Monday, November 17, 2008

A crowd leaves the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU station ...Image via WikipediaThe impact of the internet tends to remind me of something a certain wise Jedi once sensed - a million voices crying out. But certainly not in terror. On the contrary, the internet has made it possible for anyone to be a producer or creator and have an access to an audience not previously possible.

However, it is no secret that just as with every other platform or marketplace in society, some have more influence than others. In social media, blogs like ReadWriteWeb and Mashable, and individuals such as Robert Scoble and Jason Calacanis have a certain credibility, not to mention a good dose of likeability, that gives them reach. This was recently driven home for me by Louis Gray's plug for this small and relatively young blog, which drove unprecedented pageviews and increases in subscriptions. (On that note, a warm welcome to all new readers and subscribers; please feel free to engage and comment as much as possible - I enjoy hearing your views! Although I aim to update this blog on a regular basis, other commitments may interfere occasionally. At such times I suggest checking my twitter and/or friendfeed for my latest activity, to say hello or even to bug me to update.)

'But What About Us' (twitter account) - a statement of sorts meant to represent the majority - recognises this distribution of influence, thanking movers and shakers for sharing their 'information', 'secrets', 'tips', 'lifestyles', 'insights', 'methodologies', 'opinions' and 'mindsets'. But it offers up the quandary of 'inferior products [being] propelled into the depths of web stardom by social media giants' while superior alternatives by 'us' languish because of 'our' lesser connections or cash. It asks for a targeted response from these 'giants' on what can be done by those 'without connections, without massive follower-bases, and without significant amounts of cash', citing Gary Vaynerchuk's recent video on attracting advertisers as a good example.

The internet has created a kind of democratic marketplace, produced by the people for the people. The question is - is meritocracy also a priority of the internet? Theoretically, the 'wisdom of the crowd' should see the cream rising to the surface, but with so many products and so much information out there, we're coming to rely more on thought leaders as human filters. How much do they see their role as being about bringing the best to the fore, and how much about just covering products with significant buzz and capital?

In a sense the concern of 'But What About Us' comes back to the horror of those millions of voices being 'suddenly silenced' and the masses unwittingly adopting subpar experiences as a result. What do you think about meritocracy on the web? How about 'But What About Us''s purported representation of the majority - is its appeal for help for the everyman one that you feel urgently needs to be addressed?

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