Social media diseases

By Phil Plait | August 12, 2009 7:02 am

I’m going to be speaking next week at Gnomedex, a premier tech conference held annually in Seattle and run by my friend the übergeek Chris Pirillo (and I mean that in a good way).

I’ll be talking about the spread of information and misinformation through social media, specifically Twitter. Remember the Texas fireball, and how the (wrong) idea that it was debris from a satellite collision spread like wildfire on Twitter? That’s the sort of thing I’ll be discussing.

I’m also going to talk about other social media/networks like Digg and Reddit. I happen to find both of those sites useful, but both have their disadvantages too. This blog gets linked commonly from both, and I’m looking into trending and such on them. But I want to get opinions from people who have used one or both of them: what do you like and dislike about them? Which one (if either) is easier to use, has more reliable commenting, links to better stuff?

I’d post this on those sites, but that would be like walking into an Apple store and declaring IE 8 to be the best browser ever. I prefer to keep any firefights local, thankyouverymuch.

So let me know what you think in the comments below! I can’t promise to use anything specific in the talk — and I’m sure I’ll be able to make some general observations based on what y’all say — but if you have specifics, let’s hear it!

Comments (38)

  1. IVAN3MAN

    [Rant]
    What I dislike about Digg are those egotistical bastards who carry out ‘hit-and-run’ submissions without even bothering to write or simply copy-and-paste a description the appropriate box. For instance, on APOD, the same ‘usual suspects’ submit the article within seconds of it appearing on the website. I seriously doubt that they even bother to read the bloody article that they have submitted before moving on to the next one.
    [/Rant]

  2. Under the weight of much peer pressure, I opened a twitter account a while back. After 6 weeks, I closed and deleted it.

    Although I could certainly see that there were some benefits to it, I found that:

    – I neither require nor want up-to-the-millisecond details of every event happening everywhere.
    – Most people I encountered were “marketing themselves”… an attempt, I suppose to grasp at some straw of celebrity? Whatever the reason, I found it very dull after the first few. I don’t want to market myself, and I don’t want to be marketed to.
    – Related to the previous point… the concept of the “Personal Brand”. I am not a brand, and I REALLY don’t want to associate with people who consider the world to be a marketing space for their “personal brand” – a world view that seems to me to be at odds with the idea of friends and associates being social in an environment that fosters social contact. I’m probably not being clear with this, and for that I apologize. Suffice it to say that Twitter just made me feel icky after a while… like a giant gastropod had crawled over me.

    My prediction is that while social media is all oooooh and aaaaaah now, it will die down as blogging did when the world realizes that most people really aren’t that interesting and have little to say.

  3. EVANGELICAL WACKO ALERT!

    PHIL: Begging your forgiveness for being off-topic, but I had to pass this along:

    http://www.examiner.com/x-16084-Allentown-Evangelical-Examiner~y2009m8d11-Meteor-showers-provide-further-proof-of-the-Intelligent-Creator

    First there was that astrology weirdo in San Francsico, Satya, who insisted that the Moon Goddess was going to be “offended” by the impact of a lunar probe. Now it’s Jenny Schick’s turn. She’s the “Allentown Evangelical Examiner” who says that the Perseids are evidence of Intelligent Design.

    I hope everyone will drop by to have a little chat with her.

  4. Jim Ernst

    My biggest problem with twitter is just how easy it is to impersonate people. In sports, there have been numerous cases of people pretending to be stars. ( http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/9745904/NFL-looks-into-Dolphins-WR's-fake-Twitter-account )

  5. panacea

    The comment system on reddit is superior to Digg’s in that it re-sorts based on the number of votes individual comment threads have. This means that the better, more intelligent (funny/insightful etc.) float to the top, while the few inane YouTube type comments get hidden at the end. This encourages better conversations.

    The home page of reddit is a constantly churning page of links ranked according to “hotness”. An articles “hotness” is determined by an algorithm considering up/down votes, time and also which “subreddits” a user is subscribed to.

    Subreddits can have any number of subscribers and mean that there are hundreds of mini-communities across which the quality of linked articles and discussion varies greatly.

    Here is a metafilter post on some of the subreddit ‘gems': http://www.metafilter.com/83734/Beyond-the-Front-Page-of-Reddit

  6. I disagree with the commenter above me. If you have a job, or are a professional of any sort, twitter is useful. Nothing connects people of like minds and conversations like twitter can, without prejudice of any kind. I also did not realize that blogging had died down. I think you may only be viewing social media as a personal aspect, but often is required to bring your professional dreams to fruition. Twitter helps narrow in all of those updates so you can find people relevant to you and your business. Of course, people are there to market themselves, you would be dumb not to.

