My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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feeding quasi-“legitimate” trolls in an attention economy

In an attention economy, it’s better to ignore than to critique. This drives me absolutely bloody batty. Anyone who’s been online for too darn long knows has heard the expression, “don’t feed the trolls.” This stems from the general belief that trolls engaging in trolling for attention. Giving them attention by telling them off feeds into their goals. Thus, the best way to deal with a troll is to ignore them. We know this pattern from offline examples too. Schoolyard bullies are one example and if you stretch it far enough, you can see this concept in “turn the other cheek.” Still, trying to convince everyone out there to ignore a troll isn’t easy and being silent ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I’m deeply disturbed by the proliferation of troll-like behavior in contemporary life. Why are public figures increasingly appearing whose whole identity is wrapped around driving others batty? Why does it seem as though more people are starting to write controversial books purely to make money off of the attention they receive when others attack them? Why are reputable publications publishing these authors’ tirades against others that are intended specifically to draw them out in a public fight? I guess we know the answer… Or at least the equation. Attention = money. And in the world of media, attention = advertising revenue.

Lately, I’ve found myself biting my tongue a lot. I’m not very good at being silent when I have a strong opinion. To make matters worse, I’m an academic and we’re trained to critique and be critiqued. Yet, in an attention economy, publicly critiquing people whose sole goal is to get massive attention does them more justice than harm. This is understood in marketing as there being no such thing as bad coverage. In a world of blogging and pagerank, critiquing trolls gives them both literal and figurative capital. That’s frustrating as hell. Lately, I’ve found myself encouraging people to not blog about something when it smells like an attention whore. But of course, someone’s feathers still get ruffled and bark bark bark goes the blogosphere.

I have to imagine that folks in marketing land have thought about this, if only to manipulate it. What are good strategies for handling trolls in sheep’s clothing?

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32 comments to feeding quasi-“legitimate” trolls in an attention economy

  • I don’t have any strategies per se (though I do have a blanket policy of refusing to legitimize demagogues by appearing in public debates with them, no matter how much money is on offer), but I want to say that I don’t think that trolling is on the rise — I think there’ve always been jerks on the radio, TV, papers, etc, forever.

  • I agree that they’ve been in MSM for a long time. It just seems that there’s more and more of them in the book space. Maybe I should just be damning the desperate publishers who will happily find any way to get a book traction.

  • I don’t think there are more sleazy, alarmist books now than before, either — remember, the 1950s were the golden era of books like Seduction of the Innocents!

  • xanthe.matychak@rit.edu

    People talking about books? In my mind, not a problem.

  • One really awful outcome of this is that our college aged students see this and reproduce it. I just came across dozens of drunken, risk taking, attention seeking, provocative videos from one of our graduates. She does so under her own name with a link to her blog which links to her linkedin (amazing she even has one). Sadly, she has acquired some established “follows” for all her hard work of attention seeking of the worst kind.

    Is she to blame for “attention whoring” behaviour – or are we? (i.e., those people you mention who are established but get into public antics/battles, etc))

    I keep telling all my older webby friends that we have a role to play as guides and examples for the younger generation. The more of this kind of stuff they engage (the stuff you speak of as well) the more they will reproduce it.

    I’m glad you’ve spoken out about this issue – but we need more discussions about this – for our youth.

    I added your piece about privilege and consequence to our course bookmarks and many of my students have bookmarked and read it. A lot of them don’t understand that the consequences for a Loic or a Scoble (or even a Sarah Lacy) are not the same as the consequences for them.

    I continue to refer to your work because, frankly, I do not see ANYONE else writing about these issues in quite the same way. Bravo, danah. You continue to be more relevant, engaging and meaningful than most other academics out there.

  • Joe Blo

    You bring up an intersting point. Although I think this has always existed, it seems to be more tolerated now even by the educated (he’s a lying bastard but he’s our bastard). It’s especially important now when people have even more choice and control over what media they _choose_to_consume_. I tend to prefer sources that filter brutally, but according to ideologies that I (think I) know.

