Where is the Web 2.0 democracy?

Web 2.0 power plays mirror offline behavior: Where is the pure social endeavor?
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor

Alx Klive’s analysis of the "popularity" of online video offerings provides pragmatic insight into how today’s Web 2.0 “democratic” communities operate, where the average user is purported to be in control.

Klive publishes “WorldTV Internet TV Charts,” which he says tracks “the most popular online video clips each week from four leading Internet TV sites.”

According to Klive (via Steve Rubel):

The WorldTV Internet TV Charts are compiled from Google Video, YouTube, Digg Videos, and Videosift. A new chart is posted each Sunday at 7pm EST...

in the case of Google, which does not provide weekly viewing figures, their daily chart from each of the last 7 days is recorded, and compiled into a weekly average. The service is part-automated and part-editorial. Clips are removed that are highly viewed, but lowly rated, as well as clips which appear to have had their voting artificially manipulated. This is to improve the overall quality of the video clips on the page, and provide the best possible service to users. This is especially the case with Google Video and YouTube, where poor quality clips have a habit of making it into the most viewed list, usually by way of misleading but provocative titles (typically involving adult themes), or through possible manipulation of the voting system - something that appears to be happening more often of late.

So to summarize, the goal is to provide the very best possible service to people, and this currently means that certain poor quality clips are removed through a manual editorial process.

Here is some of Klive’s analysis of the current state of online video viewing:

a) Videos are sometimes titled in misleading ways, and a poor quality video with a provocative name like Girl Pwn, can easily make it into the charts, even if it's not really a very interesting video.

b) I suspect there is some network voting going on, or at least swarm voting in the case of certain corporate videos like music promos.

c) A foreign language video can make it into the chart, simply for lack of any great similar content. Those speaking foreign languages are, in all likelihood, voting to encourage more similar uploads.

On the subject of Google's staleness, the chart is definitely suffering from a bit of a positive feedback loop. Lots of people are going to their Top 100 chart and watching the most popular videos, meaning those videos are staying the most popular.

Klive’s straightforward recounting of the machinations besetting online video Web properties begs the question: How democratic are Web 2.0 “communities”?

Digg Video asserts:

Digg is all about user powered content. Every article on digg is submitted and voted on by the digg community. Share, discover, bookmark, and promote the news that's important to you!

The working of Digg Video mirrors Digg “classic,” however. I discuss how Digg is tainted by manipulation in “Web 2.0 pay for play: payola, or transparency?”:

Digg ‘stories’ are often self-submitted by authors and then actively ‘voted on’ by collaborative self-promoting teams. Additionally, such collaborative efforts may include ‘sabotage’ against ‘competing’ stories legitimately posted by Digg contributors without agendas. Sabotage tactics include ‘bury’ and negative comment campaigns.

It is not surprising that Web 2.0 power plays mirror offline behavior. It is hypocritical, however, for Web properties to present themselves as pure, social endeavors.


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