  7. Would love to hear the social media presentations. Wrong ideas, wrong info, spreading across a network such as twitter, happens a lot. A bomb threat at the Chinese Gov’t’s version of the White House (Zhong Nan Hai) spread through twitter a few days ago amongst us over here in Shanghai. All fake. No links. Nothing.

    One of the drawbacks of Social media.

  8. Bryan

    I used both for a very long time. To tell you the truth i stopped using a Digg a while back. The user base has gotten really bad and it’s pretty easy to guess what the top posts are in the technology on any given day. Apple this , Ubuntu this, M$ sucks, Kevin Rose is god. Also the power users really kind of destroy the whole concept. The comments are pretty aweful on digg as well. I still use Reddit daily (and reading the comments i can tell it seems to be getting more digg users). But my real tool is RSS feeds. Getting up to the minute updates on blogs and my favorite sites is far better for me. Just a lot less crap to filter which means less time wasted. I would have to say though, without those sites i would have never found the sites I pull feeds from.

  9. Scottynuke

    The idea that a gossip site such as Twitter could be construed as a source of useful information is obviously a Sign of the Apocalypse.

    The idea that Twitter could be a source of misinformation is kinda self-evident, and I’ll wager that “I heard it on Twitter” is the next great untapped woo resource.

  10. That sounds interesting as hell Phil. You might also want to say a word or two about political misinformation.

    I’m not talking about stuff reasonable people can disagree on. I’m talking about utterly whacked out birther conspiracy theories and the like.

    It’s getting a little scary out there.

  11. Gary

    You might start with a historical perspective that goes back to the start of online social networks – the bulletin boards and listservs – and point out that all the bad behavior, flaming, misunderstood emphasis, rumor mongering, etc. existed from the start. In other words, the medium is irrelevant except for its penetration and speed. Useful communication has always been a signal to noise issue and hinges on the credulity of recipients as well as the honesty of transmitters.

    Talk about filtering, how to gauge the likelihood of truthfulness, the wisdom of crowds, common sense.

    FWIW, I don’t use any of the social networks and only read a few blogs that have proven enough reliable consistency (even if I disagree with them sometimes).

  12. Flying sardines

    Rumour mills in their latest incarnation which goes back to word of mouth.

    Whatever the technology used people are people.

    And ppl fantasise and exxagerate and make stuff up and misinterpret and give their own spin and even when they think they’re telling the truth its often just their own version thereof.

    Gossip spreads much like in the Braveheart movie, where William Wallace eventually becomes “ten foot tall & able to destroy the English with lightning bolts fromhis eyes and fireballs from his a…”

    Third hand exxaggerations, real true news from what a friend of friend of a second cousin twice removed’s deaf grandmother-in-law said, all heard on the grapevine somewhere like distorted chinese whispers – & as reliable.

    But don’t take my word for it. After all how do you know who I am or I you? :roll:

  13. petrolonfire

    @ IVAN3MAN

    the same ‘usual suspects’ submit the article within seconds of it appearing on the website. I seriously doubt that they even bother to read the bloody article that they have submitted before moving on to the next one.

    Yeah, but you got to get the *first post* honour dontchya!! First post, y’know the one everyone will read, the one at the very top of the queue that shows you were sitting right there watching it *hot off the press*, that special first of first impressions signalling, setting the mood, getting in the first words, FIRST POST, 1st post, no. 1 post, ichiban post, numero uno post, 1st, 1st, first .. Oh no I wet myself! ;-)

    Yeah, FSM forbid that you sit back and think and reflect and take the time to select your words right and make sure you know what the article was actually really about or anything like that.

    Mea culpa too, I freely confess on occassion. (probably more than you want me too…)

    PS. Hang on what post number am I quoting here? ;-)

    PPS. Don’t worry though, I’m prob’ly just jealous that you beat me to it! ;-)

  14. Flying sardines

    BTW. BA did you get a chance to observe the Perseid meteor shower the other night /morn?

  15. Caleb Jones

    The key to the solution of the spread of misinformation is the installment of critical thinking skills in the general populace. Once these are taught more thoroughly in school (K-12), then it will be harder for misinformation to spread. It will also have the added benefit of increasing tolerance/understanding, it will make it harder for politicians to spin, and news media outlets will not be able to get away with the current “sound bite” driven reporting since people will demand more.

