A walk in Marin County with Howard Rheingold and his dog resulted in an invitation to present Trustmojo at a FutureCommons meeting at Institute For The Future. One of the topics we discussed during- and after our talk was the role of tags in trustbuilding. In the talk I showed how I discovered researchers on del.icio.us and judged them by their tagclouds.
As we develop a literacy for tagclouds, they let us peek inside a person’s mind. We get more out of these clouds than just an idea of a person’s reading- and classifying habits. Tagclouds are inspiring. They contain hints. Those hints get our minds going.
My del.icio.us feed is just one facet of my online identity. Tags then, could be though of as facets of this facet. On one interpretation, the most common tags in my cloud show what community I belong to, whereas the tail of niche tags convey my distinct identity. Fred Stutzman (Founder of ClaimID) seems to have browsed a lot of tagclouds recently. He argues that “[people's] tagclouds shows [him] more about them than [he] ever gets from a homepage, blog or social network profile”. He also talks about “reading” del.icio.us tagclouds:
At the top will be [a person's] “internet identity”, more or less. You might see a ton of clustered links to programming websites, or business/marketing blog posts, and so on. As you scale down the tagcloud, and you get into the tags that are used 1 or 2 or 3 times, you start to notice different things. You may see links to a sports team in which the person participates, or a small cluster of links to a hobby or a charity. You might see travel information, or a link to a church or family member’s webpage. As the explorer, you have to explicate what is what, but I’ve found it becomes quite easy to do this as you do it over and over.
Just before our talk, Marc Dangeard, who was attending the meeting, happened to give me his business card. Incidentally, he had his del.icio.us tagcloud printed on the back of the card.
Perhaps the most important reason to give someone your business card is to convey trustworthiness. Trust research show that openness has a strong connection to trustworthiness. Tagclouds let us take a peek inside someone’s mind. Seen in this light, putting your tagcloud on your business card makes perfect sense.
“Television is the big loser in media trustworthiness with the rise of the Internet. When asked where they turn first for trustworthy information, 29% of respondents in the U.S. still cite TV first, down from 39% three years ago. The Internet is now cited by 19%, up from 10% in 2003. The same trend is evident in the U.K., where television has declined from 42% to 33% as respondents’ first choice, while the Internet has risen from 5% to 15%.”
Why is (finally) television loosing ground, whereas Internet trustworthiness has doubled? I’d say because the web is a potentially much more powerful medium for building trustworthy institutions. Old-fashioned television just can’t compete. Seth Godin captures its dilemma as follows:
“News on television isn’t ‘true’. It can’t be. There’s too much to say, too many points of view, too many stories to cover. Television can never deliver all of the facts and every point of view. The best a television journalist can hope to do is combine the crowd-pleasing, ad-selling stories on fires and crime with the insightful but less popular stories on world events. And, we hope, to do it without an obvious bias.” [from All Marketers are Liars]
“The Internet” is a very heterogeneous medium in terms of what types of interactions or narratives it enables. Some of the most interesting projects in the Web 2.0 space aren’t very innovative from a technological standpoint. Indeed, they are first and foremost social innovations. They are movements that form new institutions with new organizing principles, many of which are concerned with solving social dilemmas. There’s an ongoing change as the web matures, with more and more sites becoming functional, trusted institutions. And that change, I believe, is what drives these numbers.
So, where are the newspapers? The same survey has this to say:
“Newspapers, which are often thought to be the most serious casualty of the Internet wave, show rankings essentially unchanged in most markets at approximately 20%. Newspapers remain the first trusted medium of choice for respondents in France, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Korea, and Italy.”
Why? Maybe because newspapers–as it stands today–are institutional forms with a future. As I see it, newspapers–although facing lots of challenges–have a much clearer migration path to renewing themselves and becoming part of the new media ecosystem. Newspapers, as institutions, seem to work well in symbiosis with The Long Tail of Blogs, and, for now, I see no signs of big change in that structure.