With so many web 2.0 supporters, it is important for someone to raise an opposite perspective of the downsides of this latest technological driver, so as to remind us that things are not as perfect as they seem, and really ask whether we are ready to accept these downsides. The author received many criticisms (as I surveyed the book reviews in Amazon), especially from apparent web 2.0 supporters. I am a web 2.0 supporter and believes that this technology advancement is almost impossible to stop from influencing our daily lives. But there are indeed some measures to be taken to properly manage the downsides and also take the development at a suitable pace. Some issues that were raised were indeed quite eye-opening and including myself, have not thought of them. It does set me thinking of these possible scenarios and what would my reactions be. I greatly dislike the tone of his writing which is very unfriendly and ever so attacking. The book seems to be a pure complain message to the web 2.0 community – which I feel if he wants to ensure the community to take his argument objectively, he could have watched his tone. He has valid points but as I mentioned, he is not putting them across in a proper manner, which makes me feel the points are not strongly justified.
By democratizing content generation, many amateurs have joined in to produce information and often, these information were actually “personalized truth” – personal subjective opinion rather than an objective one. “For the real consequence, of the Web 2.0 revolution is less culture, less reliable news, and a chaos of useless information.” Moreover, organisations are making use of this chance (and the anonymity of internet to hide identity) to build a good image of themselves or even for propaganda purposes. “Advertising and public relations are disguised as news, the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred.” For e.g., DCI group, a lobbying firm whose clients include Exxon Mobil, put up a video in Youtube titled, “Al Gore’s Army of Penguins”, to retaliate against “An Inconvenient Truth” by environmentalist, Al Gore. Youtube also began selling “participatory video ads” (PVA) as part of their revenue generating method. PVAs are given priority on Youtube’s homepage and they are almost indifferentiable with typical Youtube videos.
Can amateurs replace the experts or the professionals? Can Wikipedians replace Britannicans? Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, said, “To me, the key thing is getting it right. I don’t care if they’re a high school kid or a Harvard professor.” How does Wales know who is right? You would still need an expert to verify, someone who knows more than anyone else in the subject matter.
As information is democratized and digitalized, it is very easy to spread misinformation widely and rapidly. Links from blogs to other blogs, Youtube, MySpace, Wikipedia, which include many more links to other websites and so on and so forth. It is impossible to stop the spread or identify the source. “Future readers often inherit and repeat this misinformation, compounding the problem, creating a collective memory that is deeply flawed.”
Instead of having expert interpretation and commentary of news and events, many are turning to news written with personal perspectives, like Instapundit.com and the Dialy Kos. The reason is that “we [tend to] seek out the information that mirrors back our own biases and opinions and conforms with our distorted versions of reality.”
“Floggers are bloggers who claim to be independent but are actually in the pay of a sponsor.” These floggers get paid to write good things about their sponsors even if they may not agree to what were written – “bloggers sell their souls to the highest bidder”. On the other hand, sponsors had their own problems – click frauds. Due to the “pay-per-click” nature of online advertising, advertisers get billed whenever someone clicks the advertisements. Many “paid to read” businesses sprang up to pay clients for clicking advertisements, and to a further extent, some even programmed the clicking to be done automatically. “The result is that businesses, which pay per click on theirs ads, dole out huge, inflated sums to advertising companies for clicks that generate no returns in sales, customers, or genuine stickiness.”
Hurting the business
“[The Web 2.0 companies like Google, Youtube and Craiglist] are unlikely to fill the shoes of the industries they are helping to undermine, in terms of products produced, jobs created, revenue generated, or benefits conferred.” For e.g., Craiglist estimated to have caused Bay Arena newspaper an annual $50 million loss in advertising money. The former has a huge responsibility for the many layoffs in newspaper firms, including 101 layoffs in San Jose Mercury News (note that they only have 22 employees).
