3/21/2007

03-21-07 - 3

I'm starting to think that the so-called "Web 2.0" of user-created content is going to ruin the internet. In the early/middle age of the internet, content creation was restricted to geeks and corporations, a sort of Elite who were mostly smart and knew something about what they were talking about. The current push is for more and more democracy on the internet. Users create articles/reviews/blog-entries/etc. and other users review them and link them. Instead of hiring a team of writers and editorialists, sites these days create user communities and let the users create the content. In fact, the whole profession of reviewing & writing articles is disappearing. The most popular review sites, travel sites, etc. are user-content aggregators. Now, certainly there are some nice things about these sites. For one thing, they sort of automatically fix gaps - if some important piece of information was left out in the old model, it could go unfixed for a long time; in the democratic model there are so many people watching it that it gets fixed very quickly.

The big problem with this "democracy of content" is that people are retards. Say for example you want a recipe. If you just search google you will find recipes from the democracy. Often the top hits will be from places like "cooks.com" or "recipesource" etc. which are themselves user-contribution recipe sites. These recipes are then reviewed by other users. What you get is stuff like this for a top hit :

LOBSTER OR CRAB BISQUE	 

2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can tomato bisque soup
2/3 c. dry sherry
1 c. light cream
2 c. milk
1 (7 oz.) can lobster or crab with liquid (I use crab because lobster is so expensive; lobster tastes better)

Blend sherry, milk, and cream into soups in saucepan.
Add lobster/crab and heat gently, stirring often, until hot. 
Do not boil. Very good for lunch with green salad.

This is completely retarded. It's not a difference of taste, it's a problem that 90% of the people in this world are just fucking retarded, and when they get to run the democracy, the institution is ruined. It's not just recipes that have this problem, it's movie reviews, restaurant reviews, articles on politics, sports, etc. To find actually useful valuable content, you have to sift through tons of garbage to find the valuable stuff - and the valuable stuff comes from an old-media style content producer most of the time.

One example I've encountered is with upcoming events in San Francisco. There are tons and tons of sites that supposedly track and report on cool stuff happening, like upcoming.org, flavorpill, nitevibe, etc. When I got here I was excited to check them all out. Guess what, they're all pretty much just retarded crap. Some are user-maintained which makes them crap, and others are corporate but are just trying to make an easy internet buck and not doing good reporting. If you actually want to know about events your best bet is the old-world paper copy of a weekly newspaper.

Now, it's no so bad yet because the old media outlets are still around, but the trend is that they will die. For one thing, they have to actually pay a staff of writers who are knowledge about a topic, they actually review postings and fact check and all those things that the "Web 2.0" sites don't have to bother with. That's a lot of cost overhead and they can't produce nearly as much content. Furthermore, users prefer to go to the "Web 2.0" sites because they can join in the forum and talk about soap operas, make clever tag-lines and hook up for one night stands, become a respected figure in the forum community which boosts their ego, etc. etc. This will kill the old media sites and really fuck us for decent content.

Fortunately, the thing that can save "Web 2.0" is an idea that already exists - the Network of Trust of course. First of all you have to realize that just plain rating systems like Digg don't work, because the same retards that make the content are dominating the ratings. What you need is a system of ratings by people who you trust and/or people who have similar taste to you. This allows you to have a personalized search, personalized view of the internet where you can find the sane people, the good content. In the simplest form, it allows the old internet "Elite" - the nerds and old media - to create a sort of internet within the internet where they can find each other, but more generally there are a huge number of overlapping sub-nets.

ps. I hate the term "Web 2.0" so so much.

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old rants