Giles Bowkett is the person Zed Shaw wants to be when he grows up.
When you build a system where you get points for the number of people who agree with you, you are building a popularity contest for ideas. However, your popularity contest for ideas will not be dominated by the people with the best ideas, but the people with the most time to spend on your web site. Votes appear to be free, like contribution is with Wikipedia, but in reality you have to register to vote, and you have to be there frequently for your votes to make much difference. So the votes aren’t really free – they cost time. If you do the math, it’s actually quite obvious that if your popularity contest for ideas inherently, by its structure, favors people who waste their own time, then your contest will produce winners which are actually losers. The most popular ideas will not be the best ideas, since the people who have the best ideas, and the ability to recognize them, also have better things to do and better places to be.
There are a ton of people who would love to find out what the people scaling Twitter know. There isn’t any blog that tells you. But there is a blog which leverages all that public interest and turns it into income – not by getting the actual answers from those guys, but by calling them names. Because that’s where the money is. Or, more accurately, because that’s the only way TechCrunch knows to monetize that ambient public curiousity.
And in fact this flaw is everywhere. The whole blogosphere is a festival of bullshit, where people search for truth and meaning despite the total absence of economic incentives to produce it. It’s a goddamn communist party.
[You might be wondering how his logic applies to my web sites. The answer is that it doesn’t, really, because I’m not looking for a better job, I don’t make any money from my web sites, and I don’t need page views or converts.]