Quantcast

Wisdom of Crowds Is Dead

Get the WebProNews Newsletter:


[ Search]

The problem with the human condition is that it involves humans. Bringing that condition online, fostering it with the Wisdom of Crowds philosophy, is slowly but surely proving what philosophers have said since humans first learned to write: the anonymous mob is powerful and passionate, but no more rational than an angry swarm of bees.

Wisdom of Crowds Is Dead
Wisdom of Crowds Is Dead
Who Can Compete with Google?

Madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule. – Friedrich Nietzsche.

Why the philosophy lesson? Well, I was reading Neil Patel’s post at Search Engine Land on "How Not To Be Buried on Digg." Adding his research to Danny Sullivan’s advice on how to baby-sit Digg burials, we know certain things:

 

Diggers don’t like SEO/SEM or online marketing articles and make great efforts to bury them and label them as spam – whether they are or not.

 Diggers don’t like articles about Microsoft or Sony – no self-respecting post-adolescent geek would like them. Microsoft and Sony get the same treatment as SEO.

Digger’s don’t actually read the articles they’re voting on, but base their digging on the title and description alone. Instead of the articles, they read other Digger’s comments and decide who is the geek-chic’est.

Patel, who is doing well in his SEO wager with Jason Calacanis, then proceeds with advice about how to trick Diggers into digging your stories. Diggers don’t trust anybody over 30, so appear youthful and be funny when possible. Cuz these guys are silly, and you’ll need to be silly too.

And I thought to myself: What a sad position to be in. People with legitimate content, looking to maximize traffic find themselves having to pander to what’s become the Web’s In-Crowd. It’s true, we all want to be in there, but there are rules, even if the rules seem arbitrary and ill-informed.

It’s also true that we have to be there. We have to be present to get ahead — it’s exactly like the hated good ol’ boy system.

Is this what Digg has become? A social news clique; the reversed reincarnation of 80′s movie villain jocks and their cheerleader girlfriends; Squealers walking on their hind legs?

Don’t answer that. I like Digg, I really do. And I like Wikipedia. Both are great concepts, great information sources – as long as you don’t mind that one community is gated, and the other community is, like humans, often wrong. 

I’m not the first to make this declaration about the herd. Aristotle, Nietzsche, Thomas Jefferson and I, if alive at the same time, would have been drinking buddies – probably with the guy that drew this cartoon.

But when you cover this industry, you notice patterns: mature professionals lowering their denominators for the latest buzz-builders; Wikipedia vandals proving the need for something more structured like Citizendum; Facebook users staging revolts because they don’t understand public information isn’t private.

Google, originally a fan of crowd wisdom, learned its lesson the hard way. Links were scored heavily in the algorithms until the crowd abused them with link spam. Now it’s authority Google’s after more than apparent popularity. I think we’ll see a greater emphasis on authority in other Web places in the future. 

Wisdom of crowds, indeed. Hopefully this Wikipedia page, which outlines failures of crowd intelligence – too homogenous, too centralized, too imitative, too emotional – won’t be changed before you get to see what I saw.

Humbly submitted by the elitist, iconoclastic, egghead jerk that I am.  

Wisdom of Crowds Is Dead


Top Rated White Papers and Resources
  • Dale

    Every website(99.9999+infinity) is free to enter. Therefore you will get all types from the crowd. Here’s an analogy. High class bars require that you pay $20 for a drink. So alcohol pickled low lifes don’t go to those bars. They are restricted by the cost. Until all websites charge a fee to enter their respective sites, the internet will remain much like the wild west of yore. Once the crowd has to pay, they will, wise up.

  • Milbert

    SEO’s need to forget about Digg. Unless you’ve got a story about a talking dog or something ridiculous like that, they just ain’t your audience. And if your Digging articles just for backlinks, you’re a spammer and you deserve to be buried.

  • Steve

    Interestingly I posted about this on my blog last night – http://www.i-work-at-home.info – how marketing has become one long tail chase in an attempt to get some traffic to your site. It has become an arms race and one I don’t see getting any better any time soon.

  • ERM

    My thoughts from 10 years ago – very interesting take on what’s going on online.

    It

  • Ray

    I agree. When search engines and groups try to run or even influence traffic on the net, it’s going to blow up in their faces sooner or later. Most of us are just plain folks looking for information. When we run across websites or blogs that don’t make sense to us, we leave. For those of us that surf to search, a clean website with clear information and simple controls is the norm. It’s what we expect. If the search engine we’re using doesn’t gove us the websites we want, we switch to another. It’s the nature of the beast.

  • Digger

    I have been a subscriber to WebProNews for some time. I’ve often found interesting and / or informative articles from the newsletters. For the first time since I have been receiving these newsletters, I find myself truly insulted by your article, for which you do not fully disclose content for in this post.

    You wrote the following excerpts:

    Well, I was reading Neil Patel’s post at Search Engine Land on “How Not To Be Buried on Digg.” Adding his research to Danny Sullivan’s advice on how to baby-sit Digg burials, we know certain things:

    Digger’s don’t actually read the articles they’re voting on, but base their digging on the title and description alone. Instead of the articles, they read other Digger’s comments and decide who is the geek-chic’est.

    Diggers don’t trust anybody over 30, so appear youthful and be funny when possible.

    Is this what Digg has become? A social news clique; the reversed reincarnation of 80′s movie villain jocks and their cheerleader girlfriends; Squealers walking on their hind legs?

