The Wisdom of Dumb People

I'm told that in this way new web 2.0 world we're supposed to trust to the wisdom of the masses. User-generated content! Crowdsourcing! Digging and tagging!

That's great, except for one small thing: 50% of those people are below average—or worse! Trust to the wisdom of crowds? I'd rather trust to the wisdom of smart people.

I have a feature on my website that asks people to "rate this article". After about a year, I'm ready to declare the experiment a failure.

I've tinkered with the algorithm. I think I have the formula right, but the results are still bogus. All I've done is create a mechanism that identifies which articles are most visited by spammers. (For some inexplicable reason, spammers often click the rating widget before posting their link for penis pills.)

I know it's out of fashion, but I like it when smart people help me make choices. We have a name for those smart people: we call them editors.

Last year, when Jette and I did our planning for Holidailies 2007, we made a decision to simplify. One area we designated for simplification was the "Best of Holidailies" feature. And by simplify, I mean we planned to chuck it.

There was an immediate uproar. People loved that feature. Not only did they want to be able to see the selections (and have a chance at being selected), several insisted they wanted to help volunteer with the reading. So the feature was brought back onto the table. People really liked the editorial choices we presented. I think it goes to show how much we enjoy smart assistance, often in preference to the wisdom of dumb crowds.

Which brings me back to the situation on my site. The problem is that I have a lot of content here, and some of it is not half bad. I'd like a mechanism to identify some of that better content, so that visitors may browse and re-discover some of the more interesting articles.

I'm thinking about retiring the ratings widget and using my existing blog category mechanism. I can create a new category called something like "Favorites" or "Best of the Blog", and place selected articles into it. That's the wisdom of editorship triumphing over crowdsourced dumbness.


Comments have been closed for this entry.

I'm glad you decided to keep

I'm glad you decided to keep the Best of Holidailies section.

Yeah, I'd chuck the ratings thing and do a "Best of the Blog" list.

law of averages

When it comes to your own writing I'd trust your own judgment over a rating widget... you probably know when you've written something people will connect to. As for the idiot masses not being the best at picking anything... I'd tend to agree but there's an interesting radiolab (NPR) that talks about that... It's called Emergence. Worth listening to if you like the style. I swear I'm not an NPR goon, even though I think this may be the third comment I've posted in someone's blog linking to a Radiolab episode.