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A Real Clear Conspiracy

Social Media Democracy

President Obama has set a trend with his promises of “transparency” and real democracy in our federal government. It seems everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Suddenly it is en vogue to demand total honesty and forthrightness from an entity, whether it be business or government. Take for instance a blog post by Brent Csutoras, which claims there has been a noted diminution of the “transparency” and “democracy” on social news aggregation sites such as StumbleUpon, Reddit, Digg, and Mixx.  

According to Mr. Csutoras, Digg caused the first wave of member backlash when the administrators of the site removed an article containing decrypted HD-DVD code, which eventually resulted in the site experiencing down-time due to a bandwidth-jamming influx of articles on the topic. Kevin Rose, owner of the popular bookmarking site, eventually issued a full public apology on the blog. Digg is also accused of taking administrative license to  fine-tune the rankings numbers, essentially blaspheming the very nature of the revolutionary web service.

Csutoras goes on to list the various degrees of nefarious behavior evidenced by the popular aggregates. Each has its own method of tallying the rankings, thus its own ways of padding the numbers, so to speak. Csutoras calls each of them out by name, bringing to light what each has done to besmirch its credibility with hard-core “social-izers”. To some, this may seem to be a null point. Jaded though the view may be, it could be said the different social networks, whatever their platform or tagline, are essentially out to sell something. It is not a far stretch of the imagination to envision some kind of administrative license being parlayed into more advertising dollars by “tweaking the numbers” to suit their needs.

Such an idea is not necessarily to be scoffed at and brushed aside. The very essence of the sites is to bring people together to share information that has quality and value. The way to determine what is of quality and value to the majority of the members is to take polls, of sorts, of which pages are the most popular. The ones that are the most popular get shown the most, until their popularity wanes and something new comes along. Seems simple enough, right? Not so, according to Csutoras. Not even possible when the site administration is actually controlling what is shown the most.

Not to worry. Things will go on after Reddit breaks your heart. There will always be the next best thing waiting just around the corner. Soon something completely new and fabulously (albeit not flawlessly) unique will come to the scene. There will be new kinks and bugs to work out, new beta tests to run. There will be ample opportunity for new complaints as the technology works itself out. People will still be people. There is stuff to sell and people want to have it. The entrepreneurs of this world will always be getting another great idea.  As for democracy and transparency in anything, well you can take that for what it’s worth.

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