Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Flogger Radar

A blogger can write about anything.  A monetising blogger might include links to products they reference in their blogs; for example Amazon books.  Bloggers can cover the spectrum from excessively optimistic right the way through to excessively pessimistic, through either psychological predisposition or through a consciously adopted blogging persona, or some mixture thereof.  Ceretis paribus, you might think fortune favours the optimist, since they tend to say positive things, hence encouraging a putative audience to do more purchasing.

It is therefore in the audience's interest to identify genuine enthusiasts from performance enthusiasts, the fluffers of the blogging world or floggers.  Assume you can divide your potential audience into pessimists, optimists and in-betweeners.  Ignore the possibility of a need for the audience member to adopt a persona for now.

Assume furthermore that audience members like to give reign to their tendency to confirmation bias, hence audiences should stratify with optimistic readers consuming optimistic blogs and pessimists reading pessimistic blogs.

First the pessimists.  Now, there are many books out there which are critiques.  It may be possible that the pessimistic blogger might be just as inclined to review and rate these critiques, but that just doesn't feel like the whole story.  Just as likely, I think, is the possibility of an unfavourable review of books.  Unfavourable reviews tend to lead to fewer click-throughs.

Now the two kinds of blogging optimist, the psychologically enthused and the adopted persona of optimism.  The optimistic audience ought to be aware of the distinction in order to favour the former and avoid the latter.  It isn't that there's no value in the simulacrum of optimism, since part of what the optimistic audience seeks out could be satisfied that way; it is just that the satisfaction will also be present, and I assume in equal measure, with genuine enthusiasts. But with genuine enthusiasts, you are less likely to be taken for a ride. Common sense and being aware of the distinction ought to be a good start in developing your flogger radar.

I say this because I'm a monetising blogger who's psychologically disposed to optimism and have no intention of ever becoming a flogger.  This ought to become obvious to you over time through reading my reviews, which will be a decent balance of enthusiasm and honesty.  If your very motive for writing is based on a form of dishonesty, then discerning audiences ought to shun you, and rightly so.

This is a problem with all media, old and new.  Sometimes they will shamelessly fluff (Total FilmEmpireNew testament), occasionally less so (cahiers du cinemaOld testamentMichelin guide).

A common technique by content providers is to highlight the ratio between best and the universe of consideration.  You implement this by giving top grades scarcity value in your system of measurement and/or by including only the best to begin with, while highlighting the size of the universe of consideration.  From an information theoretic point of view, these gradings have high information content  If you were to model it mathematically, you'd assume every item in the universe would get graded.  The Michelin guide is mathematically a measure.  The Egon Ronay guide is a measure too.  As is the Which? good food guide.  Some better than others.  Good measures will probably have certain properties.  I would imagine the grading system would have a power law distribution.  There are probably many reasons for this, not least of which is great institutions often exert orders of magnitude more effort in the consistent manufacture of their product.