On Aggregators

Not at all like an agri-gator, an aggregator is a website that lets you bypass the free and diverse dream of the Internet to be more efficiently fed only the content your peers have selected for you in advance. A lot of people love aggregators, myself included, because they sure do save a lot of time.

When I say I love aggregators though, I don’t mean that I love them at all, because I hate them. “Love” was a really bad choice of words. I hate everything about aggregators and what they have done to the Internet, but I love and depend on the convenience they provide and continue to use them in spite of my apparently strong stance against them.

There are several problems with aggregators, and I will eventually list them off and act very upset about each one. First though, I’ll name three random colors that I think will help to set a mood for the rest of this post.

The colors are Red, Black, and Hatred.

Is this going to be a post about the good old days of the Internet?

Yes. Because the Internet used to be good. Now that everyone is using it, it’s all full up with bad.

In order to address the issue of there being way too much shit on the Internet, a bunch of smarmy fucks started websites that stole content from all over the place and presented it as a sort of Best-Of. The concept of eBaum’s World is essentially the same as Digg or Fark, except that the latter two link to remote content to save money on bandwidth.

A lot of content creators are actually really happy with the way that Digg and similar sites work. They write a very clever piece and submit it to all of the big aggregators, and when it hits the front page they are flooded with tens of thousands of visitors over the span of an hour or two. It’s very exciting. Then their server crashes, and they just couldn’t be any happier about it.

Now, I’ve had articles on Fark, Digg and a bunch of other places, and I’ll tell you that of the several bazillion people who read that one article I wrote about wiping my ass, not a single one of them remembers who I am or the name of the website with the poopoo joke. I tracked the behavior of people visiting said poopoo joke, and literally like five dudes bothered to check out the homepage of the site after reading it. At the end of the day all it did was inconvenience the people who actually visited the website regularly.

The point is that where once there was a relationship between content creators and the users of their websites, there is now an impersonal comments page on a third-party site linking to their content. Smaller communities do exist, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be successful on the Internet without having everything you post make the front page of Digg, which is itself no longer achieved merely by creating quality content.

So why even have your own website? You should post directly to aggregator.com/you!

Well, this is the concept behind sites like YouTube. You create content for them, by their format and their rules, so that they can profit from it. It’s a phenomenal deal! Going back to the eBaum’s World comparison, the Internet is now a place where people willingly donate all of their work to Eric Bauman, agree to give him the rights, and feel a sense of pride in how much money he is making. There are countless websites that work this way today.

You actually have a much better chance of developing a following through a service like Tumblr than you do by creating your own website. You’re better off putting less effort into your work online. Sign up for a service that caters to people who do the kinds of things you want to do, and you will have a built-in audience. Hey, you may have to accept that you are creatively limited this way, but at least people are paying attention to your shit, right?

No, nobody cares. Most of your followers are likely following the entire rest of the Internet as well, and they barely have the time to skim the titles on the first page of new additions when they get home from work. Further, they’re probably there to foster their own online following, so you’re really just a collective of conceited pricks who largely ignore each other.

The problem with lumping everybody together into a feed is that often times nothing really stands out, and since people no longer go to specific websites for specific information or experiences, they care infinitely less about every piece of content on the page. The average web surfer these days defaults to a bored, drooling state, refreshing all of their tabs in sequence before starting over in an infinite, merciless cycle.

This is outrageous! What are you going to do about this shit?

Pretty much nothing; I’m just complaining. The Internet isn’t going back to the way it used to be, and no number of hate-filled posts by me will ever change that. I’ll probably keep writing them, anyway.

The state of things today is the result of a very natural evolution. It won’t be long before, net neutrality or not, there will be only five relevant websites left, each of them overloaded with more content per minute than you can read in a day. If you want to be a part of that cacophony you’ll have to sign the rights to your content away to the publisher and agree to their terms of use, kind of like you do today.

Oh sure, tinfoil hat you say, but the Internet today is closer to that reality than it is to the glory of ten years ago.

When the apocalypse comes I will, of course, still be sitting in a dark, musty room complaining about things I have no intention of changing.

4 Comments

  • Joey Michaels

    June 12, 2010

    To finish the last sentence, “on Draenor, trying to find a way into Old Ironforge since the GMs will all be focused elsewhere because the world is ending.”

    Reply
  • Stu

    June 16, 2010

    There’ll always be a market for guys like us, willing to plunk our own cash down on our own websites and build followings the old-fashioned way: by being awesome in other places and linking back to our sites. At some level people want a connection to the things they deal with, and the growing impersonalization of the web will trigger a reaction sooner or later.

    Reply
    • Christoph

      July 3, 2010

      I don’t think I’ve ever built a following that way, or built a following at all. I also didn’t know you had a website.

      I do think people are naturally inclined to be most interested in things which they have a connection with or can relate to, but I think the convenience of content portals will forever overshadow that now that they have come to prominence. The vast majority of people will choose something easy over something superior, even if they fully understand it to be superior, and I think that’s especially true in this case as the two options are ostensibly the same experience.

      Reply
  • Shane

    June 15, 2011

    I remember when all the E/N websites stopped existing, too. I was actually thinking today about how many bloggers exist today and about how we didn’t even call it blogging back then.

    Reply

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