Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thing #12: Social Media Sites

Okaaaaay. That's about enough of that.

Thing 12 is concerned with the social media sites Digg, Reddit, Newsvine, and Mixx. Reading though the description of what these sites do, I could see potential usefulness. These sites allow web viewers to post stories they've read there. Visitors to the sites then rate them. Highest ratest stories swim to the top. Theoretically, these are useful meta tools. They filter web content and draw out the high quality stories (in theory). Then--theoretically--librarians can go to the site and take a quick look to see what's of interest to web users and get a jump on reference needs.

But, oh, oh the humanity.

Quick overview: Digg receives a B+ for interface design and clear instructions for use.
Newsvine receives a B for okay design and okay instructions for use.
Mixx is awarded a C for being mediocre.
Reddit receives a C- for appearing, in every way, as if it were designed by and for 15 year olds. Admittedly, 15 year olds nowadays can make some damn cool stuff on the web, but still. Still.

Here's a story I am both compelled and embarrassed to share: a few years back I took one of those online quizzes to determine where I fell on the political spectrum.* You know these things--you get asked all sort of questions about where you stand on gun control, social welfare programs, etc. And then came the fateful question. It was: "I think most people are too stupid to know what's good for them." Friends, there was only a Yes button and a No button. There was no hedging allowed. And I stared at this for quite awhile, and I desparately wanted to click No but I know in my heart the answer was Yes. Yes, I think most people are too stupid to know what's good for them. There, I said it. And I clicked it.

The point to this anecdote is that, being the elitist that I clearly am, I am forced to conclude after viewing these sites, that perhaps the world is not ready to know what the masses consider the top stories. It's a scary world out there, friends, especially when the content is dictated, apparently, by a demographic that generates advertising revenue around women in too tight t-shirts.

But then again, I am a librarian, after all, and so perhaps my lofty stance is informed at least slightly by the fact that my profession is largely defined as being one that determines information content. Useful content. Quality content. Content that only sometimes includes a crotch shot of a Japanese schoolgirl.

*Social Democrat.


fresca said...

Muffled screams of delight from me, here at Bob's coffee shop!

If most people are too stupid to know what's good for them--(surely true, or, we may know but not do it, which is another problem, as Saint Paul so nicely points out*)--then most people are certainly not going to know what's good for OTHER peope, so keep your meddlesome hands off, buddy, and let's try and muddle through this together.

I guess that's my political and Web philosophy.
The whole problem with democracy being, as you say, the humanity. But the options are so much worse.

Great post.
*Paul on being human:
“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Rom 7:15, 18-19)

caramama said...

haha! I totally would have to press the Yes button on that one, too! I'm glad we've got people like you working in the libraries! :-)

Miss Shelved said...

We share your reservations on "vote for the news" sites. As one who is highly unlikely to be viewing the top rated TV shows (or, frankly, to choose the best-selling books) why in the world would we allow the masses to select the news for us? That said, there is nothing wrong in having an idea of just what it is that seems to attract so much attention. No teacher or librarian should live in an ivied tower. If nothing else, we need teachers and librarians to remind us what St. Paul said (thank you, Fresca) -- or Churchill: ". . .democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."