Giving Every Person A Voice

I had the pleasure of watching John Battelle interview Evan Williams to wrap the Web2 conference yesterday. John's a great interviewer and it was a memorable talk. But the thing that stayed with me through the night and was on my mind as I woke up this morning was this part, as transcribed by Matthew Ingram.

Williams — who founded Blogger and later sold it to Google — said that “lowering the barrier to publishing” has been something he has spent most of his career on, and this is because he believes that “the open exchange of information has a positive effect on the world — it’s not all positive, but net-net it is positive.” With Twitter, he said, “we’ve lowered the barriers to publishing almost as far as they can go,” and that is good because if there are “more voices and more ways to find the truth, then the truth will be available to more people — I think this is what the Internet empowers [but] society has not fully realized what this means.”

When I started blogging back in 2003, I would tell everyone how awesome it was. A common refrain back then was "not everyone should have a printing press." I didn't agree then and I don't agree now. Everyone should have a printing press and should use it as often as they see fit. Through things like RSS and Twitter's follow model, we can subscribe to the voices we want to hear regularly. And through things like reblog and retweet, the voices we don't subscribe to can get into our readers, dashboards, and timelines.

If I look back at my core investment thesis over the past five years, it is this single idea, that everyone has a voice on the Internet, that is central to it. And as Ev said, society has not fully realized what this means. But it's getting there, quickly.


Comments (Archived):

  1. LIAD

    With I’m trying to do to commerce, what Ev has done to publishing.Tear down the barriers, democratise the entire process.“the open exchange of information has a positive effect on the world >>> “the open exchange of goods and services would have an equal or even greater positive effect on the world”

    1. fredwilson

      totallyyou and Rob Kalin are singing from the same bookand you are both right

      1. atryon

        Sounds like I am singing from the same book as well with Artsicle. I tend to believe that the democratizing of a process is good for all consumers involved – and especially good in buyer/seller relationships. We want to tear down those same barriers in the art space – freeing up the movement of both information and physical art objects, which has been highly restricted by the established community in the past.

      2. Tereza

        So I have the opposite — or perhaps more aptly, a complementary point of view on that.There is a big chunk of what’s in my head that can be made and should public, and I’m cool with that. It will contribute to the net-net ‘betterness’.BUT. I am growing and learning everyday. I’m responsible for my children, and for employees who make mistakes and learn every day. A lot of that is just not ready for prime-time.People judge. Strangers, especially anonymous ones, can be brutal and project their own issues smack in your face.And so much of what is written out there is premature. Sure, I can unfollow, and I do. But I’ve also drawn a judgment on the person, and it’s a conclusion that might’ve been avoided if the writer had a trusted, critical eye on it in advance.So to me the other half of the ‘we’re all publishers’ opportunity is to offer up, at scale, ways to help people express themselves better.It kills me to see so many voices die a quick death simply because their writing sucks.We need an app for that.

        1. paramendra

          You don’t have to share just finished, or complete, or great thoughts. You can also share half baked and ignorant and wrong thoughts. Everything goes.

          1. Tereza

            People are free to share whatever they want.But I don’t have to read them if i don’t want to. And I may or may not be inclined to give them a second chance.I don’t have time to decipher and i’m looking for reasons to filter voices.Realistically, half-baked ideas are GONZO unless there’s an element in there might be the edge of a shiny ball that i’ve never seen before.

          2. paramendra

            Finished thoughts are important. But thought processes are also important.

      3. Kenyan

        Ideally yes, I agree. However I think you have to be very careful when freeing up access to goods and services.Unstructured access is not for the good of everyone. Look at many countries in the developing world. Democracy without structure and governance often creates many more problems than it fixes and is unsustainable.Structure is still the most important component to this ideal. A premature freeing of goods and services without the appropriate structures in place could be disastrous.

    2. Henry Yates

      I just looked up Rob Kalin – did not realise he was CEO of Etsy. Techcrunch have a great quote from him:“..As far as where we want to go, to me the most important part of commerce is the social aspect of it. Social aspect drives the marketplace.”

    3. paramendra

      Please explain Shoply. Just visited for the first time. Clicked over. But explain. Give me an elevator pitch. No, I am not a VC.

  2. ErikSchwartz

    It is important because the ability to air issues is necessary for democracy.

