As data feeds get ‘smarter,’ the risks get that much bigger too.

I remember the good old days when Pointcast first came out and offered to customize our news.

We could choose our news sources and the types of news that we wanted to receive….

At the time, the idea was very cool. Customized news, designed by me, for me. The problem was that tech was a little early and Pointcast seemed to crash a lot of computers. It wasn’t as bad as RealPlayer back in those days, but it was bad.

What we also didn’t really consider back then was how the news industry itself was evolving. Contracting and expanding at the same time.

This dynamic not only changed how news was made, but it also changed our relationship with information. Everyone in some way or another was or at least could be a publisher.

Rather than a few big players that controlled everything, there were expanding number of small players that were changing the dynamic of publishing.

To deal with this explosion of published information, the feed (aka the stream) was born. The feed began life innocently enough. It was intended to help you sort through the noise and help you see what was important to you.

It is cool in theory and maybe it is not dangerous. Maybe…just maybe. This outsourcing of information parsing has all the visible upsides of any type of outsourcing, and all of the hidden downsides too. The most serious downside is becoming dependent on someone else and ceding competence and control.

You may be able to tweak the inputs or change to a different information parser, but you are in carless control.