Archive for the ‘trends’ Category

Humans Vs. Computers: The Editorial Debate

Monday, May 14th, 2007

Directories versus search engines. Editors versus algorithms. Quality versus quantity. However you want to break it down, the age old dilemma remains.

Google has risen to stratospheric levels because of its ingenious link-based search engine algorithm. Wikipedia, on the other hand, has achieved fame following a different path - an editorial-based path. Now Jimmy Wales (creator of Wikipedia) is looking to launch a search engine of his own. In contrast to Google, this new engine will be human-powered, as opposed to algorithm-powered. The trade-offs are very apparent. Nevertheless, a case can be made for either side - there are advantages and disadvantages to both strategies.

The most obvious trade-off is with respect to quality versus quantity. Search engines can crawl a lot more pages and websites than a group of editors can. However, quality and relevance can be maximized using humans. Furthermore, this effort would also eliminate parked and advertising-laden landing pages from the search results.
Speed and frequency are also an issue. Automated search happens at a very fast pace. Updates are always ongoing. An editorial effort would be much slower and less likely to produce updates at a high rate.

I am very interested to see how the search engine model of Jimmy Wales takes shape. This PR darling will undoubtedly grasp a loyal following from the get-go based on the success of Wikipedia. But I am still not unconvinced that a human-led search engine endeavour can keep up to the computing power of a multi-computer, algorith-based system.

Could there ever be such thing as a hybrid?…

Twitter is the Future of Blogging

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Twitter logoThere… i said it. Twitter is the future of blogging. Why do I say this? Because Twitter prides itself on the downfalls of blogging. It streamlines the process and simplifies the concept.

What are the biggest downfalls of blogging? Why do people stop blogging or just give up on it? The two main reasons, in my opinion, are:

  • Not enough time (i.e. can’t post on a regular ongoing basis; too time-consuming)
  • Run out of material/content/topics

Twitter overcomes these two main hurdles, albeit not directly. People have been waiting for something like this to come along. And now they have something to sink their teeth into.
Obviously, posting a one-liner isn’t exactly an in-depth, researched blog post. But this is something different. Instead of posting quality content on a frequent basis, you are posting lesser quality content on a much more frequent basis. But let me backtrack and rephrase that. The ‘lesser quality’ content isn’t necessarily useless or without merit. It is all about reference points and relevance. By that I mean that the closer you are to the publisher and/or the better you know them, the more relevant the Twitter tidbits will be. Those unfamiliar with the publisher may likely find little value in the content.

In essence, Twitter is only useful as a personal blogging tool. Value is derived from relevance. Only if you are familiar with the Twitter user does the system provide usefulness. An exception is centered around celebrities and famous people, whom everybody wants to know what they are up to at any given point. But even then, we can relate to them as we see them on TV, hear them on the radio, or browse them on the Internet.
Having said that, traditional blogging is not dead. But the blogosphere will evolve into a much more editorial space. Fewer ‘personal blogs’ will be appearing. Instead people will turn to the most efficient and effective tool for such communication - Twitter, or something similar. Piggy-backing of the trends of text messaging and SMS have vaulted this start-up into the stratosphere.

Twitter will reign supreme. They took a simple concept and didn’t cloud it with extras. They kept it simple. People don’t have a lot of time in their day (or so they say), nor do they want to write a long, tiresome post. Twitter takes no time and no thought. Just tell us what you are doing RIGHT NOW.

Digg Just Buried Itself

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

Digg logoThe irony is simply extraordinary.

The past day in the life of Digg has been chaotic, tumultuous, and earth-shattering to put it mildly. If you are unaware of what has gone on, please familiarize yourself with the events of the past day or so before reading on.

Digg has based its success and premise on the power of ‘the crowds’. Irony entered the picture when the crowds decided to turn against the site. Sound familiar? Drawing from similar offline events, this sounds like a civil war or a revolution of sorts. Who ever thought Rome would fall?

This is the day many have been waiting for. This is a day that had to happen in evolution of the net. This is the day we find the flaws of social media.

Up until now, people have rejoiced and praised the advantages and benefits of wikis, social media, and crowdsourcing (among other things). These trends not only create community and a sense of belonging, but also viral growth within the user base. But what happens when the community feels disjointed and betrayed? An uproar of mammoth proportions.

Digg users felt betrayed by the ‘corporate entity’ that is behind Digg. Though I’m sure the decision to remove the stories was made with the best intentions, the stories were not the concern in the first place (for the users). The decision was. When Digg decided to delete those stories, it jumped into the shark tank.

So what does the future of Digg look like now? Doubtful in my mind. The company valuation plummeted in a matter of hours. A lot of money was lost due to a little bit of information. My guess is that the site will stay up and the company will fight all allegations in court til the bitter end - but will lose. The day’s events also bring up other questions. How are Digg’s investors going to react? What about the VC’s? There are so many questions to be answered in the days to come… My mind is running at 100mph.

What is Digg at its core? An amazing product? No. A sophisticated program that took years to build? No. It’s a simple concept, an algorithm. The magic enters the equation when users begin to interact with the site. And this aspect becomes more true and more powerful (for good or bad) as the user base increases. Previously, good was all that had come of the site. But now we are seeing the dark, ill-fated side of Digg that many were scared to see, but are now forced to live with.