    1. fredwilson


  3. Matt A. Myers

    Thanks for sharing that quote. I share that same sentiment whole-heartedly.Apart of my own thesis over the years that has lead me, as readers who have followed my comments, will see a theme of health.I believe everyone has the right to be healthy, and I want to be apart of facilitating that at whatever levels possible.Giving people the ability to DO, to ACT, to LEARN is the most powerful thing you can do. The word for that is Empowerment.”Empowerment refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social, or economic strength of individuals and communities. It often involves the empowered developing confidence in their own capacities.” –…Confidence is important because it allows people to voice their opinions — whether it’s the majority or minority opinion — it allows values to be heard, and only then can discussion begin.P.S. I just realized it would be nice to be able to activate a ‘Preview Reply’ button in Disqus settings while I am editing my draft (or rather as I re-edit my comment multiple times). 🙂

  4. Ryan Frew

    I think it’s obvious that everyone deserves a printing press – just as everyone deserves freedom of speech. The dilemma I see on the web however, is credibility. What method exists to separate the good from the bad, the true from the false? Just as some people are more likely to believe a fool in expensive clothing than a genius wearing rags, at times it can be human nature to feel inclined to believe content found on a legitimate looking site versus a less high budget one. That’s definitely not always a safe way to judge content though.

    1. fredwilson

      that’s one thing that society has not fully grokkedbut i do believe that social curation and filtering helps a lot

    2. Matt A. Myers

      Education will help with this — and text of the internet allows me to be in my PJs and say brilliant or ridiculous things and no one can really see that I’m actually naked. ;)But if you want the real answer, it’s discussion – that either leads to resolution or war (in the very end).

    3. Dave W Baldwin

      Patience, for it is a matter of time…the public at large gaining maturity. This will take time and it isn’t the web that is at fault. So as the level of maturity rises in relation to the overall discourse, we will be that much better off due to the internet/smartphone side.

    4. Andrew Greene

      Eventually there will be accountability (brought to you by a startup or a government or something completely different).

  5. David Semeria

    But surely that creates a new challenge: the more voices the more noise.How do you get yourself heard or seek out the voices you might appreciate?I think there is a strong analogy in startupland. It’s true that, compared to a decade ago, it costs a fraction to get going – but there are now many, many more startups vying for our finite attention.

    1. LIAD

      democratising publishing and giving everyone a voice – is a thing of beauty.separating signal from noise – is a thing of algorithms

      1. fredwilson

        or the social graph

        1. William Mougayar

          Grabbing the social graph on its own is like grabbing a monster by the tail. It’s a part of it.

          1. Tereza

            I don’t think it has to be that complicated to create significant value.I think there’s a bit of common sense still missing from online interactions that can leapfrog algorithms.So while new platforms have introduced new ways and means for me to communicate new kinds of messages — and I do love all that, and it’s been life-changing for me — there are big chunks of my native thinking and interacting that don’t fit in these platforms.I am sure that gender plays part of it. We really do think, interact, communicate differently. I’m not saying better, or worse, just differently.It’s like a foreign language. You learn the language of the platform you get on. But there are some languages that the platforms are not optimized for.

          2. William Mougayar

            I agree that the starting point doesn’t have to be complicated. If anything, it should be even simpler than it is now (compare the starting page of Google vs. Twitter).The beauty of Twitter is that you can get value both from its simplicity and (increasing) complexity.

          3. Tereza

            Much of it lies in grouping.But I think tags and groups methods feel clinical or technical.I’d like to have a hunch-like wizard for grouping my relationships and how they apply to my real-life scenarios.

          4. azeemazhar

            Using the social graph at scale does involve lots of algorithms applied at very large scale.One thing we’ve noticed is that the Twitter graph is far denser than many other social graphs–people seem happier to make random connections across it. And that connection making (hitting follow) is cheap and cleaning bad connections is comparatively expensive.You almost want the reverse to be true – to be forced to consider whether you make a connection or not and then for it to be really cheap to end it. In that way Fred’s model of noise control (see below) becomes even more efficacious.SocialScope (a v cool Twitter, Foursquare, FB client for the BB) let’s me ‘mute’ tweets on terms, hashtags or people. It’s a really nice feature which helps me block out heavily regional tweets (e.g. Superbowl) when that is happening. Or indeed mute people from that device. It would be great if we could also mute by application id (and immediately mute twitterfeed and socialoomph originating tweets). I’d like to think that SocialScope is gathering my mute behaviour and comparing it to that of other users to help understanding of what I like and what I don’t.