  16. I don’t use Reddit. I haven’t tried it.

    I have used Digg, but really I only use Digg to Digg Bad Astronomy posts that I particularly like (I like to help out a little).

    Twitter, I have been looking at, but I am not compelled to tweet or follow. I remain unconvinced of its utility beyond reporting breaking news events.

  17. I was a serious Digg user for about a year, left during yet another controversy over the algorithm changes (it was supposed to “promote diversity”, but had the effect of giving less successful users an advantage over those with a proven track record of submitting popular content), as well as the lack of transparency in voting and the much-vaunted “auto-bury”.

    I guess you had to be there. In any case, Digg’s character has changed so much since 2005/6, when it was mostly a geek news site. They have been positioning themselves to be bought out, by manipulating traffic to inflate their pageviews. The average mental age of the average Digg participant has not changed much, though, and like Reddit and to a lesser extent Mixx, is a great place to go to see the uglier side of human behavior in the comment section. (YouTube still wins on stupid commenters though).

    I became a Digg refugee on Mixx, but when it came down to it I just didn’t have the bandwidth to sustain all that “please vote for my story” crapola from everyone, so in the end I retreated to the more social side of social media — Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, and my favorite – Plurk. And Tumblr, and Posterous, and Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo — I had to make myself an infographic to analyze what feeds were posting to what so I didn’t duplicate content across networks.

    But I can stop any time, honest :) However, I have a gazillion opinions on almost every aspect of social media, just ask me and I’ll go on, and on, and on …

  18. Will be interested to hear what you share at the conference, Phil… be sure to keep us posted!

  19. I actually had a conversation just last night with someone about the amount of information that bombards all channels of communication and whether all of it is necessary. Is every comment or Tweet helping in some way to shape decision maker’s opinions? Could we take out the useless chatter and still end up with the same level of marketing success, or does that ‘filler’ help shape influencers which then shapes the thoughts of experts? I wonder if there is a clear way of defining what ‘useless’ or ‘useful’ information might be and if the former might be considered its own social media disease. Any thoughts from the greater marketing community?

    @BassettL
    Zócalo Group

  20. Quiet Desperation

    I’d post this on those sites, but that would be like walking into an Apple store and declaring IE 8 to be the best browser ever.

    Honestly, they’d probably just ask if you wanted to sit down and have a drink of water, and then someone would call mall security to see if they could locate your caregiver. ;-)

    As for Internet social media, it’s a big fat mess. Not that that’s a bad thing.

  21. Helioprogenus

    Part of the disadvantages to Digg and Redit are that they are no different than online polling. As though it’s a true representation of important information. Some rumors set a firestorm, and even negating those ideas on digg results in some people just reading the headline, and believing the hype. For example, they’ll see a headline that says “Satellites not responsible for giant fireball”, but for whatever reason, as they skim through it, it sits in their subconscious. A few days later, they’ll read a false story on how it may have been a satellite, then associate the headline they saw as though it confirms it. They don’t recall the specific details, so all it does is illicit a positive response in their minds. This is a typical mental trap that occurs, and I know there’s a name for this specific bias, which I can’t remember at this time (the opposite of the former phenomenon).

    As far as the online polling comparison, digg links to popular articles, and I’m sure Michael Jackson got his fair share of digged articles, but it doesn’t exactly carve a path towards good science, or even decent information. Whatever attracts the masses will be popular, but does this mean it’s necessarily useful or beneficial information? Useful information is not a democracy, and the masses should not, and cannot dictate what’s accurate. Digg and Redit are useful from a general perspective, but their use must be tempered with the knowledge that the common perspective among the masses may be inaccurate.

  22. IVAN3MAN

    Helioprogenus:

    … they’ll see a headline that says “Satellites not responsible for giant fireball”, but for whatever reason, as they skim through it, it sits in their subconscious. A few days later, they’ll read a false story on how it may have been a satellite, then associate the headline they saw as though it confirms it. They don’t recall the specific details, so all it does is illicit a positive response in their minds. This is a typical mental trap that occurs, and I know there’s a name for this specific bias, which I can’t remember at this time.

    That phenomenon is known as source amnesia, which is an explicit memory disorder in which someone can recall certain information, but not where or how it was obtained.

