What is more important: Your vote in last election or your activity on the Internet? I'm not so sure any more but the the latter is beyond dispute growing in importance. And here's why.
Conspiracy theories aside - you know, how both Afghan and US elections are rigged or Marxist notions of how capitalism pulls the strings anyway - our democratic right to vote for representatives is becoming less and less important. Because we vote every day by what we read, write and link to because by doing so we help shape the Internet thus influence what it will look like to others. Which in turn will influence their votes.
Put on a sincere tone of voice and tell someone you have a blog. The person will either politely ignore you or laugh. Because you just labeled yourself an ego-nerd. But when the person returns home and google "vacation" perhaps he or she will end up reading "500 advices for a sustainable and ecologically sound holiday" because you and 9000 other bloggers linked to that article thereby telling Google's AI that this particular article is high quality. Or he or she
will learn who's the most miserable failure of them all.
Journalists are all oh so proud of how they are news professionals raised high above biases and prejudices. What a joke. We have always had our "left" and our "right" newspapers. Plus some religious, some more intellectual... and the garbage media. Media has occasionally tried to defend their position by touting objectivity but in this information age influences, source bias and economical dependencies are more and more visible. I'll leave one example only: SourceWatch.org's article on Fox News.
But the general public would as a collective have less bias, right? As a community news service - the blogosphere - better serve the interest of the people, right? Nice theory. And I can't help but mention something I have been hugging myself about, polishing my Internet halo: Around the time Michael Jackson died about 40 Peruvian indians were killed by police, their bodies dumped in a river while in Zimbabwe 200 mine workers were gunned down by the army even using helicopters. Which of those three storied did you notice the most? Well I blogged about the two stories I found most important:
- Indigenous Peruvians and police in deadly clashes at oil and mining protests
- Diamonds still bloody: 200 killed at Zimbabwean mine, certification collapsing
Not sure it helped much. My blog is getting little (but steady) traffic and Michael Jackson is bigger than global warming and nuclear warfare combined. But I cast my ballot in the big search engine democracy.
February 2006 I signed up for an account at the relatively new Newsvine.com. I quickly got quite excited about it (see Group thoughts and an idealist complaint
and A little evaluation on my blogging for evidence). A place like Newsvine was to me the promise of a democratic media. Wonderful combination of a blogging platform and a social news sharing network to both note the news you find interesting and "vote" for them not only in the big Google democracy but also internally by being able to push your preferred pieces towards the front page. While paying us! A big step onwards from the likes of Digg, reddit, good old Slashdot etc it seemed.
Perhaps. But Newsvine has been victim of mass spammers also. Trying to deal with it but advertisements still sneak in. Heroic users have done uncountable hours of extra duty to weed it out but the prospect of links will keep the vermin crawling towards us. It's down to an acceptable level though. Spam isn't the biggest issue.
Idiocy is. Again let me use a favourite example of mine: the climatology conspiracy theorists. People who don't "belive" in these certain scientific results that counter some of their own personal beliefs gang up in places like the group called "Global Warming Heretics" (which I will never in my life link to) then promote their garbage on serious groups like "Climate Change" and Newsvine in general. Sad because if used right groups could have been what really made Newsvine special - a spam free and semi-edited corner of the blogosphere.
Worse news: Existing media is now doing what made Newsvine special. Most now have the possibility of users adding comments to stories. And some even allow us to vote for the stories we like. Like Yahoo! Buzz - with the flick of a left hand wrist Yahoo! creates a site many times bigger than Newsvine due to their existing user base.
Newsvine: what are you going to do to stand out from sites like Buzz? There is an evolutionary race taking place in online media. Some sites dwindle into obscurity or go extinct while others spawn and diversify. Perhaps some day I'll write about the challenge to the Google democracy itself not just social media.