Foulplay in the New Age Web

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Newsvine recently had been seeded with reports that several profiles and objectionable content being removed from My Space. Many concerned parents also wrote in to express their fears. Although there were hints of paranoia, any service on the web is exploited, despite clear instructions on the web. It is not uncommon that most users fail to read, atleast a few lines of that “Terms and Conditions” before adding a tickmark in the Checkbox.

While the whole essence of new age web is Social Networking, Social Bookmarking, and requires an active participation from the users, it is of great importance to validate and verify the authenticity of the content that is being contributed to the web. Digital Signatures and Privacy Policies have no respect at all, for every user takes them for granted. But with something close to 250,000 users a day, it remains to be seen how this can be done.

Atleast to start with, the trustworthiness of any person can be established on how many people link to her in the case of Social Networking sites, based on the frequency of posting, based on how many people publish similar items. Something akin to PageRank. It is not an entirely fool-proof system , but can be done as a preliminary measure, for, this would atleast persuade a person from providing fake information. Much as Data Security is impotarnt, accuracy of information is important too. Wikipedia faced a similar problem.

No extreme measure can be done to check the authenticity too, for the entire world will then cry foul – as many already do with Google. That would be branded as a threat to privacy. So where do we strike the balance? Unless ofcourse, each contributor realizes the social responsibility and the ethics of the Virtual World.

Overbrain: Or can the web be “intelligent”?

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I happened to read an editorial in Febrauray issue of Digit magazine the crux of which was “how can the web be intelligent”. And more importantly, the article started of with a familiar example – “Customers who bought this also bought” section in Amazon.com. When I first chanced upon Amazon a couple of years ago, I was drawn to this feature like how . It was a great place for book recommendations, and in many cases it worked out fine for me.

Back then the web wasn’t run by people, like it’s today. There weren’t any web-apps developer or a personal database which is, well, more personal than a website like Amazon. Then slowly blogs and tagging evolved. And to the relief of a lot of people, web-apps can be created in no time. It seems almost true that the internet contains information about anything under the stars.
Which presents the most important problem of Information Overload. A couple of months back, I entered a search query concerning something and got a zilch response. But a few days back, I accidentally stumbled upon what I was looking for. My joy knew no bounds on hitting the jackpot accidentally. But it also made me crib for it had been there all along and I’d wasted a good three months in searching. Not that my search skills are that bad, (even if I enter the same query now, I get no results). They are not what they have to be.

Let’s assume this hypothetical case. I’m looking for information on a particular group who will be performing at the local theatre. I enter their name, I get no results. Not even “are you looking for” suggestion. I tend to feel that their company isn’t adjusting too well to the internet boom. Later on, I almost accidentally stumble upon the group’s blog, and going through their archives, I come to know that they’ve indeed been existing in the virtual world for a long time, that my search query should have landed me here by all means. What happened to me was nearly similar to this situation.

This calls for a need to orgainze content better. The article from “Digit” calls for a “People who visited this website also visited the following other website(s)” method. This is okay as a next step to better search. Like Del.ico.us. But given the number of websites and tag clouds, it is testing the limits of exhaustion on the readers part. Whether an algorithm can handle this or human intervention is required at all stages, only the researches can answer. As a person who searches the web for information almost everyday I’ll get a sense of absolute satisfaction only when I enter a search query like, “Is tomorrow a Friday”, and get a reply, “Yes, TGIF”.

Edited to Add:

(1) In fact I was thinking of Thandora when I wrote this.

(2) TGIF means “Thank Goodness it’s Friday”, which, for most people, is a relief.