    This subject was covered in the June 27, 2008, edition of The New York Times, titled…

    Your Brain Lies to You:

    FALSE beliefs are everywhere. Eighteen percent of Americans think the Sun revolves around the Earth, one poll has found. Thus it seems slightly less egregious that, according to another poll, 10 percent of us think that Senator Barack Obama, a Christian, is instead a Muslim. The Obama campaign has created a Web-site to dispel misinformation. But this effort may be more difficult than it seems, thanks to the quirky way in which our brains store memories — and mislead us along the way.

    The brain does not simply gather and stockpile information as a computer’s hard drive does. Facts are stored first in the hippocampus, a structure deep in the brain about the size and shape of a fat man’s curled pinkie finger. But the information does not rest there. Every time we recall it, our brain writes it down again, and during this re-storage, it is also reprocessed. In time, the fact is gradually transferred to the cerebral cortex and is separated from the context in which it was originally learned. For example, you know that the capital of California is Sacramento, but you probably don’t remember how you learned it.

    This phenomenon, known as source amnesia, can also lead people to forget whether a statement is true. Even when a lie is presented with a disclaimer, people often later remember it as true.

    Click to continue…

  23. Delia

    I think what’s more important than the platform is how people use it. Being honest is an obvious start, but not only in a “I’m not lying about who I am” way. I think misinformation is a part of life– all the answers are not always clear, but people need to clearly admit when they are wrong without others assigning a huge value judgment to that. Someone high profile like yourself, Bad Astronomy, can make a mistake (hopefully not too often, but it happens) and can say “that was incorrect, I admit it, let me now propagate the correct information”. So many forms of social media are a big PR machine hiding behind a new tool, that people are afraid to get information out in a personable and timely way. And yes, there will always be fringe/ non-science oriented folk, but if more of the science folks are open and honest, the non-scientific viewpoints will fade into the background.

  24. Art

    @IVAN3MAN:
    “FALSE beliefs are everywhere. Eighteen percent of Americans think the Sun revolves around the Earth, one poll has found. Thus it seems slightly less egregious that, according to another poll, 10 percent of us think that Senator Barack Obama, a Christian, is instead a Muslim. The Obama campaign has created a Web-site to dispel misinformation. But this effort may be more difficult than it seems, thanks to the quirky way in which our brains store memories — and mislead us along the way.”

    Who did they survey and why am I not surprised?

  25. In regards to misinformation emanating from Twitter, my favorite recent example was the false rumor that Jeff Goldblum had died.

    (I hear he was found shortly thereafter in the desert with Will Smith smoking a cigar.)

  26. > But I want to get opinions from people who have used one or both of
    > them: what do you like and dislike about them? Which one (if
    > either) is easier to use, has more reliable commenting, links to
    > better stuff?

    They’re both pretty easy to use. Typically, they both wind up with the same set of links to the same stuff.

    Reddit and Digg suffer from the same fundamental flaw; the community strength is based upon the social ranking, rather than the quality of the submission. The presupposition is that higher quality submissions get better social rankings, but this is manifestly in error when it comes to domain-specific knowledge.

    Put another way, they’re both great for finding random funny articles and articles about neat gadgets. Neither is a good venue for finding substantive news on economics, technology, or science, because there’s no vetting for expertise of the community members on behalf of the community. The political links weigh heavily towards garbage partisan analysis on both sides.

    ResearchBlogging is an interesting site, but it’s sort of clunky (at least it was when I first checked it out a while back, they may have streamlined it), but in general there is no social news site that has any sort of barrier to entry, requiring you to exhibit some level of expertise and providing some sort of ongoing mechanism of evaluating it as time goes on.

    Hm; sounds like an interesting IS project…

  27. Totally off topic but this makes me sad.

    We are going to be passing ships that week. I leave for Seattle on Friday and come back Tuesday and then go back two weeks later for PAX.

    I would really love to see you speak in person.

  28. Maggie

    isn’t that how people heard about Jeff Goldbloom’s “death”

  29. IVAN3MAN

    Art (#24):

    Who did they survey and why am I not surprised?

    GALLUP NEWS SERVICE:

    PRINCETON, NJ — Thanks to the Internet and other trappings of the Information Age, facts and figures now come cheaper and faster than ever before. But where does that leave good, old-fashioned general knowledge, the kind people carry around in their heads?

    A new [June 25-27, 1999] Gallup poll includes three questions that tap Americans’ level of general knowledge. Overall, most Americans did well, answering these questions correctly.