          5. Tereza

            I hear what you’re saying and I will check out socialscope.But indeed I’m thinking of it in a bottom-up way. Here are some examples.My inner circle. People I:–could call at 2am in a crisis–loan my shearling coat to–feel safe having my kids spend the night with–share a medical diagnosisOr, the people I respect and admire, professionally or personally, though we’re not so close.Or, the people I’m trying to build relationships with to meet my goals, and am currently trying to impress.Or, the people I party and laugh withOr, the people whose kids my kids hang out with, plus all the other people who revolve around my kids’ lives every day (teachers, doctors, activities)Different groups, different conversations, timing, immediacy, structure.Right now, I’m highly connected digitally and publish to the professional people I’m trying to impress, and also with people I laugh and party with…on all the platforms we talked about.But the inner circle, the critical ‘feedback circles’, the parenting infrastructure — they’re still email and a little bit of Facebook. So they lag quite substantially. But interestingly, they cut very deep to the essence of me and a lot of time I spend every day. It’s a big gap. And I don’t think it’s just that they’re ‘luddites’, but that the platforms aren’t optimal for those interactions.Make sense, or is that too esoteric?

          6. RichardF

            I think you are absolutely correct Tereza the platforms in their current format are sub optimal. Frankly I don’t like Facebook nor do I like Twitter as methods of communicating. For me they do not reflect real life. I do like Twitter for the serendipitous, other than that I think most people using it, particularly heavy retweeters, are just brand building and obviously self promoting.It’s possibly a generation thing and maybe kids growing up with Facebook now will carry on using it into their 30’s 40’s and beyond but my instinct says not as it is in it’s current format. Having said that Zuck is hugely impressive and it is early daze so I guess it wouldn’t surprise me if he adapts FB as his primary market matures.

          7. Donna Brewington White

            I think you nailed it Tereza. (How do you keep doing that?)

          8. ShanaC

            Well, problematically (and something I haven’t found) is that I still don’t want a purely me centered world. I think knowing that there are different thoughts and seeing regionalisms helps me think about how people who are not me behave.I don’t want to get into the echo chamber of one.

      2. Matt A. Myers

        Just like both of you posting here. Go to where you can be heard. Even better — go to where you will be listened to. I hear your voices and appreciate them regularly. 🙂

      3. billy

        couldn’t have said it better

      4. falicon

        I love this thought!However, I think that separating the signal from the noise is actually a combination of people and algorithms…ie. social streams and the ‘follow’ model is step one in the filter, intelligent algorithms is step two, and advanced machine learning (that feeds back into the loop) is step three…Oh and I can’t help but drop a *shameless plug* for my project since it’s actually attempting to do just this sort of thing to help solve this very problem, specifically with the three step process I just mentioned (and anyone that takes the time to read avc comments is very worthy of getting into our alpha to play around with it…so just use the invite code ‘alpha’ without the quotes when creating an account) 😉

      5. ShanaC

        Not purely so- one of the reasons techmeme works is that the algorithms they use have a human making sure span doesn’t get it.People like a slightly bespoke model.

        1. LIAD

          For sure.I utilised artistic license to be a little poetic.

          1. ShanaC


      6. howardlindzon


    2. fredwilson

      i use the follow model to control the noise

      1. zackmansfield

        I agree – but worry at times that the follow model only serves to perpetuate current opinions and interests. For example, most of us only follow people whose opinions we agree with or like. I realize that this behavior has been going on for years as we’ve chosen the forms of media we consume. But with today’s technology it’s more possible than ever to filter to only the segment you want to hear…leading to the potential of too much curation creating more polarization

      2. RichardF

        What I’d like both Tumblr and Twitter to adopt is a feature where I can build a list of people to follow based on someone else’s profile that I trust. I might even pay for it. Almost like building a channel like LastFM. So I sometimes listen to Fred Wilson radio, which has introduced me to some artists I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered.It would make it easier for people to dive in and get something out both Twitter and Tumblr quickly. I like Tumblr but I just can’t be bothered to devote the time initially to search for people to follow.

    3. J.R. Sedivy

      I think that for the most part this is self regulating. Over time the author will find their voice by a combination of experience, comfort level, interest, and gaining a following. It works the other way around too – just as other filters may be set in a variety of ways (say in a electronics hardware device), so to may blogging filters – for example, you may personalize your filter based on topic, influence, authority, or any other way you please. Great points!