Traditional media (radio, TV, newspaper, movies) have been affected by free services from Craiglist (classifid ads), blogs (news), radio (podcasters) and pirated file sharing (movies, music). Marshall Poe, a writer from Atlantic Monthly, told Keen that companies cannot make money by providing high-quality content for free – “The Internet is a huge moral hazard for people in general, and it is a huge economic hazard for the serious providers of content.”
“Google is a parasite; it creates no content of its own. Its sole accomplishment is having figured out an algorithm that links preexisting content to other preexisting content onthe Internet, and charging advertizers each time one of these links is clicked. In terms of value creation, there’s nothing there apart from its links.”
With widespread illegal file sharing of music, economic viability of record companies has been undermined. Rarely listeners pay for music now. Music may one day degrade into a bonus item for the sale of other commodities – “equivalent to the plastic toy found at the bottom of the cornflakes box”.
The problem with Long Tail
Chris Anderson in “The Long Tail” has redefined economics from scarcity to abundance – “[T]here will be infinite shelf space for infinite products, thus giving everyone infinite choice.” The big assumption here is that talent is infinite as well – such that everyone involved in the production of information or products are equally qualified. In reality, talent is scarce – each person’s level of expertise, experience, and mastery in any field is different. “The fact is, Anderson’s vision of a hitless, flattened media is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Without the nurturing of talent, there will, indeed, be no more hits, as the talent that creates them is never nourished or permitted to shine.”
Small labels, after the closure of Tower Records (which boasts 40-50% of niche records), lost half of their business. Although Long Tail tells us that these labels can sell directly to customers, it still requires marketing skills to surface themselves to the buyers, which majority of the small labels do not have. “A more likely consequence of Tower’s closure is the increasing consolidation of the major labels.” Moreover, the human touch of having a deeply knowledgeable Tower employee providing recommendation is no longer felt in Amazon’s anonymous reviewers.
Traffic is core business in Web 2.0 but on the contrary, high traffic does not always translate into money. A good example is The Scene Aesthetic, who have attracted millions of listeners + downloads in MySpace, PureVolume and YouTube, has yet to sign a deal with a label and were just able to cover their expenses during their performing tour.
Online casinoes have made access to gambling ever more so easy. Gamblers no longer need to travel to places to gamble and can do it right at the comfort of their homes. We do not want our people to be addicted to it or the younger generations to grow up in an environment with values like gambling is a shortcut to wealth. Besides gambling, pornography has also proliferated in the Internet, which is equally undesirable for society.
The information rich Internet (including personal data), makes it easier for sex predators to prey on their potential victims. MySpace has been sued by families who had daughters abused by men met on the MySpace website.
Second Life has drew a huge following of 1.5 million users by end of 2006 and in January 2005 alone, $5 million in transactions have taken place for virtual items. “[I]t can have dangerous financial consequences for addicts who prioritize their second lives over their real lives and drain their bank accounts buying goods and services to consume in their second lives.”
Baroness Susan Greenfield, an Oxford University Neuroscience professor, suggests from her research that children from Web 2.0 generation will be more prone to real-world violence, less able to compromise or negotiate, apt to be poor learners, and lacking in empathy.
Privacy is not so private in the Internet afterall – AOL who kept search queries of users accidentally leaked out to the public. Uncovering secrets of people who would not even confide to his/her closest aide. Search engine companies keep such data to analyze user behaviour and profit from the information. The ethical question is, “who owns the search engine queries?” Financial histories and data were also being stolen frequently in the Internet – data from 40 million MasterCard and Visa accounts were stolen in July 2005.
Nigel Gilbert, a Surrey University professor, suggests that Google is within five years of having sufficient information to be able to track the exact movement and intentions of every individual. Imagine a world without privacy for you…
Keen’s suggested solutions
– marry new media and traditional content without compromising editorial standards or quality
– regulations on undesireable activities like online gambling and unacceptable behaviour like fraud, identity thefts, stealing of intellectaul properties
– legal limitations on the type and duration of users’ data stored