Sporks vs Spoons: A Tale About the Invisible People
This post by Michelle Marie on Google+ is a little treasure that helps explain one big flaw in social media:
Let’s assume for a moment +Jonathan’s Special Obviousity post had been posted by +Tom Anderson, the comment and reshare count would be affected LARGELY! Of course it’s important to note the substantial number of people who have +Tom Anderson circled in comparison to +Jonathan Langdale so naturally more exposure will be brought to the post. But how many of those people would have ignored the post had they saw it come from +Jonathan Langdale instead of +Tom Anderson? Why does the post become more interesting when someone with a bigger name shares it? Because “quality” is subjective! This is where I often see a problem with follow lists even if my name is on one. Though it’s highly flattering to be considered interesting by people I know it’s not true in every case or for every person.
I think a lot more has to be said about this because of recent conversation surrounding Google’s new suggested user list.
I’m thinking about +Alida Brandenburg’s post making this argument: “It’s not Google’s responsibility to recognize users creating good content. That’s what the community is here for.”
I don’t disagree, but it’s more complicated. My comment in her post:
Person A posts awesome post.
Person B-D (followers of A) reshare awesome post
Person E (follower of D) reshares awesome post.
Because Person B-E were Little People, that’s where it ends.
That awesome post by Person A, if it had been seen by just a few more people or was boosted up by a Non-Little People, could have ended up being a well recognized awesome post instead of a part of the invisible web.
You just recreate Twitter.
The community will fail in the very same way Twitter has failed. I wrote a lengthy explanation as to how Google+ can be a social network which is much better for “Little People” than the non-Little People – the +Tom Andersons of the world. If it falls on the community to find and boost up good people, it’s not going to happen. Google+ is just far too big and the seemingly sound free-market principles behind Alida’s post will simply not come around. For as many smart, intelligent people who become successful in this world, there are many, many more who could have been even greater if they had the same circumstances and doors open for them.
People have very inefficient perspectives and give greater weight to people who already have fame, fortune and notoriety. Maybe people want that person to be that @LovelyButton to Conan O’Brien, getting noticed by people they strongly admire. What a waste that was. I’m sure Lovely Button is nice and interesting, but where’s the exceptional content?
I don’t think I was wrong in my post about the Little People. I still think Google+ can be much, much better for everyone and not just a few super-people like Twitter is, where 95% of the content is ignored and 5% of the users are ever paid any attention to – all of them super-people who post pictures of spoons on a road or whatever. I do think I made my post a bit too soon, before I realized Google was going to start pumping up certain people through suggested user lists.
Is it the community’s responsibility to recognize users good content? Sure. I do think that’s true on its own. The problem is the tools are just not there. If we have a simple system, or even an elaborate system, where users in general are suggested, we’re back to Twitter-level insignificance for the 95%, or worse.
I suggested in one of Robert Scoble‘s posts that Google needs to create a weighted system of votes for posts, and include each user’s most popular posts in recent history on their profile, on a right-side sidebar in their “POSTS” tab. There would also be a featured posts page, that gives every user EQUITABLE recognition. That is, it shouldn’t matter WHO the user is, but what response the post is getting. The way it would work would be that posts by users with fewer followers that still get a lot of +1s and comments or reshares get as much weight as posts by users with many followers who get a lot of +1s/comments/reshares.
This is all about proportion and scale, not simply raw numbers. It’s the difference between *real value* and *nominal value*. In economic terms, *real value* would obviously be the real value of a good; the *nominal value* is the real value plus inflation – as in the inflation many followers provide the non-Little People’s egos. If a user with a meager 100-300 followers posts something very thought provoking and interesting, and it garners a good response, it sure as hell should get as much weight towards being suggested by a system blind to social nobility.
Google would have to filter out spammers who have few followers but end up getting a strong response from fellow spammer accounts (there’s a way to game every system), but the people at Google are pretty smart, so I’m sure they can figure out a way. Heck, if they’re going to go on this anti-pseudonym/anonymity thing and have verified accounts, that problem is solved.
So I do agree with Alida, it is the community’s responsibility to find good users. The tools matter, though; and I’ve yet to find a social service that does even 5% of what needs to be done to make good content even close to being reasonably easy to find.