Sunday, August 8, 2010

Comment trails

The digital world has grown at break neck speed. The amount of information and channels to create more information is growing like an expanding spiral. Blogs, news sites, tech sites, social networking sites and the likes have become a mine where majority of netizens spend a significant amount of time either contributing or being influenced by it

One particular area that has caught my attention is the comment trails that are being generated . Collaborative information authoring ( made popular by Wikipedia) seems to be at play here as well. The whole world of facts for a given point of view seems incomplete without the thousands of comments posted under interesting names. It's quite an experience reading the trail and trying to understand the polarized positions of the readers and the unsubstantiated facts provided in the feedback. While consciously you keep telling yourself that there is no basis for what is being written an opinion starts forming deep in your sub-conscious. And soon enough this image gets associated with that fact in your memory. And further down the line your decisions will be influenced by this

Somehow we humans have more faith in these trails than the main article itself. I guess it's somehow because of the exaggerated world that the advertisement fraternity has created that it's impossible to take anything at a face value. In such cases there is more faith in what a user has to say about an aspect. The more such feedbacks the more we begin to form opinions. Site's like Glassdoor, mouthshut etc. have made a business out of this.

These comment trails are not just vents for the suppressed souls who amplify their voice through the voice of the anonymous. One of the most respectable software services companies in the world is a victim of such a trail that has caused a perception change as well as policies being enforced preventing employees from engaging in such an exercise. With the power of changing the tide I wonder how soon before this form gets regulated or worse exploited further. But to do anything else would be to stifle our freedom of expression, isn't it.

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