    The good thing is that we do also have personal tools to fight the trolls. Automated blocking tools (like Greasemonkey with killfile), and collaborative ratings (like /. etc;). Unfortunately, even the least authoritarian tools which are almost like an immune system response can have their own problems and abuses. I feel more and more like I have to search out material from sources that I fundamentally disagree with in order to really get the full story. Otherwise my own filtering keeps me ignorant of what is going on in the real world, where more people voted for American Idol, than will vote for president (yes misleading hyperbole until I can SMS 10x for Obama).

    Other interesting sides to this are the holocaust / smoking->cancer / CO2->global warming / JFK assassin->?? deniers. The idea being that if you can get enough attention spouting enough feel good marketing crap that you can put off the day when people actually realize the truth of something that fundamentally endangers them. Cultish little groups really seem to love to define themselves by denying commonly held beliefs. It helps the members feel superior others… OK drifting comment hi-jack over.

  • Call me wrong-headed, but I never turned the other cheek for bullies. For others? Sure … everybody deserves a break. For bullies? No, that’s just wrong. It’s benefiting by abetting foul behaviour.
    Now, really, isn’t that the hallmark of bourgeois society? “The nail that sticks out gets hammered”, so we just duck and suck it up … meanwhile becoming more deeply humiliated, filled with a sullen sense of self-loathing.

    IMNSHO most of our social ills come from “rational” decisions concerning injustice: we maximize our individual income on the short term and, meanwhile, the planet goes to hell while the body politic rots from the inside out.

    At base it’s an exercise in identity management: by manifesting loyalty to the dominant paradigm we signal that we’re worthy of trust and responsibility.

    BTW: what I learned from battling school-yard bullies has held true through my mature career; standing up against abuse creates real conflict with those who choose to just go along. The principled become as painted birds.

  • This is an awfully vague discussion. What exactly do you mean by trolls and where do you draw the line between troll and thoughtful contrarian? Without examples it’s hard to tell if you’re just peeved with people you disagree with.

  • I can’t keep my mouth shut either when provoked, so I think we have to engage when the message from the attention seekers and the trolls is so thoroughly deserving of critique – even if in doing so we add oxygen to the flames.

    And, if there is any hint of bad faith involved, as there so often is in un-nuanced arguments – for instance, in the use of deliberately provocative titles (“the internet is killing our culture” and “the dumbest generation” come to mind) and the crudely-simplistic theses that tend to accompany such titles – I think we need to expose the bad faith involved while also offering the deeper critique they deserve.

  • Tex

    Oooh, I do *so* have a knee jerk reaction whenever I hear the phrase “in contemporary life” or “increasingly appearing.” There’s that damn historian training crying out in the back of my mind.

    So my first reaction? To go and look up historical trolls, and troll like behavior in the past. Specifics may change. The way people go about getting what they want may change. But the underlying root of human behavior does not tend to change. Attention seeking behavior? I just *know* Nerval didn’t walk his pet lobster in the park for his health. Figure out how trolls behaved in the past, and how people dealt with them then, and you’ll find answers to what to do today.

  • Tex – I agree that human nature hasn’t changed. There have always been a subset of people who shortcut the work and effort required to say something meaningful with that which is sensationalistic.

    I’ve also been aware of greater attention-whoring through lowest-common-denominator means in the book industry. However, I’m more inclined to chalk this up to the fact I’m paying more attention than a precursor of a larger trend.

    What is different, however, is the transmission capability of such douchebaggery. A radio shock jock is an anointed troll. They had been the only ones granted access to the transmission necessary to build audiences from derisiveness. Then, with 24-hour cable news and the need to generate content came a cadre of pundits. More pulpits, but still limited and requiring anointment by the medium operators (who, at the very list, could pick people who were at least witty and/or interesting in their ignorance). The Internet is a medium with no one blessing who can talk (which is good) which means anyone who wasn’t hugged enough as a child can stir up and audience (which is bad).