    […]

    Four out of Five Americans Know Earth Revolves Around Sun
    Probing a more universal measure of knowledge, Gallup also asked the following basic science question, which has been used to indicate the level of public knowledge in two European countries in recent years: “As far as you know, does the Earth revolve around the Sun or does the Sun revolve around the Earth?” In the new poll, about four out of five Americans (79%) correctly respond that the Earth revolves around the Sun, while 18% say it is the other way around. These results are comparable to those found in Germany when a similar question was asked there in 1996; in response to that poll, 74% of Germans gave the correct answer, while 16% thought the Sun revolved around the Earth, and 10% said they didn’t know. When the question was asked in Great Britain that same year, 67% answered correctly, 19% answered incorrectly, and 14% didn’t know.

    The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,016 adults, 18 years and older, conducted June 25-27, 1999. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

    As far as you know, what specific historical event is celebrated on July 4th?
    Signing of the Declaration of Independence/day it was signed 55%
    Independence Day 32%
    Birth of United States 1%
    Other 6%
    No opinion 6%
    = 100%

    As far as you know, from what country did America gain its independence following the Revolutionary War?
    England/Great Britain/United Kingdom 76%
    France 2%
    Other 3%
    No opinion 19%
    = 100%

    As far as you know, does the Earth revolve around the Sun, or does the Sun revolve around the Earth?
    Earth revolves around the Sun 79%
    Sun revolves around the Earth 18%
    No opinion 3%
    = 100%

    Click on the blue link above to read the full article.

  30. Simulacra

    Partially in response to #26.

    Personally I find reddit much better than digg, but the user bases have merged so much that they are almost identical on the main page. However, reddit’s advantage comes from the subreddits which anyone can create. If you manage your subrettits properly you have almost nothing but quality content. Check out the hardscience subreddit, just a place for new/interesting science articles. Mostly journals and the like. The Economics subreddit is fairly good, but is getting a troubling signal/noise ratio; check out economy, not as fast moving and fewer comments but a bit higher s/n ratio. Then you have the Astronomy, astro, and space subreddits. For general content there’s truereddit which is pretty high quality.

    For those unfamiliar, sign in (create an account if you have to, don’t even need an e-mail) click the MYREDDITS button (top left above the alien) then click edit. Search around for what you want, it will tell you how many people use it. More subscribers means more content, but usually a drop in signal/noise ratio.

    Afterthought, to check out one of the subreddits the url is http://www.reddit.com/r/Astronomy replace Astronomy with any subreddit name.

  31. >>Nothing connects people of like minds and conversations like twitter can, without prejudice of any kind.

    Untrue… there’s plenty of prejudice on twitter, if only because you can filter who you listen to. In my experience, if twitter connected minds, it was minds that I wasn’t interested in being connected to and conversations I didn’t want to here. I saw very little interesting information that couldn’t be had elsewhere in non-Twitter fora.

    I also saw heaps of what I would consider abuse. For example two people allegedly having a conversation about some product. The company that makes the product chimes in… but it’s all a setup – the people are actors paid by the company to make it look like there’s chatter about their product. It’s dishonest, in my opinion. I took a marketer to task over this, but that marketer seems to think that’s just the way of the future. If that’s what the future looks like, I’m very disappointed.

    >>I also did not realize that blogging had died down.

    definitely, it has, although “died down” is perhaps a poor choice of words. There are a smaller number of better quality blogs now, as opposed to a huge mass of “eating cookies”…”going to bed” kind of blogging that there used to be.

    Of course, those latter people now populate Twitter.

    >>Of course, people are there to market themselves, you would be dumb not to.

    I disagree that you’d be dumb not to. Most people, I think, don’t care enough about people they don’t know really well to want to see your personal marketing pitch. So marketing yourself is just irritating to people. In real life, aren’t we all a bit apprehensive of people who come on like a salesman? Why would or should we expect different in Twitter or Facebook or whatever? I think you’d be dumb to be marketing your “personal brand” everywhere because nothing kills a brand like inappropriate marketing.

    In 6 weeks of regular use, I saw no obvious benefits. Maybe I missed some hidden Twitter gem, but so far nobody has pointed out to me what that might be, and I certainly don’t miss having one-more-thing to keep up-to-date on. There was a slight advantage to seeing the odd tweet on a news story that was breaking faster than I might see it, say, on TV or hear on the radio… but short of an asteroid about to land on my town in 2 minutes, I can’t imagine a story so important that the lag between Twitter and the CBC would make that much difference.

