Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Small groups control reality by pretending objectivity


Wales decided to run a simple study to find out: he counted who made the most edits to the site. "I expected to find something like an 80-20 rule: 80% of the work being done by 20% of the users, just because that seems to come up a lot. But it's actually much, much tighter than that: it turns out over 50% of all the edits are done by just .7% of the users ... 524 people. ... And in fact the most active 2%, which is 1400 people, have done 73.4% of all the edits." The remaining 25% of edits, he said, were from "people who [are] contributing ... a minor change of a fact or a minor spelling fix ... or something like that."

ASW


Having tracked informally how information in textbooks gets re-worded for Wikipedia entries, I find this unsurprising. A small group of people without power are seizing power because Google wants to use Wikipedia to make sure every search result has at least one discrete answer. It's a fascinating strategy.

In the meantime, we should be aware of self-appointed, commercially-viable elites who control our perception of reality by claiming objectivity. The news media... objective? More like paid advertising, since they make their revenue from advertising not sales of their media. Think tanks... objective? Not really, since they need to drum up support for themselves, which requires self-importance more than reality.

Politicians... objective? They are self-promoters.

Scientists... objective? Need research funding. Must pander.

Authors... objective? Need to sell books. Whatever people want to hear is good.

Musicians and actors/actresses... objective? Need to stay in headlines. Need to sell self to get more roles.

The whole illusion unravels if you just give it five minutes' thinking time.

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