Where Votes Are Cheap:
It’s no secret that I’m not a big believer in the wisdom ofcrowds, at least in the form commonly demonstrated onlinetoday.
Most of the “online democracy” sites are easily manipulatedby vote stuffing (only necessary at the outset, after which inertiaand follow-the-leader behaviour takes over). Where itisn’t obvious manipulation, the sort of content that rises tothe top is generally comforting and non-challenging to theimpatient reader’s world view, and the percentage ofclearly fictitious (but presented as fact) content isdisturbingly high.
If an article or entry can’t be digested in seconds, and if itchallenges the stereotypes or agendas of the majority reader, itwill usually sit unloved at the bottom of the pile.
It’s a common tactic in the software development blog domain,for instance, to affirm that each reader is special, and mustrepresent the cream of the crop, while pinning all of theproblems in the industry/the world on “the others” (managers, dumbprogrammers who can’t code FizzBuzz — the other 99%,customers, architects, big oil, Republicans, white middle-agedguys, etc). An array of pond-skimmers always superficially treadingthe shallowest depths of technology, non-challenging to thereader’s status quo.
“Oh you’re just jealous that this entry won’t be on thefront page of [Some Meme Site]!” a naysayer mightpronounce.
Aha! And that is exactly where areal-world conversation led recently: I was decrying a popular blogthat I felt had descended from informative, credible information,down into Pablum-like, predigested, low barrier-to-entry prattle.This change seriously compromised the author’s technicalcredibility, and marked a tremendous decline in the quality of theentries, yet it perplexingly came with a massivespike in their readership counts.
After expressing my frustration at this destructiveinfluence on online content, my conversation partner asked whetherI just had sour grapes because I haven’t seen any such trafficspikes for a while.
After a couple of popular entries a while back, I had a naturaldesire to keep things rolling — there was no real gain for mewhether this sees 10 readers a day or 100,000, but it was sort ofneat seeing some big numbers in the stats — but there was alimit to how low I would sell-out. I was more interested in makinga small number of peers in the industry think “this guy reallyknows his stuff!” than having a large number of ADD drive-bymeme site users think “YES! This is exactly the simplistic,layman worldview that I want to push into other people’s facesthrough my votes“.
A gauntlet had been thrown down! I declared that I couldintentionally author pieces with the specific purpose of doing wellon the meme sites, and that if I did follow through they would dovery well indeed. My peer disagreed. A friendly wager was made.
Over the coming period, I am going to attempt to do “well” (opento interpretation, but generally meaning >50,000 hits in asingle 24-hour period) with a couple of pieces.
Due to conditions of the wager, coupled with my own lack ofavailable time, I am going to spend absolutely minimal time on eachentry. Most, if not all, of the entries will be posted on stoogeaccounts or blogs that I will set up elsewhere (for obviousreasons), although after they have run their course I will post alink pointing back to here and vice versa, and how well eachapproach and submission tactic did.
The game is afoot! We shall see if the wise crowds are aspredictable, and gameable, as I believe!