This story truly hits home as it deals with so many different angles, perspectives, and notions. I think that a lot of people fail to see the psychology behind the events. This is the most interesting aspect to me. I hope to see case studies and research done on this matter. How can a site that garners 1% of all U.S. Internet traffic fall in a matter of hours? The magnitude/amplitude/reach of the Internet is undeniably scary and this is evidence of that.

The true significance of the Digg story has nothing to do with Digg. It has to do with the future of the Internet at large. Digg is merely the introduction to this never-ending story.

As they say, don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Or in this case, don’t f*ck with your users. I wish Digg all the best and I hope we can all learn from its mistakes. All the best, Kevin Rose.

Will Blogs Replace News Agencies?

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Yes and no. Blogs will replace news (as we know it) for those who like to stay on top of the most current headlines. However, some prefer to sit, relax, and don’t mind waiting a day to read the headlines. These folks will not be phased by the speed and reach of blogs. Still, blogs represent others advantages and benefits that non-blog readers should be aware of…

Blogs (and the Internet in general) have turned the world of journalism and reporting upside down. Traditional agencies are scrambling to deal with this new medium. The days of objectivity are gone. Because bloggers are not tied to a news conglomerate or any rules for that matter, they are free to not only report the news but also express their opinion on it. This presents a whole new landscape and realm to the field of journalism.

Phenomena such as independent citizen journalism and moblogging have proven that the power of the crowd is much faster and more responsive than any news agencies will ever be. Anybody can quickly and easily snap a photo or shoot a video and have it online in minutes, if not seconds. Sites like NowPublic and even Twitter are streamlining this process. Add to that the fact that Internet users can pull RSS feeds via a feed reader.

The blogging food chain ensures that the news is disseminated among all levels of blogging. Initially (in most cases), an A-lister reports a story to their audience. Immediately, these folks blog the story and quote the A-lister. This process continues to occur and the story trickles down the blogging hierarchy, gaining an opinion and new angle at every stop. On the positive side, new perspectives and insight may be gained. On the negative side, the story may become so distorted and fragmented that it lacks the fundamental elements of the initial news story.

Contrary to what many believe, I do not think that social news sites, such as Digg or Reddit, will replace their traditional counterparts. This thought crosses my mind: “Just because the users vote something to the front page doesn’t mean it’s current or even a news story”. For that reason, people can discover cool things on Digg, but not browse the newest, most relevant news stories. In any case, surfing random links for hours upon hours is fun too.

My last argument for blogging isn’t really an argument. Rather, it is evidence. In the past, blogs have quoted newspapers on countless occasions. The Chicago Sun said this, the LA Times said that… But now, the tables have turned. Because of the power of blogs, the relationship with readers, and the reputation among A-listers, some newspapers are now quoting blogs! I remember a little while back, the New York Times quoted Michael Arrington of TechCrunch. This was a sign of changing times. Expect this to evolve from a shock, to a fad, to a trend, to the norm.

An interesting thought comes to mind when thinking of the revenue model for online newspapers and agencies alike? Historically, they have charged a subscription fee. But now, people expect things to be free. If a price is involved, the user is gone. It seems that most online news providers are moving to an advertising model. What else can they do?

Blogs and Elections

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Is there any significance between blogs and elections? Maybe not in the past, but I would wager that blogs will play an important role in future elections and politics in general. Having said that, the upcoming U.S. presidential election comes to mind. Candidates who choose to leverage blogs may be at an advantage. Those who choose to ignore this communication vehicle may find themselves behind in the polls come election day.

I had the pleasure of listening to John Edwards’s keynote speech at Gnomedex 2006. He spoke about the future of politics and how the Internet/blogs/podcasting will play a huge role in democracy. Edwards expressed a deep interest in podcasting. He said it would play a vital role in his campaign. Furthermore, Edwards has become known as a Twitter power user. Now, I am a huge advocate of the use of blogs, podcasting, and the Internet in general. But my concern is this: are politicians simply ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ with respect to these technologies? Are they simply trying to appeal to a new (perhaps younger) crowd? Or do they truly believe in the technology and the power that it instills? My hope is obviously the latter of the three.

Having said that, I do believe that blogs can play a siginificant role and have a huge impact if used sincerely and strategically. A full developed campaign, with open communication and a strong support team, can make huge strides on the net and produce exponential effects given the resources at hand. The breadth and leverage of the web cannot be ignored.

Many of the most popular and highest traffic blogs on the net are U.S. political blogs. These sites attract millions of visitors every day. Should a candidate successfully tap these online strongholds, their campaigns would immediately be given a boost. Dissemination of information and PR are two major advantages to any front-runner who succeeds at forging relationships with these online political powerhouses.

Stepping back a bit, the success of the candidate must lie in their platform and their presence. No Internet technology can make up for these important characteristics. Even if a candidate does outline a strong platform, my guess is that the Internet and blogs will sway elections in the future and play a bigger role in politics than people currently realize.