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Weekly #4: Happy Days Are Here Again

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Hello, Gorgeous! I must confess that I am totally obsessed with Barbra right now. Just listen to the sheer power of her voice.

On to the point: I am easily obsessed with ____. In searching for online communities about my favorite activity/hobby, I realized that I have no one favorite. Instead, I become quite easily obsessed with something, and then use the the Long Tail of information out there on the interweb to discover more about that thing. I guess if I had to pinpoint an activity that I love best, it is internet research on my favorite flavor of the moment.

Take The Social Network, for instance. I saw it this weekend while visiting HPL (more on that in my personal post), and have since been obsessed. Yes, obviously I love the Sorkin screenplay and the Reznor score. But more importantly, I love the chemistry between the actors. It hints at the male bonding that had to have occurred offscreen in order for such a strong connection to be formed onscreen. I watched several interviews with the cast, read through transcripts of interviews, and then researched cast members and their bodies of work. I searched by referencing the popular sources (EW.com, Variety, IMDB.com, Wikipedia) first and landed on this amazing clip of cast member Andrew Garfield during an ABC News interview. Then I found some stuff from lesser known sources simply by sifting through the massive amounts of returns yielded on Google and YouTube.

Chris Anderson acknowledges in his book The Long Tail the main concern with using the Long Tail of any market, which is any topic on the internet in my case: “The Long Tail is indeed full of crap” (p. 116). The same is true for the internet itself. But he also acknowledges that it is full of brilliance. The key is to be a judicious researcher by checking multiple sources of information, and not just the popular ones.

Garrett hit on this a bit last week when discussing the fracturing of media. He talked about how notions which have been proven false continue to spread as true not because of people on either end of the information access spectrum (“elites” and “non-elites”). Rather, those in the middle are the ones believing these misconceptions and spreading them as credible intel. The middle can access information via the web, but they are poorly skilled at determining fact from fiction. Indeed, it is no longer about getting hold of information, but about making smart decisions based on that information (p. 107). Interestingly enough, Aaron Sorkin talked about his disdain for the internet because of this very problem. As he puts it, “There’s just too much bad information getting out there, and I have to believe that’s mostly the fault of the Internet, which isn’t held to any standards of accuracy.”

I hear that, Almighty Sorkin. However, I think that the standard of accuracy comes from the “wisdom of the crowd” as Anderson puts it. The ratings of a user’s answer to the burning questions regarding offscreen relationships are what connects my demand to the good supply in the internet’s Long Tail. And I trust these users because they are just as obsessed as I am with finding the right answers. No internet search would be complete without the reference to or help of the social web. Of course, that doesn’t mean I rely solely on users (methinks that would knock me out of my elite status). But they are just as valuable a source as the EW reporter fawning over the actors.

I have used the Long Tail of the internet to find out about lasting obsessions such as grammar, Harry Potter and Wegmans. The speed of the internet is especially helpful for those passing obsessions like Kings of Leon. It helps reduce time wasted on something that might not matter as much to me in three weeks. Today it’s Social Network, tomorrow it could be tsunamis. Despite the wealth and variety of information sitting on the internet, I have not found defined online communities devoted to the information sitting on the internet. Perhaps the entire internet is my community, and more narrowly the social web. After all, my favorite activity would not exist without both.

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