Tom Webster, writing and speaking

Is The Social Web An "Economy Of Favors?"

Added on by Tom Webster.

A short thought for "Follow Friday": spend a little time searching out people who take you well outside your comfort zone. I wrote more about the Twitter "self-selection bias" a while back, but to put it plainly, if you are only following people you agree with, sooner or later Mr. Social Darwin will catch up with you. I was reminded of this while reading the comments to Tamsen McMahon's thought-provoking and oddly controversial piece, "Clique Clique...BOOM" over on the excellent Brass Tack Thinking blog she cowrites with Amber Naslund. I won't recapitulate Tamsen's piece here, because you will go read it as soon as you finish this, right? What I appreciated about the piece was the level of constructive debate in the comments, from people who took issue with Tamsen's stance on the "clique." One notable dissenter, Mark Schaefer, made an interesting point regarding what he termed "the blogger's pack": the social web is an economy of favors.

Mark's meaning is clear: prominence on the social web is driven by a simple mechanic: you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. You promote my e-book, I'll give your online course a favorable review. And so on. Do you agree with this? I think in many ways it's empirically true, but only if your horizon is short.

So, here's what I think (I wrote this there, and I'll repeat it here). In the short term, he might be right. In the long term, the social web is an economy of ideas. The difference, for the individual, is backing the right horses. You are who you retweet.

So, this "Follow Friday," promote someone with a lasting idea, regardless of their "clique." Not only will it be good for your soul, it'll be good for society. Mr. Social Darwin guarantees it.