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Apparently the Web is getting less eclectic.
August 27, 2001 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Apparently the Web is getting less eclectic. The basic gist is that the Web, once a vibrant and quirky place, is just becoming a repository of dullness and repetition with such an overabundance of information that people tend to stick to sites that they know and love. What's your take on it?
(Thanks to Zach at Thinky.org for the link.)
posted by bshort (35 comments total)

 
"durn-fool notion"

Is that in the New York Times style manual?
posted by rschram at 12:32 PM on August 27, 2001


You mean there are other sites on the Internet besides this one?
posted by briank at 12:34 PM on August 27, 2001


I never really "browsed" around much. I am much more of seek-and-ye-shall-find type. Of course, if I find a unique site or resource (i.e. MeFi) I will come back again and again.

Browsing the web is like browsing the magazine rack at the bookstore..simple way to kill a few minutes, but not something you would do everyday.
posted by dewelch at 12:37 PM on August 27, 2001


ask the majority on anything, and they'll always be boring.
posted by muckster at 12:41 PM on August 27, 2001


I think the internet is just becoming a repository of dullness and repetition with such an overabundance of information that people tend to stick to sites that they know and love.

BTW, happy Birthday briank.
posted by remlapm at 12:43 PM on August 27, 2001


What's your take on it?

Crap fluffed up so that it can pretend to be a real story.
posted by UncleFes at 12:44 PM on August 27, 2001


Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap
posted by Dagobert at 12:45 PM on August 27, 2001


Nay, I say, what about memepool?

The article misses the point that eclectic sites by their very nature don't get a large percentage of traffic. The sucking black hole that is AOL/MSN/YAHOO may get huge numbers of hits, but they don't get the majority of traffic on the web. I think the very existence of weblogs defies the idea that the web is no longer eccentric. (Sure, most 'blogs specialize in the mundane, but many [the oft tread usr/bin/girl as an example] do wallow in the funkier parts of the web.)
posted by eyeballkid at 12:46 PM on August 27, 2001


Cause and effect.

Make people register to see your content and poeple will be too lazy to do so.

(sorry, just a little dig on posting NYTimes links related to content on the web)

But of course, not reading the article, but getting the gist from the summary, I'd say it's sort of what we were saying here and here, except from a more content availability as opposed to a generation aspect.
posted by rich at 12:48 PM on August 27, 2001


(thanks remlapm)

(whispering so as not to derail the thread)

posted by briank at 12:52 PM on August 27, 2001


If you ignore weblogs and this little freaky place and the people that converge here, the article is spot on. There's not a lot of surfing going on anymore, for most users. They've delegated the web to a tool used for information retrieval and convenience. Even though it could be the democratic idea exchange the academics thought it'd be, it's more likely a place to get sports scores, lotto results, and order a plane ticket every so often.

I tend to think of the current state of the web like radio, there are a bunch of big stations that get all the ears, and every personal project or weblog is a low-power, localized pirate station with very few listeners, and low capability of getting listeners.

What's the solution of getting memepool or metafilter or megnut.com in front of the eyes of Joan Q. Public on AOL? Portals? More news coverage?

If you run a blog, have you ever tried to explain it to a family member or non-web savvy friend? It's next to impossible. Maybe that's part of it?
posted by mathowie at 12:57 PM on August 27, 2001


If you walked into the Library of Congress and just thumbed around for an hour or so, chances are not good that you'd find Tolstoy or Dickens. More likely, you'd find:

*Soil Erosion for Dummies
*Lukas Haas: An Unauthorized Biography
*Cock-Knockin' Moroccan
*StarFuckers Weekly Fashion Guide!

To paraphrase Gogol, we should not bring [insert great site you like here] down to the masses, we should bring the masses up to [same deal].
posted by Skot at 1:06 PM on August 27, 2001


Browsing the web is like browsing the magazine rack at the bookstore..simple way to kill a few minutes, but not something you would do everyday.

um...'kay. (i knew that)
posted by quonsar at 1:15 PM on August 27, 2001


crap.. there goes my presentation on weblogging that i have to give my technical communications class in a couple of hours.
posted by lotsofno at 1:16 PM on August 27, 2001


I love surfing as much as i ever did and don't find it to be any less diverse, interesting or entertaining. Perhaps the web hasn't changed but it's audience is doing. Maybe, like eating a box of chocolates, some people have had their fill, they're stuffed. They don't care what flavor the next caramel center is. The novelty and sense of wonder is vanishing and they see it all as just another normal, everyday aspect of life, and one that they're a little sick of. They think of it as being 'nothing special'. Those whom wouldn't dream of choosing a diverse book from a shelf but who would, until recently, find themselves steeped deep in a site on the subject are now treating the web like they do a bookshelf?. Maybe. If any of that's true i'm concerned because, of course, the users are the web.