    4. kagilandam

      There many filters to suppress the noise … twitter, disqus, facebook.pagerank of the individual, demography, position in congress 🙂 etc.,etc.,It is going to be tougher nut to crack assigning weight to each one of the parameters…

    5. karen_e

      As Clay Shirky said (I may be paraphrasing), “It’s not information overload, it’s filter failure!” You can take this at a macro or micro level.

      1. David Semeria

        I think Clay’s a genius, and I’m sure his thoughts on this issue are much more granular, but that quote oversimplifies the situation.I’ve yet to see a filter that accounts for serendipity. Sometimes I stumble from blog to blog and then – out of the blue – I find a voice that resonates.I don’t care if it doesn’t resonate with the masses – I’m not the masses – I’m me.Until someone clones me and sets my clone to work on curating my stream, it’s looks like there’s only one man for the job…

        1. ShanaC

          Your not, serendipity is chance, algorithms are not.

    6. Dan Lewis

      This is exactly why my current publishing platform of choice is an email newsletter. There’s so much noise out there that, even if I’m so lucky as to find someone listening to my signal, that’s temporary. We’re all information nomads — we find something, consume it, and move on.So all the downsides of an email newsletter (the biggest one being the difficulty in converting a reader into a subscriber) go away — it’s all relative, and it’s just as hard to do that on twitter and w/a blog.But once you capture someone, they’re yours for a while. Potentially forever.

  6. Julien

    Ev’s interview was eye opening for a lot of different points. I think the goal of giving everyone a voice is clearly noble and we should all work toward this. Yet, even if Twitter created a way to achieve something close to this, it has also increased the risk of reliance on a single provider : Twitter.I certainly trust Ev, Dick and others on their ethics. But what will happen when someone else gets into their seats, what will happen when a very powerful country asks for names, IP, email adresses of political opponents publishing to Twitter? What will happen when Twitter have downtimes, what will happen when Twitter eventually shuts down? (even in 150 years?). This will happen. I will never thank enough Ev for democratizing the access to publishing, yet, he should make sure for the sake of his argument that Twitter isn’t the bottleneck it is now and that there is no risk that all these voices do not depend on Twitter’s fate. Federate!

    1. fredwilson

      there is no single providerfacebook, wordpress, tumblr, blogger, squarespace, typepad, and that’s just in the USif you look at asia, there are many other similar servicestwitter is just one of many platforms for self expression out there

      1. Julien

        Ho, yes certainly! However, there is currently no easy way for me to read news from my friends on Tumblr inside my Twitter stream or the other way around.Recent moves from Twitter gave me the impression that they were trying to keep the walls high so that I can’t consume Twitter content on anything but Twitter-controlled properties.

        1. fredwilson

          that is bullshityou can consume twitter content anywhere you wantwhat are you talking about?

          1. Matt A. Myers

            My guess is he’s talking about Twitter users can’t include outside feeds into their stream?

          2. CJ

            My disqus comments go out on twitter if I want…

          3. Mark Essel

            I, as a user can consume twitter messages anywhere an appropriate API is called. As a developer I can’t easily treat tweets as Facebook updates as buzz updates unless I construct an abstraction first after communicating between each and every social service. As a user I can go in and out of twitter with twitterfeeds, but not as a dev.Feeds are a fundamental form of web data flow and it’s nice to treat any content that can fit into this model as feed data (atom/rss take your pick).Not sure what Julien is specifically referring to but this is how I read it.

      2. Mark Essel

        While we have choices, interoperabilty is still fairly weak. Control of access to user generated content and monetizing attention are the keys to the castle. None of the providers you mention are making bold moves to become transparent distributed layers. Until a revenue model moves beyond bottlenecks of attention, I don’t see how they can.

        1. William Mougayar

          Twitter analytics preview from yesterday and making it free is a great step in the right direction. JSON and RSS are the enablers of this interoperability.Give me JSON and/or RSS, and I will give you intelligence.

          1. Mark Essel

            A little structure goes a long way 😉

        2. leigh

          Two examples to contradict what you are saying:1. has a revenue model (advertising) and uses Twitter content2. i’ve used twitter content on multiple large brand client projects (including one of the big 5 banks in Canada) the clients get brand value from it and my Agency got paidDid I misunderstand the point you and @Julian were trying to make?

