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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Blogging and the Information Marketplace

Emergic's Rajesh Jain on the information marketplace:

While there is a lot of content out on the Internet, what is also needed is contact. This is where social network software comes in. People want to connect with other people. Websites like Ryze, LinkedIn and Friendster offer the promise of making connections between people. Email and IM offer one type of connectivity – with people whom we know directly. What social networks do is extend this to friends of friends.............

Blogs are giving a richness and personal touch to the web that hasn’t been seen before. They are what will give individuals and small businesses a mechanism to find a place on the Internet. It could be an individual writing about needlecraft or someone creating a weblog around Scrabble. Whatever it is, blogs have added a variety on the web that has been missing so far.............

Imagine the small, neighbourhood businesses that are there in every part of the world. It would be nice if each of them could publish a profile of themselves and what is new with their business. This could then be made available as an RSS feed. Users (consumers or other businesses) could then subscribe to these feeds in their news readers, and thus be alerted whenever there is something new and interesting. This creates a win-win situation for everyone: users get the relevant content, and the businesses get a way to reach the interested people.

The Information Marketplace is what is missing in today’s web. Search engines help us locate websites and pages of interest, but they do not get us access to regularly updating microcontent. The combination of simplified publishing tools and a syndication mechanism can help in bridging the information gap which exists. Business and the web share one thing in common: connections. This is what the Information Marketplace enables.

Nice idea. I would also bolt on some form of collaborative filtering via your community of similar-interest friends or you might get flooded. It is a question of how much as well as how little information you want. On the downside, the virtual social networks suffer from the same liability that the real world variety do: the problem of closed connections. How do you know that you are not filtering out the 'new' and the 'interesting'? What you need are plenty of what Granovetter calls 'connectors' - people with a high quantity of random connections - scattered around your 'inner circles'. In the end, I think there is no easy answer to this, either you are going to get too much, or too little. You have to choose.

On another front, Rajesh posts a link to Nick Denton on the impact of Google text ads:

"Text ads will force weblogs to become more like traditional media sites. Shorter front pages, more internal links, longer content...Google serves up text ads according to an analysis of the context. Internal pages are more specific, and therefore more appropriate for targeted text ads...And what will blogs look like, after they're optimized for Google? Much more like traditional media sites, designed to keep viewers bouncing around from item to item. Google text ads will give blogs a business model; but they'll also warp the format."

Now I know McLuhan said 'the medium is the message'. And I know that 'he who pays determines the medium', but I still think Nick is writing-off blogging just a little too quickly here.

You see, if things always went like this there would never be innovation. In the begining we were told business-driven internet sites would fail since nobody was going to click. Now we are told that blogs will be restructured by clicking. I remember when I was a kid my father used to tell me: 'and when you grow up you'll want to make money just like me'. Maybe, but there's still a hell of a difference between Google itself and eg AOL Time Warner, or the RIAA.

The biggest asset blogs have, and will have, are their readers. This is an attention economy, but the implicit value of all that attention doesn't have to be cashed in in the crudest and most crass of ways. I think it is too early to say, and we will see where blogging is heading. Certainly blogging is one way for young, talented people to get known. Mathew Ysglesias being just one example.

My own theory is that blogging is the destruction of form - a la Kandinsky. The traditional rhetorical rules of form and expression are breaking down. The old compartments won't survive. The stuation is fluid and we will see were we all are five years from now. Group blogging - Medusa style - is another example (so long as they don't all think alike). Many different voices in cacophony presenting multiple points of view. Just like the neurones in your head. Just right for the age of 'fundamental uncertainty'.

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