    Having moderated forums and dealt with trolls in the past what works best is emotionless and swift action. The first warning is that their behavior won’t be tolerated and the second is a banning. It’s not ignoring the problem. But it also not engaging in a war of the words that will only escalate.

    You can’t win an argument with someone who’s victory condition is to argue (a prolonged argument = attention). And while these people have always existed we’ve been poorly prepared for the number enabled by online conversation.

  • To be honest, who cares about what the blogosphere thinks, except for bloggers and marketers who want to sell ads?

    Most of the blogosphere is boring and incestuous and I’m guessing demographically white and male.

    I think you’re answer is in your post. You are an academic. You are trained to critique and be critiqued. You should have lots of experience recognizing critiques of your work that are well though-out, valid, and rigorous. If it’s not that, is it really worth your time to respond?

  • To clarify my question a little, I was honestly wondering what books you were thinking of. It seems unfair to call almost any book an attention-getting troll, given the amount of thought that goes into a book and how little money most books make. Political attack books are an obvious exception. Books like The Dumbest Generation, mentioned above, seem to be serious efforts at discussion, albeit provocative ones. Provocation isn’t the same thing as trolling, in my mind at least.

  • There’s a line to walk between ignoring them and saying ‘no comment’ when someone’s writing about them anyway, and they called you for rebuttal. The best thing you can do is to present a better, more convincing story, but that may not be something that is easy to do briefly.
    The defence in depth is to do exactly what you have been doing so well fro so long – to research what is actually happening, and to explain it clearly so that others can cite it and rebut the trolls for you, or come up with the terse summary phrase or slogan that acts to undo the troll for us all.
    As I wrote after last listening to you talk, I think the eventual answer will be a truer digital representation of the multiple overlapping publics we belong to, rather than modelling the imagined global public.

  • Tex

    @Matthew:

    You said “The Internet is a medium with no one blessing who can talk (which is good) which means anyone who wasn’t hugged enough as a child can stir up and audience (which is bad).

    Is it really so bad if those folks stir up an audience? In the publishing industry, although marketers will often grasp for the shiny star, the books that consistently pull in the most money for the company are the long-standing steady stalwarts that generate small but consistent sales year after year. A troll’s success, by definition, is almost always incendiary and fast-burning.

    I guess my point is – so what if a troll stirs up an audience for their 15 minutes of fame? Chances are that no one will remember them next week. They’re annoying. They’re assholes. Some of the time they’re wrong and some of the time they’re right. But aside from general social maladroitness….I guess I just don’t feel that trollishness in and of itself is morally reprehensible enough to actively shut down. Between weighing the harm of someone being a douche and the harm of me going out of my way to close off someone’s 1st Amendment rights…well…I figure the latter’s the more morally questionable spot to be in. When the trollishness becomes actively harmful in some way is the time to step in and firmly but calmly say “enough.”

  • Needless to say, there’s a reason why I chose not to make specific examples. I don’t think that my role should be to drive up Google juice for folks who are seeking attention.

  • Kevin Marks – the problem is that you run into a “don’t think of an elephant” problem. When people didn’t know about the thing you were critiquing, raising it to critique it gives it attention. Rather than doing that, I do my best to reframe reframe reframe. But it means that I can’t call out what I think is inappropriate at times.

  • I think trolls (like bullies) have a detrimental effect on the online community as a whole. Yes, they’re annoying and yes, you can ignore them but their very presence (and often continuing presence) can really affect how that community functions.

    In the online world, I tend to either: 1. Put them in my ignore/filter list so I can decide when (if) I want to see them again; 2. Report the post to moderators/site owners; or 3. Leave the community.

    As for quasi-trolls, I’m not really sure what you mean by this. I think there are people who are just generally argumentative and attention-seeking. The way I see it, that’s part of life. I find that addressing as a whole community, engaging in the process of establishing and upholding norms tends to quieten down those people. In many cases it is a fine line between fostering and upholding community norms and intolerance of differences. At times, *time* is all one needs to adjust to and develop a tolerance to difference before engaging in that difference to negotiate a norm.