This report hints that the next generations aren't interested in it neither. That better not be the case. It's one thing to tire of something great due to familiarity and overuse but another to just dismiss it to begin with. If that is the case then at some point recently we must have reached our peak and headed back in the direction of the primordial soup.
posted by Kino at 1:18 PM on August 27, 2001


I was distressed by this article too - it was on the top left corner of the Sunday NYT!

You could blame it on bad web journalism - that NYT article had a chart to go along with this article in the paper - why isn't it online? Why aren't all the relevant websites linked? Briefly looking, it links you to marketwatch news about the corporations only, and not to mit or nyu or the upenn. A lot of websites lock you into their sites, and the NYT is one of the worst for not sharing the wealth. (I know, typing in a url is easy, but why have a website if you're not going to have links?)


posted by panopticon at 1:27 PM on August 27, 2001


What a coincidence. I just put this up this morning.
posted by zanpo at 1:37 PM on August 27, 2001


Hmmm... Let's see, this article is saying that a medium of information is full of boring crap, with some occasional nuggets. Gee, you know, that's just like books... and movies... and television... and music videos... and music... Whadaya know, most people have bad taste, or just don't really care, so producers just keep producing crap, because no one complains, and then a few people actually take advantage of the medium. People predicted this would happen to the web years ago. I mean, what is the web? It's just a place to store information. If no one puts information you're interested in there, then there is nothing interesting there to see.
posted by bob bisquick at 1:44 PM on August 27, 2001


Nice site Zanpo. Someone called 'Mukster' has just waddled over to my avatar and sorta jumped on him. I hope they're not mating.. I haven't showered today.
posted by Kino at 1:53 PM on August 27, 2001


Bad journalism:

"But that may be better done by e- mail, instant messaging and other parts of the Internet not related to the Web. That is what teenagers, the next generation of Internet users, appear to be far more interested in, according to researchers."

Umm, which researchers? Are these accredited, degreed researchers? Or just marketers? Is this part of a study? Which study? And then they go on to quote one twelve year old to essentially guage how an entire generation is using the web?

<\rant>
posted by panopticon at 1:56 PM on August 27, 2001


But what about that crazy cellphone ad which interacts with the story? Now that's eclectic.
posted by jessie at 2:14 PM on August 27, 2001


If you run a blog, have you ever tried to explain it to a family member or non-web savvy friend?

Oddly enough I actually tried to explain my blog to my Mum and Dad today...

...two hours later...

...never going to talk about the internet with them ever again...
posted by feelinglistless at 4:10 PM on August 27, 2001


Ahhhh, the media - in this case the NY Times. They didn't get it before, they don't get it now, they won't get it in the future.

Of course it's not becoming less eclectic, nor boring nor any of the other denigrating descriptions they try and apply to it. Unfortunately, now that corporations have discovered the net and some of its power they are busy trying to stuff it into a box so that they can market to you. Think network television as a prime comparison of how corporations would like to control the whole of the web.

These same corporations and their sites will draw more people than most and will manage to market to the world as a whole. However, that doesn't mean they've by any stretch of the imagination even come close to conquering the net or its users. Until they actually manage to turn the entire internet into pay-per-view they won't succeed and that's not something that is likely to happen - not impossible, but highly unlikely.

Fortunately for us there is still a whole world of the net that hasn't been taken over by corporations and the evils of marketing (marketing - never let truth get in the way of a story. media - never let facts get in the way of a good story. hmmm, coincidence?). There is still a HUGE raft of sites out there that don't suffer from popularity, but are just as interesting, well-designed and exciting as they've always been.

Fear not folks, the net hasn't changed it's quirkiness, but some users have lost their way.
posted by Option1 at 4:22 PM on August 27, 2001


Try this - in anything you read about the World Wide Web, drop the second two W's and substitute "World" for "Net". If the article then sounds silly, it is.

