Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mobs or Crowds? Which would you rather have?

Excellent article over at blog critic. The author describes in my opinion, one of the biggest challenges to user-driven sites like digg and reddit.

"The biggest problem seems to be visibility. When one submits a link to one of these sites, how many people will actually see it? If the first few people who see it don't value it, most people will never even see it, so the control of the site falls to those most able to spend the most time on it...

"Not to put too fine a point on it, the people with the most time are not often the people with the most experience or wisdom. Those people are, we hope, creating content more than voting on it!

"How is that anyone thinks that social news sites will avoid the problems inherent to committees? When a sufficiently large group of individuals is added to a committee, the result more or less exactly fails to please anyone."

The context in which content is displayed plays a large part in how that content is received. Why do you think we call it 'open source' and not 'freeware' anymore? Because if something is free, it can't be that good, right? If they're just giving it away, it's because it's not valuable.

Too often we are affected by what the crowd seems to think. Can 700 digg users really be wrong? If all of them found it fascinating, it must be. I have often seen a site hit the front page. The link is dead (due to the increased traffic), and yet the submission continues to get hundreds of diggs. People are voting it up without even being able to get to the site!

Digg hides the methods in which they decide what stories make it to the front page, and I'm not sure reddit and other sites publish their algorithms either. If we had an 'open' algorithm would that help, or only make it so that more people could abuse the system? What about a system that didn't show the popularity? Maybe some kind of tiered system that moved a story up, but only if the interest was based purely on the content, and not the fact that the mob liked it?

Too many questions, not enough time.

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