I have been thinking of the concept of content ranking lately or specifically the constant struggle between diversity and singularity. Maybe the paradox is us as humans. Singularity is simple. It is transparent. Diversity is not. It creates this twilight zone reality where you do not really know what is the true or false. The easy, simple answers disappear. PageRank… The amazing algorithm that disrupted a whole business and market. It gives us what we need. Or does it? Really? PageRank works (simplified of course) very much like biological evolution. The strongest (or here most reputable) survives. The strongest win. They concur the weakest. The alternative voices such as the extinction threatened species are not heard. They are lost in the noise. Is this right? Or is it “just” the natural choice? Hard question right. Maybe we all are programmed to obey the nature of the evolutionary laws. In every aspect of our lives.
Just to make it a bit more tangible. The best user interfaces are singular in their nature. Take Google for instance. One search box. That’s it. You can say the same thing about the essential objectives behind YouTube and Flickr. They do perform one task and they do it really good. It is one objective really. Making uploading of videos and photos respectively dead simple. Nothing else shadows the major objective. I do not want to go into greater detail, but I will assume you at least kind of get what my point is.
Maybe humans are after “the” answer. They want that ultimate, simple, neat little answer. The this-is-how-it-is answer. That neat little package of how things are and especially how they are not. But are things really that simple? It makes life very easy. All search engines I have seen have been designed that way, and even worse most media companies. But the matter of fact is that the reality is not singular. It is diverse. It is complex. It is human. It really is diverse. It is the twilight zone where you do not really know what is the answer. You just have to accept it for what it is. I love it, but I gather most don’t.
There are so many tangents we can go into. The concept of an ever increasing universal entropy. Or the fundamental concept in quantum mechanics were there is not a concept of a neat little single answer. The answer only lies in the future there.
Ever since I saw the movie EPIC 2014. ( Yeah, I know. Get over it, Erik! I promise I will someday. :-) ) The key question from that movie is whether what we (believe) we want really is what we want. That is a hard one as no single person can answer it. Even more mindblowing. If it is not what we want, why do we want it? How can we shape a media where we get what we want, yet provide the diversity we seek but not seek? How do we shape it so that we see all issues yet do not feel like we get things stuffed down our throats? That is in my eyes one of the biggest challenges for the media industry as well as our society in the future.
Specifically for the media business: Is PageRank type solutions really what we want or is it what we believe what we want? I do not know. What I do know is that we collectively have to decide. Maybe we reach some answers, maybe we do not. But we should think some of it.
Again. The time for media is amazingly exciting these days. The possibilities are endless. Welcome to the party!