Victus Spiritus


The Dark Side of the Web: Praying for Perspective or Prospective Prey

29 Apr 2010

Besides a catchy title what the hell does it mean? My thoughts today aren't religious or spiritual, but instead are focused on the distribution of information through modern web media channels. By "praying for perspective" I'm writing about our ambitious need to consume all manner of information and in particular web media. This need is driven by several overlapping psychological and behaviorial motivators, of which I'll describe a few: state, curiousity, and perspective.

Who's behind the wheel?

You are.
We share an instinct to stay informed and in touch with loved ones, friends, trends and less popular social memes. Beyond this fundamental social instinct many look to the web out of another primal need: curiousity. We improve our understanding of novel topics or assist our memory with details we once knew. Beyond the social need of belonging, and our natural curiousity is a quest for truth. The type of truth that can only come from critically comparing a wide variety of views on challenging social issues and philosophies. A semantic divergence of billions of nuances branch out from the the word truth. We each have a moving definition for this short word. For myself truth is what is. For others truth is what was, or what will be. For more rigid minds (not necessarily rational), Truth is absolute and others must submit to one version of reality. To others truth is a word of little value because of it's failure to transmit a clear meaning.

So why all glum, Mr. Dark Side of the Web?

Popular web businesses acutely understand the needs of belonging, curiousity, and perspective. And no matter how good intentioned these folks are, while they are building their startups and businesses they'll face a question: How can the business best exchange visitor and content creator* attention in order to increase revenue? There's an upper limit to ads that each of us will tolerate. Any ads over that limit result in lost or non repeating visitors. There's also a comfortable level of privacy that we require. Targeted ads are fine, as long as every business in the world doesn't have a full catalog of my tastes, friends, and contact information.

Consider for a moment what fraction of your attention is diverted by placement ads, interrupt ads, embedded ads and bill boards (my hypocrisy^). Now multiply that fraction by your life time. That's how much of your life was sacrificed by the inefficiencies of ad powered information. The web hasn't yet found a better path to fund "free" information flow.

Alternative monetization channels

There are tools like ad blocker available, but then you're basically robbing the site owner of the content value they provide. That's something any good capitalist can't stomach. Can we imagine a more efficient fuel to diminish the attention tax? We could create a massive pay portal based web. You log on from anywhere, visit any site, and it can negotiate a tiny fee from your subscription. If we desire information without ads we should have the ability to opt out. By removing the ad middle man from the equation we could have a more efficient information network. I'd love to hear about your ideas, as my next push in creating a web business is founded on building fully hackable, distributed social tools.

*= Most web browsers are creating some form of content. What are social web sites without people, and how much of the web is no longer social?

^= don't forget to visit Ars Vox for all your epublishing or blog to ebook needs. Aakin's a good friend, so any referral to him is more than just an ad, I'm doing you a favor by introducing you to his skills. Also my first shake at a web business is built on targeted ad model, Victus Media.