Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Thursday, September 19, 2013

popularity sort


The problem with Instapaper's new Popularity Sort — essentially, an engine for finding out what everyone else is reading on Instapaper and suggesting that you read it too — is that it does what so many other social media do: exacerbate the gap between the attentional haves and have-nots. It's a matter of inertia: posts and essays and articles that get a little attention at first stand a good chance of getting more, and then more, and then still more, while those that don't get that little bump at first will be more likely to sink into neglect.

The net result of this kind of thing, as it becomes more dominant in online discourse — and it will indeed become more dominant — will be (a) more and more writers whoring for that initial burst of attention to get the ball rolling, and (b) a significant loss of what I'm going to call, on the model of biodiversity, graphodiversity.

So, you know, just never read something because other people are reading it. Avoid popularity sorting. Cultivate your own genuine interests and don't let them get crowded out by invasive species of popular but bad writing.

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