May 21, 2008

The Ron Paul Effect: Returns on Conversation

That's the term Rob uses to explain why he's not focussing too much on the web. Yes, it can be an echo-chamber. One should be talking and speaking to other non-web-social-media-people too!
I have a hard time focusing on the web these days because of the Ron Paul effect. For those involved heavily in the web and social media, it seemed as if Ron Paul was at least making a dent in the primaries. As it turned out though, most of the rest of the world had no idea who he was. I think about that every time someone tells me about the latest frivolous web tool that is going to be the next big thing. I wonder, “the next big thing to who? A bunch of web novelty seekers that just move on from big thing to big thing?” It only seems like “everyone” is using the latest and greatest tool because we are pulling from the wrong sample.

I’m not one of those people who thinks that web is bad, or that it is useless. I just think it is a time sink and that the return on “being part of the conversation” is negative for most people. That isn’t anything that hasn’t been said many times before. I just wanted to explain why I’ve been missing.

What's your return on "being part of the conversation"? Is it negative? Why do you persist then?


  1. I think the return is like any group conversation. You have to be in it to influence it and you have to be willing to be influenced in turn. People trying to 'use it', 'lose it' at this juncture.

    I don't think the web is an echo chamber as much as a "broken telephone". News goes out, it is picked up days later, it is repeated without checking, etc. etc. The onus is on the individual to verify information. The danger is in treating it like an authoritative source - we become the journalist - we have to check and double check.

    So what do we get? We observe what people are willing to repeat?? That in itself is instructive and tells us a lot about a source. So we can tell three things a) competence b) popularity/fashion and c) network.

    What is the Ron Paul effect anyway? I live in the UK and hear people in the USA lamenting that he was not popular - that is all I know about him!!


  2. Gautam,

    Spot on. My parents have just recently figured out that Google can do something besides searches. They asked me where I got my Gmail address from and I said Google. That was a confusing conversation for them and me but it highlights the fact even things that techno people take for granted (like the revolution of Gmail) are not so well embraced.