholar is to be a knowledge filter. They are also knowledge creators, through research, of course, but a valuable role is to read around a subject in more detail than most people have time for, and to filter the key resources and messages. Thus if someone I know and respect curates a subject in Tumblr (or delicious, or Scoop.It or Mendeley) then having access to that set of resources is tremendously useful to me as a researcher. It doesn't mean I shouldn't do my own research, but knowing that this is what the world expert thinks is interesting, is a useful resource. And for anyone doing this the simplicity of the tools I mentioned (which usually equates to clicking on a bookmarklet) doesn't cost them much in time, effort or money. This can be seen as democratising this kind of knowledge. Previously I would need to know the person in order to find out what they thought was of value in their field, but now it's open to all.
This kind of trusted digital curation is increasingly valuable I feel, and one that is not easily recognised by current systems. Someone could be the key 'go-to' source because they spend a lot of time reading and filtering, but not publish anything themselves, and yet have a huge impact in their field. Stephen Downes is a good example of someone who is highly valued for this curation role, but he combines it with producing his own excellent material as well. But if he didn't and only did the filtering role, that would still be enormously valuable and yet difficult to recognise formally (imagine trying to put it through the REF in the UK).
I want to emphasise that this doesn't mean all sharing should be this way. I think we can see increasing levels of friction in sharing, and arguably, the value of the resource increases as more friction is added. In the chapter on openness in my Digital Scholar book, I suggest three degrees of sharing friction:
Frictionless – sharing that occurs without much additional effort required, for example, if a scholar is gathering resources for her own research, then using a social bookmarking tool is an effective tool for her as well as making the list public.
Quick sharing – this requires a small level of effort, so does not occur simply as a by-product, but the effort required is minimal, such as sharing a link via Facebook or uploading a Powerpoint presentation to Slideshare.
Content creation – this requires some effort to produce a digital artefact, for instance, creating a blog post, a YouTube movie, or adding and synchronising audio to a presentation to create a ‘slidecast’. The effort and expertise required are still relatively low compared to many traditional forms of output.