Friday, July 04, 2008

Fallacy of Examples + Echo Chamber + Homophily = Noise

Fallacy of examples is more commonly referred to the over-generalization that media outlets often practice. For example - one Indian stock bucks the trend of the falling stock market and buys out a company in Europe. Some journalist, might point out and say, 'Halt!, the India Surging story has not stopped!."

Now the Echo Chamber comes into play. After that lazy media person has written about the story mentioned above, copycat bloggers get into it, posting links to the original story and in essence giving weight to an already faulty story.

Why do the bloggers post about a story they might know does not reflect the truth? Blame that on homophily. On a blog network I shall not mention, someone rewrote about the story about Jessica Simpson having the best you-know-what in business. In the ensuing comment, a 50 year old Doctor in India wrote that 'such things' should not be mentioned in public. Next, a cabal of commenters, who patrol the said site, and who are obviously young, started making fun of the old doctor.

There is something more than the power of modest autonomy of the internet and cheap online storage at work here. I may stretch out and account this to homophily as well.

What is homophily? Somewhere, some smart guy put up a theory that we tend to live and work among people who share our beliefs.

Homophilly is also a reason why some social news sites are succeeding despite having some fundamental weaknesses. They like logging on and sharing the latest batch of idiotic stories and comments for the day.

Digg thrives because the cabal of the original diggers is having a good time, never mind the silly stories.

Same goes for site like Techmeme - although not a social news site per se, but people throng to this silly aggregator because they have accepted that the people appearing on Techmeme's front page are the smartest around (at least in the technology blogosphere) and writing about a link on Techmeme and then having your own link on Techmeme, whatever the importance implies to your smartness as well. You are one of those 250 smart guys. This is Homophilly in action.

Put these three ideas together and you get noise and that ladies and gentlemen, is my humble attempt to understand modern media.

Read more about the Fallacy of examples here.

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