I don’t tend to do quotes du jour, but this time I had to make an exception, taken from this post.

Jeff Atwood:

A blog without comments is like Amazon without user reviews

In fact, the entire paragraph is worth highlighting:

A blog without comments is like Amazon without user reviews. Is it really even worth using at that point? The products themselves are commodities; I could buy them anywhere. Having dozens of highly relevant, informed user reviews means I’ll almost always buy stuff from Amazon given the chance. It’s a huge competitive advantage.

I could not agree more. So here’s my twopenn’orth:

Social objects are designed to commoditise over time. And as they commoditise, what makes them valuable is the tags, the reviews and the ratings around them. And in turn that makes the community around them valuable, the people who do the tagging, the reviewing and the rating.

So next time you get asked what the value of a community is, think about the role of the community in enhancing the value of objects that would otherwise be undifferentiated and valueless.

9 thoughts on “QOTD”

  1. perhaps this is the ‘attention economy’ in action; value is derived from attention bestowed by the people, some of whom may be bothered to add to it? reminds me of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Small Gods’…

  2. Things are further complicated by the fact that the value doesn’t necessary return to the owner of the object.

    To continue the Amazon example, how many people read reviews on Amazon, choose a product, then feed the details into a price comparison site to find a cheaper supplier? It’s the online version of the problem physical shops face, where potential buyers come in to look at products ‘in the flesh’, then go home and buy them online.

  3. Amazon does perhaps benefit from the externalities created- more people coming just for the reviews do indeed linger to buy.
    As regards blogs, comments have a similar beneficial effect- a peer review process?

  4. It is a fascinating topic and I have a question which is connecting this issue with another one of your favorite topics – “ownership” of data, information, code, etc. Who if anybody “owns” the recommendation? Are there ethical or legal considerations about using these for personal or commercial gain. Can Amazon claim IP “ownership” of recommendation I made and published on their site? What is your opinion?

  5. I agree with the sentiment behind the quotation, namely that blogs without comments have little value. They are monologues rather than conversations. But I disagree with the simile. Amazon has value without user reviews. I’ve bought loads of books on Amazon, but never use the user reviews to guide my choice of book. In fact I hardly ever look at them. I know lots of people who take the same approach.

    In fact, I think that Jeff Atwood’s statement uses the unfortunately increasingly common literary phenomenon of the inverse simile – one where the comparison detracts or distracts rather than illustrates. Most of the comments to your posting are about Amazon rather than about blogs and comments to those blogs.

  6. Thanks for your comments.

    All social objects have value without comments. All places where social objects can be bought have value as well, just as purveyors of those objects.

    But as those objects commoditise, there is an effect on the purveyor, a commoditising drag as it were. And purveyors have to do something to push back against the drag.

    Amazon does three things to push back. It provides incredible choice. It simplifies the process. And it builds community.

    The point I was trying to make is that for all the would-be Amazons in the world, for all the firms that are seeking to sell social objects, the same issues arise. Provision of choice is itself commoditising and by itself not enough to differentiate. Simplification of process is similarly not distinctive. These are necessary but not sufficient conditions for success in such a marketplace.

    Community is a differentiator, and the comments, reviews, ratings, feedback loops are community byproducts.

    I will come to the issue of “ownership” of the data, the IP, the ratings, the reviews, in a later post.

  7. A dissenting opinion… The issue is partially culturally determined. I would propose that outside of the West and outside the strata of society in which people have continuous web access or are professionally oriented toward the web, readers are less likely to post comments but value and benefit from postings nonetheless. The following post from the archives of one of my blogs provides a case-in-point: http://tinyurl.com/5zp5vw

Let me know what you think

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