In the great rollicking free-for-all known as the internet, there’s clearly no shortage of content. Everybody’s got a blog or a web site, or a Twitter account piped through a Facebook app which spits out 140-character poems that are converted into a real-time mash-up with whatever’s playing on your local radio station, all courtesy some kid’s home-grown basement server, which is running off juice he’s stealing from the neighbors.
If we had enough hours in the day we could look at it all and laugh. But we don’t have enough hours in the day. In fact, we don’t have enough time to read this blog post, let alone try to figure out what it means. So we rely on others to do the sifting and filtering for us. What’s the best movie this week? What’s the hot new band? Which video clip will make us laugh? Cry? Hurl?
The same is true for online fiction. We can’t read everything. So how do we figure out what’s available and what we might like? We rely on others, and the amazing thing is there are actually people who want to do this sort of thing. No: who love to do this sort of thing.
Some sites use ratings to help visitors judge content. Some use reputation systems to help visitors judge the raters. Some sites are pure democracy: the most votes wins. Some sites are an oligarchy: a few editors or site owners call ’em as they seem ’em. Some sites are a mix.
Yes, politics can play a part in the way choices are made. And if you’ve ever been a part of an online community you know that ego and vanity are alive and well on the internet. But as a visitor you’re always free to move on. If one site becomes crippled by an internal feud or deserted due to economic pressures, there’s always another ready to take its place and get back to the business at hand.
— Mark Barrett
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