It is an interesting problem about the world of “Web 2.0” (and I hate that buzz word, I will make sacrifices to Odin as an apology), but one of the main promises it makes is let down by the fundamental way the processes work.
The web was touted as being able to democratise the world, allowing the most insignificant person the ability to have their message heard across the world. This was taken to a new level with the advent of Web 2.0 applications and now, everyone is supposed to be able to get video, audio or text out into the world with ease.
Partially, this is true. In the sense that pretty much anyone with a computer and net access can make a blog, upload video or audio tracks, the ideals of the Web/Web2.0 are sound. The problem lies with its finer implementations.
Think about your own browsing habits. Think about what blogs you read on a regular basis, what videos you watch on YouTube and what websites you visit. Think about how you find new things (Google? Yahoo?) and you can see that the vast majority of things will be the “highest ranked” for a given genre or search term. If you do a google search for something you are interested in, what are the odds you will delve to the seventeenth page of results and look at the sites there – much less link to them in your own sites and improve their page rank. Blogs are the same, Technorati page rank can spell a death sentence for a blog or, in equal but opposite measures, propel the blog to server breaking hits. Digg, Reddit and the like are all similar.
The basic flaw is a catch-22-like situation. Until your website/blog/whatever becomes popular no one can find it, but it wont become popular until people can find it. Certainly there are workarounds – for example, when Technorati indexed the Atheist blogroll it was a surefire way for otherwise low-profile atheist blogs to get disproportionately high rankings – but these are far from certain. However, once a blog or site (or whatever, I will use the terms interchangeably to mean generic things on the web) gets that high ranking, the success will breed itself.
This crops up in many areas: for example, on Technorati the most popular blog is engadget, so more people read its posts and more people favourite or link it, meaning it gets more popularity. Moving away from blogs themselves you get situations like the “Top Five / Most Emailed” on Scienceblogs – these posts get more exposure to the general public and, as a result get more hits and remain in the top five. It gets to the stage where a “Popular” item can be an order of magnitude away from the “normal” items, simply because its success breeds more success.
Moving to the picture starting this meandering, Flickr has a variety of ways in which you can grade your pictures – interestingness, most comments, most views or by the number of times they have been made a favourite by someone. The picture from Prudhoe Castle (above) is the winner of the “interestingness” stakes. Despite being on flickr for months, it has only generated 98 views, 2 favourites and 5 comments – but this is enough to top the polls over pictures which have had more views, more favourites and more comments. So, in the interests of breeding further success, I am posting the picture here to see if it gets more comments, more views or more favourites. To see if the effect is repeatable, I am also including the picture which currently has the most comments (and a lot of views, but no where near the most).
Whatever happens, on the web as in real life, it seems that the more successful you are, the more successful you become. Breaking into that “winners circle” is not an easy thing. Despite the golden hopes that the web would democratise everyone, the reality is that (with the support of Google et al), the web is concentrating the provision of information into small, partisan, groups.
Is this a good thing?
[tags]Democracy, Web, Web 2.0, Internet, Philosophy, Society, Culture, Success, Random Thoughts, Prudhoe Castle, Prudhoe, Castle, Photo, Flickr, Photographs, Technology[/tags]