Freakonomics is a fantastic book, and I can’t wait for the sequel. It makes economics (and the tools of economics) accessible and interesting for a lay audience. I particularly enjoy the examples which highlight the Law of Unintended Consequences, where a subtle change or two (with altruistic reasons) end up producing undesired effects in reality.
- You killed the full RSS feeds, and I don’t want to come here
- I don’t like the new look
- I don’t like the font
- I don’t like the New York Times
- You’ve lost your independent voice
From the Times’ standpoint, they might just acquiesce to the full feeds – by inserting ads into the feeds. No big deal there – content that isn’t portable and nimble won’t get consumed.
The next complaints are rather small and petty, and will likely be ignored.
The deal-killer here is the loss of a community.
I commented several times on posts, and those comments often offered rich discussions that brought new insights to the material. There were some regulars you could count on to chip in their two cents, and after a while you could predict how certain people would view a topic.
That doesn’t just happen – there are certain requirements for a community to build along that dimension. Most importantly, all commenters on the old Freakonomics blog had to register. While that is seen as a barrier for some, it really wasn’t that big a deal. It was added security for me, knowing that I could post under a consistent name and not have someone else impersonate me. Those using handles could also write from a consistent voice, and not be afraid that someone else would hijack their name. Now, under the new system, there is no identity. All comments are moderated, but there is no system to ensure that everything written by “egretman” is really from the guy I’ve known as “egretman.”
It’s a subtle little change, but in removing a baseline level of common knowledge and trust, the bedrock of the Freakonomics Community is gone. Sadly, the editors at the New York Times will not see it – with the RSS-full-feed Exodus underway. The threads and comments there will take a radically different tone in the future, and it will all be written off as collateral damage from the move. It was those Gimme-Gimme RSS-lovers who don’t want to visit the site, or the right-wing nutjobs who have it in for the Times. They’ll focus on the initial heat, and miss the substance. Boomerang, thy name is Irony: The Law of Unintended Consequences has come home to roost. They altered the DNA of the interface, and may not understand that’s responsible for the new fruit they’ve peeled.
In my opinion – a dumber, far less interesting fruit. One that is neither tart, nor sweet, nor as mentally nutritous.
[tags]Ike Pigott, Occam’s RazR, Freakonomics, blogging, community, social media, New York Times, RSS[/tags]