    I have read the articles you mention above by Neil Patel and Danny Sullivan. Their comments are directed to some of the Diggers on Digg. What you have done is twisted their words into something that is targeted towards all Diggers in general. That is no different than stating that all men are dogs with their tails in the front.

    I myself am a Digger and find your comments extremely offensive.

    Do you even visit Digg on a regular basis and spend much time there? It would appear not, or you wouldn’t be making such accusations if you watched very much activity on the site.

    Have you not seen how many sites go down from server overload because Diggers have actually gone to the links provided to read the Diggs? Have you never heard of Digg Mirror for which Diggers have provided links for in comments so that other Diggers could read the articles submitted once a site’s server has gone down from being Dugg? Does this not tell you that countless Diggers have actually gone to the sites to read the stories submitted?

    Sure, the titles and descriptions for the stories are paramount for a Digg to be read or noticed. The reputation for some of the well known Diggers that submit the Diggs can also lend credence to whether a Digg is worthy enough to be read, as are some of the well known websites where the Diggs are from, such as News Wired. Thousands of Diggs are submitted on a daily basis, and not all can be noticed without the Digg standing out by title and description as something newsworthy or interesting.

    Humor is typically something that will appeal to the large masses. So of course when a humorous title or description is submitted it will take notice. But to state that Diggers don’t trust anyone over 30, so you should try to appear to be youthful and funny is insulting on so many levels. Yes, I am over 30, and no, I am not reacting because I yearn to be young and want to fit in. If you had spent much time on Digg, you would fully realize that there are many Diggers submitting Diggs that appeal to people over 30 that become popular and make it to front page.

    One might even think that your derogatory comments are simply for linkbait. Try spending more than a few fleeting moments on Digg, and you may find that you actually enjoy the site and your experience, and even find some Diggs edifying and / or interesting.

    • Joe Lewis

      Take this for what you will, but this is just a small sample of the most popular stories on Digg right now:

      HOW TO: Make a Wallet From a Computer Keyboard – Obviously something we all need to know how to do.

      13-mile long (!) dragon being built in National Forest Park in China (pic) – I haven’t been this excited since the 10 mile dragon was built!

      That’s the audience we’re talking about here.

       

       

       

    • Diggernot

      There isn’t a perfect example of a Digger and you might be the exception. However, a small minority of such do not invalidate the rule of thumb. It’s amazing and quite frightening how little independent thought goes into your average post on Digg (not unlike MySpace).

      Popularity and the ability to bring down a server with click-throughs has nothing to do with the intelligence or independence of the audience. It in fact is evidence of herd mentality, not proof that it does not exist. People read junk off this site simply because it’s there and because lots of other people clicked, not because anyone finds an article on farting to the intellectually stimulating.

  • D. Eilenberger

    couldn’t think of much to write about eh?

    A column deadline must be an awful thing, but drivel like this is going to drive away your potential readers.

    • David A. Utter

      …without this article we wouldn’t have received such a brilliant comment like yours.

  • Jaggar

    While there is much redeeming value to be had in the ability of the average person to express themselves without, even anonymously, it’s worthwhile to note the adage, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” One might also add, “…and never underestimate the ability of a couple of anonymous morons to infect the masses with their drivel.”

    This could not be truer on the Internet when people are allowed access to express themselves by anonymously posting whatever bit of drivel fleetingly crosses their brains, particularly on social networking sites. It used to be that one had to have some thought and substance for anyone else to publish their words, even if they were fallacious. Now anyone can take a break from their argument over whether the beer is less filling or tastes great, log on and pretend they have a worthwhile opinion or simply lie their arse off.

    This of course would be no big deal except for the folks that assume everything they read is true or those that use it to legitimize their own opinions or belief in the conspiracy theory of the day. There’s always going to be those who read it, affirm or corroborate it, and copy and repost it on every opinion-spam board on the Internet. Before long, herd mentality takes over and ineptitude becomes the basis for a consensus opinion, recorded for posterity for all time. There’s also those that spread every little rumor they encounter – you know the ones – they forward Snopes-debunked junk to you daily about this cola can, that television show, some teddy bear virus, or how you will get thousands of dollars by forwarding another piece of junk mail.

    One might also add, “Never underestimate the power of Internet trash to captivate and enrapture an otherwise reasonably intelligent person.”

  • mkb

    thank you for this ( and many other ) elucidations ——- you help me recognize,comprehend, keep up, and demistify the jargon (and some of its purposes)of the “net” —- i would be so much more lost without you ———MKB

  • UpsizeThis

    Your article reminded me of some important fundamental concepts regarding writing for a mass audience. My personal Live Space blog seems to easy to write for, but I never really stopped to think too much about what might appeal to a wider audience. Instead it was mainly used as an opportunity to get up on my soapbox and have my say, whinging about anything that irks me. Thanks for the pointers.

    http://upsizethis.spaces.live.com

  • David Moss

    The rumor that the wisdom of crowds is dead has been greatly exaggerated. The wisdom of crowds works when the crowd makes decisions – not when it tries to get creative. The tools just are’t there yet.

    To truly harness collective intelligence –that is, to separate wise crowds from irrational ones — four critical aspects must be present:

  • g miller

    For personal internet communication, only when the anonymous part of a crowd is removed by a system like a telephone caller-ID will most people start to behave as individuals and quit hiding in the crowd.

    After all, where’s the fun of pulling a practical joke phone call when the victim can figure out who is calling by using caller-ID or its equivilent?

  • Join for Access to Our Exclusive Web Tools
  • Sidebar Top
  • Sidebar Middle
  • Sign Up For The Free Newsletter
  • Sidebar Bottom