Comments: Cites & Insights November 2005


Permit me to suggest that maybe you're using the wrong criteria to judge whether aggregation is successful. What I'm about to say might sound a bit circular, and perhaps it is in part, but it seems also the case. There are people whose business is, essentially, learning stuff. We call them researchers and tell the "common people" that they should pay for their food because they will come up with important stuff from time to time, cool stuff like iPods or better screen technology, but in reality most research has no bearing whatsoever in everyday life. In fact, the actual job of many researchers is, I postulate, to cultivate their mind, to learn stuff and create mental models and maps of that stuff. These people, whom I have called researchers but I could also call "experts", have the most "relevant" information on whichever topic you care to name, by certain metrics that you and I probably care about: accuracy, detail, consistency, completeness... But most people, when they look for non-specialized content (and most people reading blogs aren't looking for "expert" opinion in this meaning of expert) have different metrics: roughly we could speak of things like simplicity, conciseness, magnitude of "wow" per unit time spent reading. I'd argue that A-listers are, in a very narrow sense, "experts" in the creation of content addressed to such metrics, and "experts" in other matters are, for reasons obvious, not. Therefore it makes sense that an A-lister will be linked on censorware, and not you, under the premises above and under the premise that the aggregator is serving the user according to the user's wants.

There's a lot of critical analysis that could be made on this, I'm just leaving it here so you can think about it...

Posted by David at October 18, 2005 11:18 AM

David: If I can paraphase, A-listers are experts at being popular, and data-mining is "successful" if it finds what's popular, regardless of whether or not it is right.

This can be a problem. Especially if data-mining is being put forth as the new new thing for civil society.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at October 18, 2005 09:24 PM

Right, your paraphrase is correct in essence which is why I think it's perhaps a bit of a circular idea. And I agree with you that for any kind of issue that actually matters, deciding on that basis would be stupid. So, I disagree about unsuccessful aggregation of content, but I agree about your scepticism that this is going to somehow open a new and shiny epoch of direct democracy(tm) or some such. An argument that the aggregators could make is that when people will start searching information to make decisions that matter and using it that way, the pattern will change. However I don't think that intentionality of people is easily aggregate()able at the moment, and until I see Google (or equivalent) finding out whether I want a detailed report to make my mind on a referendum or a sketchy sensationalistic post about it so I can show off some nice phrases to my friends on the same topic, I won't consider it feasible.

Posted by David at October 19, 2005 09:25 AM