  • Great discussion but I fear we may be straying too far from the original point: What are the strategies for dealing with trolls in sheep’s clothing? – or How do we promote those with provocative ideas worth discussing from those for whom the sensationalism is a vehicle for their own selfish benefit?

    And I’ll back up one step from the – How, specifically, can we tell the difference between the two?

    Unfortunately, I’m at a loss here. To paraphrase a famous statement on pr0n, I can’t articulate a definition but I know a hollow pitch for link love when I see it.

  • Well, just as a thought, how about working for institutions and power-centers that have countervailing effects? Note this doesn’t mean mere tut-tut-ing, but money and supportive laws, which will draw the ire of powerful people.

    Note the “Web 2.0” crowd (including some Berkman Center folks, note!) is full of people who are constantly hyping ATTENTION-ATTENTION-ATTENTION as the greatest thing, advocating the destruction of other models in favor of ATTENTION-ATTENTION-ATTENTION, and often attacking those who dispute that it’s such a good idea.

    That spawn effects which aren’t benign.

  • The only valuable criticism is constructive. If you aren’t participating in improvement, you’re dragging down the civilization. I know it’s hard, but think about how you feel when somebody cruel catches you in a mistake. Focus on the people who are contributing. Boost them up and help them outnumber the trolls. You’ll feel better in the morning.

  • Kristen O

    I’ve caught myself, several times in the last six months, behaving in a troll-like manner. I’ve been spending about four hours a day more on the Internet, which may explain it. I get caught up, so easily, in an article that fringes upon my interests where I feel like an obvious point is being ignored in the conversation of comments. I’ll make the point, then revisit it again and again, trying to explain myself, waiting for someone else to agree.

    I’ve developed a system to deal with this desire – the desire to prove that “someone is wrong on the Internet.” It involves mostly remembering that it’s the Internet and not reality. I’m mostly successful in restraining myself.

    I’m not an actual troll – I’m *not* just trying to wind people up. I’m trying to get across another opinion. Usually one that departs from the general binary of controversy. But that doesn’t mean I can’t become obnoxious: I once spent an entire day defending Lori Drew on the basis of the fact that bullying a bully who bullied someone else is just a perpetuation of the cycle and while she may be guilty, it wasn’t up to the Internets to mete out justice. I wound up feeling very troll-like as a result; and no one wanted me around in that discussion forum. (Oh, boohoo, poor me, I know, I know. If I don’t want to be disliked, I should stop trolling. I know)

    A genuine troll ought to be ignored – there’s no other way to deal with them. A semi-legit troll, however, who is looking for attention and acknowledgement – I’ll admit I’m possibly this occasionally – I think the best way to deal with them is to acknowledge their existence without providing them with fuel. A semi-legit troll will run out of energy if they’re not challenged. Shutting down a semi-legit troll basically consists of saying “Ah, that’s very interesting, what you just said there.” (THEN ignoring them.)

    I mean, let’s face it, most of our famous personages from the last century have been attention-whores. Look at Salvador Dali. Sure, a genius, but also excellent at finding ways to keep his name in the papers. If you’re objecting to people who take an extremist position to get attention, like Mark Bauerlein (Dumbest Generation), you have to understand things like 1) Bauerlein is a cranky old man who cannot help but object to the way kids do these things nowadays, 2) he genuinely believes that discussion centered around his extremism will lead to improvements in the way we teach and learn, and 3) he may actually be enabling a bizarro form of debate as entertainment (which, let’s face it, is what most debate is about nowadays).

  • hapto

    Gentlemanly reason helps. Pseudo-trolls will pride themselves on that “reason”. Also putting up a boundary — this conversation is over/this top is is off limits.

    Sometimes find the actual genuine question in the flurry and go from there.

  • Eddie S

    Funny enough, just read The New Yorker article about Keith Olbermann making his name by bashing Bill O’Reilly. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/06/23/080623fa_fact_boyer?currentPage=all

  • In order to be an effective critic of the attention-whore culture, you have to cite specific examples, even if that means risking giving those people even more attention in the short term. If you don’t engage the culture, you’ll just marginalize yourself, and then you won’t be able to do any good at all.

