[iDC] Will you delete your Feedburner account?

Alex Randall Alex at islands.vi
Thu Jun 7 16:48:39 EDT 2007

Hello Burak:
Yes it is far more complex. 
The list you offer... I'd call all of them data points. 
To me it doesn't turn into information until it is gathered across data points and summarized, massaged, rearranged, or manipulated in a way to make data points into meaningful chunks of information. 

The prices people paid for computers were data points. 
High, low and Closing prices were information. 
It turns to information when a reader/consumer does not have to consume ALL the data points to come to the same conclusion... 
I provide value when I aggregate a pile of data and crunch it in some manner to produce a summary... a conclusion... then I have added value.

reading between the lines, I think what is so disturbing to us no-a-days is that every little data point... has become someone else's raw material. 
If I have a web site with my original content and my links and my insights, feedburner and Google and everyone else uses my work to create their pages which they present to others.  My work is consumed and regurgitates without any benefit to me. 

I think all of your examples fall in this category,  Your links, your opinions, your words and yet they have become cannon fodder for search engines, web crawlers and more who use your work to their advantage.  None of us own any of our own stuff when everyone ahs the right to copy it, link to it, point to it... regurgitate it, chew on it... 

I want useful data, summarized into useful conclusions and presented in clear statements. 

  * A link in Delicious.

  * A tag describing a picture in Flickr. 

  * A comment reacting to a YouTube video.

  * A story in Digg.

  * Some text describing how I am connected to my friends in Facebook (same college, same company, met in such club etc).

  The problems of capital are deeply examined in the history, so I don't feel like talking about it at all. I can only say that I don't appreciate giant things. 

  particularly since so many of the giant things are just huge repositories of links to small things. 
  Notice how much of what you describe is not being summaried ina useful way in a giant service. 
  Google doesn't tell you sumamry conclusions... It is just a huge index... 
  The most interestign thing from them is Google Trends where they tell us what WE have been asking about. 
  It is like a snap shot of the world's query du jour... what are we interested in knowing!!!
  This is summary information, not raw data. 

  "View Source" menu item was the key feature put into the browsers by the pioneers of the web (from Tim Berners-Lee's original browser to Marc Anderseen's Mosaic)[*]. This openness feature, affording to look inside, helped me learn HTML like many other kids in the world, which later changed my life.

  Today I think what we need is something as simple as this: "View Data". 

  Yes, I also learned HTML by going to pages I liked in the  early 1990's, viewing source and copying the forms and structures I liked. 
  My first page (still available at www.dr-dream.com) is painfully pedestrian.It was created with a word processor using cut and paste to copy HREF stuff. 
  And I agree with you. 
  I think all of us should be able to "View source. View data." 
  I'd love to have some political polemics, religious tracts and editorials show us the data upon which they based their conclusions. 

  One of the fundamental problems we face in this era is that we are less able  now to judge the quality of the material we see. 

  I first noticed this in the beginning of the word processor era. 
  People could take stupid ideas and dress them up in pretty fonts, on pages that were well formed and met the criteria for "lookin' good" yet the ideas were still stupid.  In the past - editors would have culled through stupid ideas and removed them from circulations before anyone put in the effort to make the text **look good.** In the Word processor and DTP eras - anyone could turn dumb ideas into good looking presentations.  

  This raises the bar for what is considered excellent. 

  Same issue is facing us now as billions of web sites present billions of ideas - most of them based on thin data or no data or just someone's opinion or an incredibly trivial basis.  
  You no longer trust "amazing"photos because it is so easy to Photoshop up a miracle image. 
  You no longer trust e-mail telling you an amazing facts, (Like "ducks quack doesn't echo and no one knows why") because you have had so much trash dumped into your inbox. 
  You don't trust web sites because you question where the raw data is coming from. 

  I no longer trust most of what is passed off as social science because no matter how much you evaluate the data with statistics, if the original questions were badly written no amount of statistical evaluation is going to tell you anything useful. 

  Enough of that rant. 

  I don't trust big entities either
  and I fear that even darling little companies that are responsive and "good" grow up and become less and less responsive. 
  Google is gobbling up little innovative companies - same with News corp and Yahoo. 
  This is no different from general Motors buying up ancient brand names and making them all fall under the GM umbrella. 

  Do they stifle the creativity when they get big... seems so. 

  Alex Randall
  Professor of Communication
  University of the Virgin Islands

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