Thursday Grok: Moderating the Web in the 'war against internet stupidity'

Corralling the madness. Plus, IOS 6

One of the great joys (and frustrations) of the internet is the sheer lawlessness of it all. On the one hand, you can find a first-hand account by the physician who attended to Abraham Lincoln in the moments after he was shot. Or, quicker than you can say Google you can immerse yourself one man’s misspent youth over at emotioneric.com. And of course, there are all kinds of other outrage and profanity available in any flavour you care to mention, although you might want to keep it away from the kiddies. Anyone with Apple TV and YouTube savvy youngsters knows what this means.

Now, it appears that some of the sectors’ biggest names have set out on a mission to impose order and “safety” upon the Web in what Techcrunch labels the ‘war against the internet’s stupidity’.

For instance, Twitter has launched Tailored Trends while Sean Parker’s new Airtime includes Airtime Safety Net.

App centre and stores like those managed by Facebook and Apple likewise provide a measure of control, or at least the opportunity for commercial filtering and accountability.

Techcrunch, however, asks the obvious question: “Can we make the internet smarter and safer with without whitewashing away differing opinions and locking ourselves in an echo chamber?”

Actually, the article makes a good point about Twitter’s approach in particular: “Twitter’s re-written Trending Topics algorithm called Tailored Trends is especially clever because it doesn’t directly discourage stupidity, it just funnels it back to people who find dumb things entertaining. Now rather than seeing just the most popular terms and hash tags in your area, you see Trending Topics based on who you follow. So you’ll only see horrible trends like ‘#UnusualNamesForWhiteGirls’ or ‘#ReplaceBandNamesWithRape’ if you follow people that tweet them. Everyone else will get trending topics that don’t make us embarrassed to be human.”

One for the Fan Boys

Mashable provides a quick first look at Apple’s new IOS 6, which, while currently available to developers, will not reach the grasping little clutches of the rest of us until at least Q3 this year.

And Mashable’s verdict: “The first beta is remarkably stable and the new features are welcome. Still, as with all OS releases, the most interesting bits are usually what happens on the backend and not the flashiest user-facing features.... Third-party apps are what define modern smartphones and tablets and in that respect, Apple remains the platform of choice for developers. With iOS 6, it looks like developers will have even more options to create great apps for users.”

The review looks at a range of issues including the topic currently attracting the most excitement — mapping. But there’s also some commentary on Facebook integration, Siri, Mail and photo sharing. And in fairness to Mashable you should read its insights on its site.

Changing expectations

Finally, for Facebook watchers, Bill Keller has an opinion piece over at the NY Times (free last time I looked) about changing perceptions of Facebook. “What’s the difference between the billionaire media mogul Mark Zuckerberg and the billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch?” I asked a tech-writer friend in an email. My friend emailed back: “When Rupert invades your privacy, it’s against the law. When Mark does, it’s the future.”

The subtext to the joke is that we have all been willing to cut Zuckerberg a lot more slack than we would Rupert Murdoch. Then again, Zuckerberg’s staff never hacked the phone of a murdered school to sell a few lousy newspapers.

The point of the story is that as Facebook grows out of its adolescent phase, its users are expecting something more mature of it.

As Keller noted, “Somewhere on his way from Harvard geek to Silicon Valley titan, Mark Zuckerberg adopted an ideology of ‘radical transparency’. He is getting what must be an uncomfortable dose of that now.”

Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.

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