Wednesday, March 6, 2013

"Stuff" and "fluff" in review sites and social media

“Stuff” and “fluff” reading gave me so much to think about and ask myself, especially about the use of social media in those days and about others aspects as well. I think this reading and the one named “Choosing the Focused Life” are much interconnected.

 “Choosing the Focused Life” I think it takes more a philosophical, self-help approach in which the main message is that you need to stay focused on the right things so your life is less a reaction and more a creation or a result of what you do. The reading also mentions how crucial is to pay attention to the right things to achieve a better life and how those decisions can have a great impact in our lives. I really enjoyed the reading and I stayed thinking how we can stay focused if we are constantly bombarded with so much information in our cellphones and social media? I realized  how hard is for me to find some time to reflect about my life or what I am doing some times since I have to admit that I have a constant need to look for Twitter feed or Facebook. I struggle to avoid this “information seeking addiction”. If you know a cure for this, let me know.

            The way in which Lanham chapter is connected to the reading about the focused life is that the only way in which information have sense is when it is an object of humans’ attention. Thus, we see how our life can change for bad or worse if we stay focused in some kind of information. I think the main point of choosing information is who or what tell us if we are getting the right information or not? Are the sources worthy of our trust and even more worthy of our attention? Apparently, the solution is information filters. However, I found a blog post of an interview that was made to the author of this reading, Richard Lanham, who said:

“Information filters are not what this bifurcated world needs the most. It is training in how to recognize which kind of reality you face and thus what kind of economics applies to the situation at hand; otherwise you may be conducting the wrong kind of cost-benefit analysis or, perhaps, waging the wrong kind of war”

            What the author implies to say here is that we need a way in we can get a model of economic attention. In the interview the author mentions the urgent need to have a scheme of functions and forms to help us. My understanding is that this need might help individuals to make a difference between stuff from what he calls stuff, commodities or substance and merely fluff. 

            This notion of information filters and economics of attention just make me thinks about the app or site Yelp and a recent debate about a new policy they introduced. For those who don’t know Yelp provides directory service that is connected with social media to allow people to review mainly restaurants but also hotels, doctors and more. This past October they announced a new “alert service” that let users know when a review is suspected to be inflated or paid. The way in which they track biased reviews is when a company has too many reviews from the same IP address. This measurement technique is arguable according to the author or the article. You can take a look of the article here.

            What I want to bring with this example is just an idea of how information can be “monetized” for bad and how reviews are an industry of information and thus becoming part of this economics of information described by Lanham. For this example, the question is what happened if all of these super positive reviews are misleading people and make them go to the wrong places or buy poor quality products? Even more, how many of them are just “fluff” reviews with no interesting substance that gives you a clear idea about buying something or not. It is interesting to see how all these reviews might contribute for a business owner to make more money or not.

 Moreover, how many people are being paid to post inaccurate reviews to induce people to buy more “stuff”? I think it is helpful that Yelp it is doing something to partially avoid this biased reviews but on the other hand I ask myself how many other reviews site are not even caring about this. Even more, this just makes me think about how much more “fluff” might be around there  when we read those supposedly positive or furious post on companies’ Facebook walls like Walmart or Panera. Are the users real? How much honest are they? There are so many of this kind of sites now, from reviewing apartments to professors that I definitely don’t think they are taking care of the quality of their reviews. Therefore, we might be bringing our attention and focusing in the wrong things and that definitely can make an impact in our choices, as Gallagher mentions in “Choosing the Focused Life”

Comstock, P. (2007, April 3). Richard Lanham Discusses the “Attention Economy”. In California Literary Review. Retrieved March 6, 2013, from

Reisinger, D. (2012, October 18). Yelp clamps down on paid reviews with new 'consumer alert'. In cnet. Retrieved March 6, 2013, from

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