  • Kevin Cantu

    I would kill, sometimes, to have a big discussion about evolutionary biology on my favorite websites without a whole passel of poorly educated chimpanzees taking over and defending creationism.

    Would it be better if the community and moderators deleted such posts? Or is it more important, in the long term, to argue? I do not want a government elected that espouses James Dobson’s equivalent of Sharia Law. I feel that it is my duty, on some level, to not leave absurdities unchallenged.

    If normal, moderate, people don’t speak out, the lunatics will rule.

  • Steve

    danah,

    You have opened a large and interesting subject. I’m not sure where to begin trying to address the various issues implied. Rather than try to compose a coherent response, I think I’ll just throw off ideas as they occur – in no particular order.

    Is trying to get attention somehow reprehensible? Atention is a fundamental human need. Isolation is often used as an adjunct to brainwashing practices designed to break a captive’s spirit – and isolation within society can have an analogous effect. Nobody wants to be invisible – nor should they have to be.

    Now, if there is a problem with some people trying to garner attention by behaving badly – which I will stipulate – this should immediately imply the question why the {expletive} can’t they get attention by behaving well? If you’re a “good boy” (or “good girl”) most people will find you boring – and whose fault is that?

    Okay – maybe we shouldn’t expect to be famous to more than 15 people – but what if you don’t even have those 15? Saying a lonely person shouldn’t get extreme to garner an audience is like saying a hungry person shouldn’t shoplift food – i.e. a viewpoint that serves those who have full stomachs or a loyal following.

    I sometimes like to find sites discussing a recent mass shooting and when a bunch of {expletive}’s are having a fine feel-good session about what a pathetic creep the shooter was – I challenge them – what about those that drove him (and it almost always is “him”, for some reason) to that final level of desperation. Am I being a “troll” when I do this? Perhaps – but I really believe some of these smug self-righteous individuals need to have their nose rubbed in a contrary viewpoint.

    Note that this is far different than the most cited historical example of trolling in rec.pets.cats (I forget the particulars – recipies?). The difference being that those guys just wanted to stir up controversy for the heck of it. Not to make any kind of legit point.

    Now one of the commenters above (Joe Blo?) brings up Holocaust deniers, Global warming critics, and those who take the opposite view from his on the JFK assasination – and I can’t even infer which view of that last issue he holds). These are all legitimate topics for discussion, IMO. I have my own views on each of them, which are not relevant in this venue – but in a venue where those questions are on topic, one should be able to take the minority view without being demonized as a “troll”.

    Back to attention. Suppose one holds a minority or underrepresented viewpoint, that one nonetheless believes to be both true, and worthy of wider consideration. How does one deal with the problem of getting heard? Surely shock tactics and the polemic style have their downside, in that they may discourage calm and reasoned consideration of the issue. But on the other hand, they also have their effectiveness. They attract notice to the viewpoint, and force a consideration of what otherwise might be dismissed or ignored. Plus, polemics lend a needed element of emotional passion to subjects about which one ought *not* to be calm – e.g. child abuse, world hunger, etc.

    All that being said, there are some people who are just {expletive}’s – and whose goal is to cause trouble and prevent discussion. I say, either ignore them, and/or call them on their behavior – rather than the ostensible content of their argument – and/or in a moderated environment ban them. But for cryin’ out loud, don’t apply those remedies to somebody who is actually trying to make a point – regardless of how unpopular or abrasive.

    And, to return to what I think is the most important point I made above – how can we create a society which will get people at least as much attention for behaving well as for behaving badly. And, parallel concern – what should be our stance toward the socially isolated – the lonely. Is this not as much a problem in its own way as homelessness or hunger?