    From what I’ve seen, the importance of Twitter for conveying important information seems to be grossly overestimated. Time will tell, I suppose. Maybe in 5 years I’ll have to come back and say “Damn, I was wrong about Twitter, it really is the greatest thing.” but I’m not worried about having to do that.

  32. Phil, do you have any after-party functions scheduled? If so, let me know. I help organize a skeptic group in Seattle and would love to gather the troops during your brief visit here.

  33. Mike

    I have better things to do than waste my time on gossip-filled social networks. They’re simply the Internet versions of magazines like People and Us.

  34. Anon Coward

    I think Despair, Inc. sums up Twitter pretty well: http://ep.yimg.com/ca/I/demotivators_2064_4359429

  35. My experience on Twitter is quite positive. It really is all in who you follow. I think maybe the best way to be introduced to Twitter is by someone you know, whether online or f2f, who can introduce you to others with similar interests. I follow edtech folks, science folks (Phil and the NASA astronauts), and “green” folks (organic gardeners, renewable energy) because those are my areas of interest or work.

    Let me quote a few posts in my TwitKit right now:
    from @jorech Library of Congress Memory Collection…tons of historical images…whoa. http://bit.ly/LmU5v
    from @do_ecoliving TreeHugger: Would You Wear a Solar Powered Cell Phone on Your Wrist? http://bit.ly/ezzox Full http://bit.ly/15cGRI
    from @Taml17 Checking out ChartGo…a super easy way to create graphs and charts.Think our math teachers will love it: http://www.chartgo.com
    from @jonbecker A-freakin-men! RT @betajames: Kent State going with all-digital tenure portfolios. http://bit.ly/Lj9Ly (via @s2ceball)

    The above are from 2 tech teacher/directors, a university ed professor, and a green-blogger. I “only” follow 469 people right now. I need to weed out the ones who don’t post anymore. If people “follow” me, I only follow them back if they “fit” into my profile. Otherwise, I block them. I avoid “celebrites” like the plague.

    I don’t do Digg or Reddit. I use Diigo for bookmarking and commenting and share with the same groups of folks as above as well as my hs students…

  36. Topic on hand:

    I really have nothing to say about Reddit or Digg. The only articles I have ever dugg, are yours Phil.

    As for Twitter, I would not be able to live without twitter. It is worse than any drug.

    It helps me keep up with certain things that are job related, it lets me hear random, funny, crazy thoughts from friends, I get my JustGeek and The Onion feeds plus CBC, TIME and NASA without having to check a bunch of websites or signing up for RSS feeds which I will forget to check and read. At least with Twitter, it pops right up in my face as I am working.

    PLUS, I get to keep up with some of my favourite geeky people. I get to read the thoughts of astronauts and ramblings from people I respect and admire who are in the public eye so to speak. If it were not for twitter, a few friends and I would never know what is up with each other because we are so busy, we do not get a lot of talk time and we don’t always check Facebook.

    And then there are fun games we can play with each other to help you stay laughing while chained to your desk.

    I could write an essay about the pros and cons of Twitter. But now may not be the place.

  37. @ #30 (simulacra)

    > However, reddit’s advantage comes from the subreddits which
    > anyone can create. If you manage your subrettits properly
    > you have almost nothing but quality content.

    That’s an advantage I’m not willing to exploit. Having been a front line participant in the dot-com bust, I know exactly how reliable free public web services are (uh, not at all for the uninitiated).

    I won’t use a social media site that requires anything beyond 2 minutes of effort to set up. Why? I don’t know what their business model is. I don’t know what their systems architecture is. I don’t know how often they back stuff up. I don’t know *if* they back stuff up. If they do, I don’t know if they know how to restore it. I’ve seen so many bad IT systems (or good IT systems in bad business models) that my trust is pretty low in general.

    When I bill out my time (outside of work), I charge $150/hr… that’s pretty much what my free time is worth to me at the moment. If it takes me an hour to set up a nice feed system, I just burned $150 worth of my time that I may not be able to get back. Reddit might change something, I’ll have to redo my feed. Reddit might go out of business. Reddit might lose my user data and I’ll have to do it again (I can’t export it and save it myself).

    For substantive news, social news sites just don’t currently work.

    Give me a science news social networking site, I’d probably be all over it if it was designed well. Give me any (domain specific) news social networking site, it’s likely it could work out okay. Reddit and Digg are firehoses of garbage with some bits of nice stuff in there; figuring out how to dampen the noise in the signal/noise ratio isn’t work I want to do. I want the system to do that for me :)

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