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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lessons from Jeremiah Owyang and the Mzinga story

Influence is power and it can be abused. Social Media is a star system, and we should be careful not to fall into the trap of following just the most popular blogs.

Reading the recent post from Jeremiah Owyand with an apology to Mzinga, I see more questions than answers:
- how come a respected pro would fall into such an obvious trap, spreading rumors before getting the full facts?
- was it a genuine oversight, or an experiment to test the results of a mistake followed by an apology. It would be a risky proposition but we have seen in the past that apologies are generally well received - Plaxo and Facebook have gone through that cycle and nobody hates them more or less after they have - and it seems to be working here, with a lot of buzz generated for Mzinga without any real damage so far.
- was it inside knowledge that was spread too soon under good intentions and is now being silenced by other forces (like Forrester the company)?

Maybe we will figure out one day. Until then, this reminds me of the day we all woke up realizing that Lonelygirl15 was actually a scripted show. We saw user generated content, until we learned otherwise.
Similarly we see Twitter-hype around one thing or another, and we will never know the real motives behind most of them.
What prevents anybody from putting on a Twitter-show, for the entertainment of his/her followers?

In the end, this star system creates some value and a lot of noise. If we want an electronic version of people magazine all is fine, and if we want information we should make sure we always cross reference with information from other sources, because everybody has their own bias, consciously or unconsciously.

The top guys have the scoops, but they have their own filters (we all need to deal with information overflow one way or another), so sticking to the top 10 is like watching Fox News. Sticking to your own friends may be just as risky. I read 500 blogs, and I read posts that are relevant to my areas of interest regardless of who the author is, and then I also try to stay aware of the context based on who is this author (influence ranking in my case and until we get reputation systems that are context aware and portable across services).

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