    Just some thoughts,

    -Steve

  • Frances Bell

    Steve,
    That is an interesting response. Attention as a basic human need – yes (from those who are close to us) but that does not mean that all cries for attention merit the same type of response, or a response at all. In an attempt to let voices be heard, we can respond to the drowning out of unpopular opinions even if we disagree with them. We can salute a counterpoint that made us think, or alter our views. My exception to this is personal abuse.
    In response to your last question about society, I thought about the advice often given to the parents of toddlers (or even teens) “Catch them being good” – which I have always taken to mean “bite your lip when they are saying the unpalatable, and praise/respond (appropriately) when they are adding to the sum of human goodness”.

  • Jennifer

    I thought about your post and wondered about the definition of “attention seeking” in contexts of privilege and power.

    I totally get the Lakoff approach here. Not entering into traps/frames or becoming a strawman is critical for those of you producing legitimate and meaningful works. But I think there’s a problem concealed in all of this that is really concerning.

    One of things that always bugged me about the digerati was the assumption that anybody who was interested in their ideas just wanted a piece of their power or status – and not an authentic interest in their stuff. This is pure arrogance. Especially given that many internet celebrities have nothing especially inspired or intelligent to say (but are merely famous).

    The digerati – i.e., those who are entitled, power holding and well connected – get to talk about their status as though it materialised out of pure merit (and not the existing social capital they acquired from their existing social status, money, power, jobs, academic affiliations or any other source of social privilege).

    It’s very easy for holders of power to label somebody who is outside of the power sphere as “attention seeking.” But the act of creating and responding to participatory and social media draws attention to oneself. Should those of us whose voices have not be properly endorsed by academic institutions, media or corporate power remain politely silent until we are *deigned* worthy by you folks who have the status? The very possibility of taking part in otherwise exclusive conversations is what made all of this stuff so very revolutionary.

    danah: you are a respected voice on the internet. I’ve followed your stuff since 2003 for intellectual and political reasons. You’re fierce, smart and openly political. you’ve continually drawn attention to things others do not. Either because they are too compromised or cannot risk it. You say things some of us cannot (back to your post on risk and ordinary people). Please keep in mind that a lot of the people who follow and draw attention to your work are allies – not status seekers (though I’m sure some are). If I thought, for one moment, that you assumed people like me followed you just to get your attention I’d conclude that you’ve become so intoxicated in your celebrity that you’ve lost site of the genuine reasons people enjoy your work. I don’t doubt that it’s tough being famous but please consider the difference between allies and parasites.

    American culture has a breathtaking preoccupation with popularity and status. American culture is saturated in narcissism, classism, competition, celebrity and popularity. And this is consistent with the popularity of your neo-liberal far right political ideology. I challenge you to reflect on the effects of living in a culture like that and how it might alter your perception of motivation. Please keep in mind there are a great many people in other countries who do not engage your insufferable corporate cultural production (reality tv in particular) and see it for the ideological manipulation that it is. I feel genuinely sorry for all of you whose consciousness is so saturated with status that you have lost site of genuine civic mindedness and human connection.

  • Actually, Jennifer, I wasn’t thinking about individual attention givers, but the way it becomes monetized in aggregate. Every link that a blogger makes feeds into Google’s calculation. Every reference that a blogger makes gets calculated by Amazon. The mere act of linking, by big or small bloggers, gives attention seekers precisely what they want. When thousands of small bloggers blog about something, it adds up. When it then gets picked up by the Top Blogs, it gets amplified further. We end up living in a world where all attention is good attention and that’s what worries me.

    I don’t see it as a matter of arrogance of digerati as much as a dynamic of automatically calculated link traffic as a means of capital in the attention economy. That’s what I find frustrating. Does that make sense?

  • Steve

    Oh my, more interesting stuff. And me supposedly trying to get in a few more hours at my day job. But I can’t resist.

    Jennifer’s comment sparks questions for me about the ethics of interacting with other people’s audiences. The first time I recall deliberately doing this was in the late sixties at a local campus event organized by Weatherman SDS. I showed up, either alone or with a single accomplice, I forget, and proceeded to leaflet the incoming audience with a flyer expressing my own viewpoint, which as I recall was vaguely anarcho-pacifist at that point. One of the Weatherpeople fronted me and accused me of “ripping off their energy”.

