Today’s Geeks were born in the world of abundance for them the world of the Long Tail needs no explanation. They are used to choice, thrive on choice and rail against without a world without it. They look for real and trusted descriptions in what they are choosing not just in the long tail of product and services but the parallel long tail of ideas which is rapidly developing. When this choice is seen to wanting or a particular idea stands out our geeks comment and they comment. Commenting is the way that authority is shared in the new world. It links the thought to other communities and ideas it conveys authenticity and engergises the conversation. There are multiple ways of commentating. Here are just some categories: the troll, the enthusiast, the expert, the mad man, the philosopher, the fan, the bombast and the verbose. It’s easy to scoff at many of categories in the cold light of day but it’s the variety and enthusiasm of commentators that makes the new world of digital influence go around.
In the Long Tail this mechanism is brilliantly set out with the example of the sales around an adventure story. In 1988 Joe Simpson wrote Touching the Void a near death story from the Andes 10 years later a similar book Touching Thin Air became a sensation. As Chris Andersen observered thelongtail.com:
“Book sellers began promoting it next to their Into Thin Air displays and sales began to rise… By mid 2004, Touching the Void was outselling into thin air more than two to one. What happened? Online word of mouth. When Into Thin Air, first came out a few readers wrote reviews on Amazon.com that pointed out the similarities … which they praised effusively. Other shoppers read these reviews, checked out the older book and added it to their shopping carts … they started recommending the two as a pair. People, wrote more rhapsodic reviews more sales, more algorithm-fueled recommendations – and a powerful feedback loop kicked in.”
Commentators are very often engaged with a community or conversation it for this reason that such a powerful multiplier kick in. They have skin in the game and take this responsibility seriously sometimes a commentator may also be an idea starter or curator but very often they see themselves as important simply because of their comments and a commitment to engagement. Perhaps idea starters and curators are too busy starting and organizing to simply comment. The huge volume of comment that some online citizen’s generate is actually a sure sign of a true freak geek who is using new technologies to hugely boost their productivity.
Back to Andresen again, “Amplified word of mouth is the manifestation of the third force of the Long tail. It is not until this third which helps people find what they want in this new super abundance of variety, kicks in that the potential of the Long tail market place is truly unleashed.”
For me what motivates the commentator that is truly intriguing? An idea starter is motivated by creativity; an amplifier or curator want to share but they also crave a very unstandable status and leadership recognition. A commentator is I think truly taking part they feel the desire to share and I believe realize that by sharing they get to also find what they want in return at some point. It is a mutually rewarding activity this may explain why the comments tend to be shorter, pithier less heavily invested but also so prolific as I say in many ways commentators are the true revolutionaries and the missing link. I would love to hear your thoughts on why commentators comment or why a troll trolls? and possibly explain why a large proportion of comments are also gibberish more I think than in real world conversations?