But maybe it turns out that what the Web is good for is connecting people.
--Steven Johnson, co-founder of Feed

That seems to pretty much sums it all up in a lot fewer column-inches.
posted by dchase at 5:00 PM on August 27, 2001


I find it hard to determine if a lot of content is credible. Who published it on the web? What are their sources? How did they verify the information? So I drift back to the sites which are credible, but I do enjoy exploring, and MeFi is a great launching pad.
posted by hockeyman at 5:24 PM on August 27, 2001


Blah. The internet is something at work now, no mystery involved, tons of sites to hold your hand and most people don't want to let go of that familiar yahoo or msn portal.

I wonder how often people are updating, adding, deleting, their bookmarks compared to a couple years ago. If there's a problem its laziness.

The big complaint used to be about "learning the internet" now its "there's nothing on." Poppycock I say! The first thing I saw on the internet today was Stetson, the dog that launches rockets.
posted by skallas at 5:27 PM on August 27, 2001


"If you run a blog, have you ever tried to explain it to a family member or non-web savvy friend? It's next to impossible. Maybe that's part of it?"

hey, it's easy, just tell them it's an on-line journal/diary.

or hand them the URL and punch em in the junk.

easy as pie.
posted by jcterminal at 5:28 PM on August 27, 2001


It surprises me the degree to which active web-surfers take umbrage with this article. It's as if it's slagging them personally.

Newsflash: Your personal experience is not indicative of the world at large. In fact, any one willing to post to MetaFilter is likely to be a couple standard deviations out on the Net Activity Bell Curve.

And also, to the dweeb fuckwads who clearly can't read: NOWHERE IN THAT ARTICLE DOES IT SAY THE WEB IS BECOMING LESS ECLECTIC. NO NO NO. It says, instead, that people are spending less time online seeking out eclectic things. THAT'S VERY DIFFERENT. Though, clearly, such differences are lost on backpatting slaggards such as yourselves.

This article is about Web *use*, not web content.

I think this quote sums it up best: ""The Web is a democracy of opportunity, but not necessarily of outcome."

Now, well, Amy's article is obvious. But it's also spot on. I suggest to some of you to tear yourself away from your screens and look to the world beyond your navel.
posted by peterme at 8:17 PM on August 27, 2001


"The basic gist is that the Web, once a vibrant and quirky place, is just becoming a repository of dullness and repetition with such an overabundance of information that people tend to stick to sites that they know and love. What's your take on it?"

Nah.
posted by Lynsey at 8:31 PM on August 27, 2001


People are people, net or no net. The fact is that most of us are lazy, self-centered, and require a whack over the head with a wet mackeral to get our attention. Is this really the kind of audience you want for your online journal? Are you that desperate? I know I am, which is rather sad as I live in a place even the UN can't seem to find, much less Ms. Public.
posted by Poagao at 9:28 PM on August 27, 2001


peterme hit it dead on. What the article is pointing out is quite similar to any adoption curve for any object in the marketplace. For many who are new to the net in the last couple of years, they are not the adventurous types that will seek out the odd and eclectic, which may be part of the reason they waited so long to connect. These folks are the Joe-blow consumers that are the looking for something familiar and comforting and are not looking to have their world rocked. To these folks the NYTimes article is dead on, which I imagine is the majority of the Times audience. Those of us working on projects for the general public, these people are our reality.
posted by vanderwal at 5:38 AM on August 28, 2001


yes, peterme is right. the fact that you all even SOUGHT OUT metafilter puts you all within a different demographic than the people discussed in this article. i mean, how many users does this site have? 10,000? that's a great number, sure, but in the real world scheme of things, it's just a drop in the bucket.

and of course, the winnowing down of sites that those of us not in the metafilter demographic look at is quite deliberate -- the site i work for has a partnership with one of the larger portal sites, and that portal site has very stringent regulations about what sites outside of its domain can be linked to, and when. the internet is merely following the 'consumer guide' trend of most content-based consumer products -- look, for example, at the magazine 'lucky,' which is little more than a glorified catalog, or at the record reviews section in blender or entertainment weekly.

and how immune is metafilter anyway from this consolidation? look at the sources for most of the links on the page, and how the topics being discussed mirror the news headlines of the day.

(also, not to nitpick, but /usr/bin/girl is not all that 'funky,' and 'eclectic' is a hateful adjective, because it's usually said with a self-important air that only belies the fact that the person describing herself with it is trying to pose as hipper-than-thou. but i digress.)
posted by maura at 6:03 AM on August 28, 2001


And also, to the dweeb fuckwads who clearly can't read: NOWHERE IN THAT ARTICLE DOES IT SAY THE WEB IS BECOMING LESS ECLECTIC. NO NO NO. It says, instead, that people are spending less time online seeking out eclectic things. THAT'S VERY DIFFERENT.