    Fast forward to the present. The very immediate present in my role as a commenter on danah’s blog. Although I don’t consider myself a “troll”, I try my best to be a provocateur – in the good sense – to provoke relevant and useful lines of thought outside the conventional shared viewpoint of the venue. Part of my motive is, quite frankly, based on my respect for danah’s celebrity and power – to the exent I might provoke a divergent direction in her own thinking, I have, by proxy, exerted an influence on whoever she gpoes on to influence. To me, this is a legit tool to use in trying to leave one’s mark on the world. And, perhaps the thing that keeps it from being opportunist, is that although danah and myself occupy vastly different positions in the cultural matrix, I feel a genuine intellectual resonance for the questions she chooses to consider – and a real respect for her continuing quest to maintain integrity in an adverse environment.

    And what of others here? I’m sure there are relevant scholarly treatemnts of the nature of audience of which I’m blissfully unaware. To my mind, a first approximation would put one’s collected audience somewhere between an “extended self” and a “collective organism” with onself at the focal point – much like a cell nucleus. So, as I use this venue to try to foster dialogue with danah, I am also seeking dialogue with her audience – whatever that may imply. And the goals are similar – to the extent I spark a useful thought, I have left my mark. Note that this model of intellectual dialogue in inextricably bound up – in the most practical terms – with attention itself. Getting attention is central to the process.

    And as counterpoint, an image. Rock concert with huge crowd, there because of the celebrity energy of the band (which includes but is definitely not limited to their music as such). Guys and gals at said concert. Dressed to impresses! There to bee seen – to make ones small mark of celebrity within the audience assembled by the energy of the superstar.

    So, shift gears and consider danah’s response which highlights “monetization” What an ugly, ugly term! But admittedly one which is central to the models of Bubble 2.0 (excuse me, I meant, of course, to type “Web 2.0”. What *could* I have been thinking).

    In the long run, I firmly believe that the spirit of “monetization” is anthetical to the spirit of genuine intellectual inquiry. I have not yet Googled “Treaty of WestPhailia” and come up with “Find Treaty of WestPhailia on Ebay”. But it wouldn’t surprise me. I won’t belabor this point. You will either see what I’m talking about – or not. How many legit searches for knowledge come up wit ha dozed garbage sites enntitled “Best site for comprhensive information about …”. This is monetization in action.

    Now, why do I refer to “Bubble 2.0”. This started a year or two ago when I inherited oversight of a small publishing company’s very small adwords account. I, of course, Googled adwords tips and advice t otry to get up to speed. I read a lot. After a while I noticed something interesting and ominous. Most of the Adwords tips and Adwords advice products were not greared to how to use Adwords as an adjunct means to publicize an existing tangible product. (We publish a small selection of craft and hobby magazines, most of which predate the Internet.) Rather, the field was dominated by advice on how to sell internet-based internet-delivered product. Indeed, one outfit in particular speciualizes in doing search query analysis to help the aspiring internet enterpreneur choose an online niche and develop a product.

    What’s wrong with this picture?

    Well, it strikes me that this is the same picture – seen from a different angle – that motivates spammers and adware purveyors. These guys don’t care if people hate them – as long as they get paid for clicks. And they get paid even if a site visit is the product of a noxious infection which forces the user unwillingly to the site. More monetization at work.

    Now there’s obviously a huge cash flow going on behind all this. And the sales of tangible product is probably a miniscule element of that cash flow. I would purely love to be a “fly on the wall” while somebody who knows announced the multiplier figure relating money spent on clicks and eyeballs versus money spent on tangible product purchased by clickers and eyeballers. At some point all this has to collapse under it’s own weight. Youall can only take in each other’s laundry for just so long. I expect somewhere out there are massive quantities of venture capital seeking outlets, and that this is keeping the party afloat – just speculation – I couldn’t prove it. But I fancy I can smell it. 🙂

    Just a provocation,
    -Steve

  • Steve

    Please excuse massive uncorrected typos in the above