Hey, I think you should get really excited about this! Also, you should resort to overheated name-calling! Here's what I found interesting after reading that:

'I guess I feel I've found most of the things of interest to me," Peter Merholtz, 28, of San Francisco, wrote in an e-mail message.

Good for you! Although I guess I'd be a little suspicious of your bona-fides as a web critic if you're already bored with the medium. And whether or not the web is becoming "less eclectic" or people simply are not looking for those crazy new sites is a distinction without a difference. "Bookstores are not becoming homogenized! It's that people aren't reading!" Noting this is not contributing anything to the discussion.

"The Web is a democracy of opportunity, but not necessarily of outcome."

This you quote with some approval, as if it were not nearly a tautology. Why again are you so pissed off about this stupid goddamn article? Why are you surprised that the increasing democratization of the web has led to a certain consolidation of its use? Is it that you were a lot happier when the "dweeb fuckwads" weren't rubbing against you on the train?
posted by Skot at 8:14 AM on August 28, 2001


Yeahyeah ... most people read the books on the bestseller list ... should everyone else stop writing books then, or what?

At least someone *might* see my book if I write it on the net. That's still a tad better than sending it off to a publisher.

Hell, if we all write a weblog, does anyone actually want to volunteer to go read everyone elses? Failing that, I'll take suggestions on how else to even the distribution of eyeballs, and post them all on my site somewhere.

I was gonna write more, but I have to go and look at Yahoo now, to see if anything has happened today.
posted by walrus at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2001


'These folks are the Joe-blow consumers that are the looking for something familiar and comforting and are not looking to have their world rocked. To these folks the NYTimes article is dead on, which I imagine is the majority of the Times audience. Those of us working on projects for the general public, these people are our reality'

That's a convenient dreamworld of a catch-all demographic pie-chart you own there Vanderwal. I hope you can be cured. The rise in the uptake of the internet in the past few years is the product of many factors. You can't just paint the masses of people who weren't archies bestfriend as being dumb philistines with the sense of adventure of a disco-dancer in a mine-field. I'm no sociologist but it more than likely just means that they weren't middle-class geeks as a teen.

'they are not the adventurous types that will seek out the odd and eclectic, which may be part of the reason they waited so long to connect'

So much of the explosive growth of this wonderful online population has to do with the unfortunate fact that not everybody could afford the luxury of expensive electronic equipment and that their educations hadn't the foresight to gear them up to embrace it. Until fairly recently it was just another shop-window enticement for most as they drooled their way down the highstreet. Things like kids shoes take priority for base income families, many of whom would feel obliged to whack you upside the head for that last statement. >__<

It's only in the past few years that the price of getting online has fell to within the average workers acceptable price range - one they can reach if saved for. And the price of staying on once they're hooked up is just another thorny burden - but one which they are now able to justify as they've come to realize that this internet thing is so vast and such a revolution, and that it ain't just a passing fad. Their kids have come home from school, or a friends house, and got them excited about the great things they've done online. Their colleagues have sold them on the joys of email. Their favourite science TV show has encouraged them to visit their website. Or they finally stumbled across an old copy of Alvin Tofflers 'The Third Wave' in some library and had a sudden impromptu episode of enlightenment. Who knows. I'm just glad that they're here. They are the diversity of the net and to group them all together to accuse them of being the broken cog is disgusting.

Many of these people have had to scrimp, sweat and save to find the money to bring their families into the future. Buying their hardware was a life-choice and one 'Joe-blow consumer', as you call him, doesn't have the resources to be lucky enough to take lightly. Your telling us that this scenario is devoid of the spirit of adventure?. It beats the shit out of rich daddy buying spoilt wannabe-geek teen a top of the range sparkling new dream-machine each year.

'peterme hit it dead on'

Oh, you mean that geeza who neglected to mention that he broke his 41-comments-in-over-two-years-of-metafilter-membership silence to get in a little tizzy and call us MeFi-heads 'fuckwads' purely because the author of the article is his chum and because he's one of that small selection of people quoted in the story to back up her claims about the world at large?, otherwise i doubt he would have even noticed. As he himself states "I guess I feel I've found most of the things of interest to me," before telling us "I suggest to some of you to tear yourself away from your screens and look to the world beyond your navel". Dead on? Dead-beat more like.
posted by Kino at 9:40 AM on August 28, 2001


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