          1. Mark Essel

            Until there are multiple corporate instances that freely share updates between databases and systems your examples are still subject to a single point failure.Sure, money can be made on app plays, Zynga being an incredible example, but how vulnerable was Zynga’s business model to the whim of Facebook’s currency & 30% tax? Now they are working hard to branch out beyond Facebook but it’s tough when islands of social interaction have customs agents at every interface (restricted APIs for user generated content).

    2. Matt A. Myers

      This is when government becomes in control of said important public assets and necessities. And then you only have to worry about the government censoring …. but they get away with even outright lying to their people for support, so then the only thing that can counter that is action.

  7. Mark Essel

    Everyone has a voice. Attention jiu-jitsu enables providers to monetize attention that architects distribution of that voice.Giving net users a voice is akin to a Bill of Rights for the Internet. An individuals publishing voice should be disconnected from any corporate entity. What happens when I get banned from Facebook now? I would lose contact to any friends on that network. The same goes for Twitter, Google or other corporate infrastructure.

    1. David Semeria

      I initially misread your comment and thought you said attention architects.Let’s pretend you did – because I think it’s a fantastic phrase !

      1. Mark Essel

        Attention Architects, hmm that has a nice ring to it. Perhapsthe perfect job title for web app founders?I’ll have to add that to my resume once I develop more experience inthat often referred to but rarely discussed marketing area.

  8. Philip J. Cortes

    Remember the good old days of Compuserve and AOL? For content discovery, those were the good old days – it was easy for me as a teenager to interact with new members of that community, in a moderated space. (Chatroulette with filters). It was easy for me to find content that I enjoyed ,because a lot of work was done to find relevant content, post it, and present it for me.Although the internet as we know it today has been very liberating when it comes to self expression, it has also compounded the problem of finding relevant sources of information. Just as google helped organize and filter the compounding information on the web (and most of it originally was there for self-expression), I think there’s going to be a continued push towards social filtering of information. On all of these services, tumblr, twitter, blogs – I find it really hard to know who I should be paying attention to. Users who first join these services feel overwhelmed….maybe they need to integrate’s widget to help recommend personalized next steps for each user?To borrow from “Crossing the Chasm” – I think that pushing relevant content to first time users will be key to the adoption of these services by people outside the early adoption world.

  9. Tom Labus

    We are in the beginning of a cycle that allows everyone to have a voice but, historically, as the cycle ages providers consolidate and the ability for all to have a voice declines.

  10. bijan

    lowering the barrier is everything. you don’t have to be an aspiring journalist to qualify. a simple tweet or photo from a friend’s about his/her day is as important to this network as a breaking news story.our individual voices is the gift that keeps on givingi’m always encouraging people to get involved and the first step is making your voice heard.disqus and commenting systems are also help lower the barrier and provide new forms of distribution to new voices as well.

    1. RichardF

      I’m really hoping Disqus are going to add more social features to the platform. Disqus has enormous potential. It’s a far more genuine and personal method of communication than either Facebook or Twitter.

  11. William Mougayar

    Amen…You’ve summed-up Eqentia’s thesis- which is “everyone is a publisher”,- person, group, company, community, department, association, neighborhood, etc…Online content has been totally atomized, blown to bits literally, down to the single tweet. The lines between producers and consumers of content have totally blurred now. But total democracy should not lead to total chaos. So, we need tools to efficiently re-assemble what matters to us, because otherwise- the noise level is too high.Curation, aggregation, intelligent filtering, re-publishing, discovery- these are the new tools. Twitter is at the front of it, the middle of it, and the end of it.

  12. tomwatson

    Hi Fred – hope you’re doing well.Love Twitter and have since it saw the light of its first days. But I really don’t like the direction it’s going in at all. (I wrote about this last month –… )Twitter used to be the authentic maelstrom of information and people – but it’s changed quite a bit. Yes, some of it is the size of the crowd (which other commenters have noted here). Tougher for people who loved it early when there was much less noise. But part of it is the major business decision to be the media product rather than the media conduit – Twitter as destination, as media outlet, as aggregator, as the new newspaper, the new blog network etc. It’s the decision to go for marketing dollars rather than metering dollars, and it’s somewhat tragic.For a long while, Twitter was thing of beautiful happenstance and design- created (roughly) with 10% from its “founders” and financial backers and 90% from the user base. The people gathered by Twitter ran the R&D, built the network, did all the marketing and pretty much wrote the business plan. The company ran the servers and tried to keep up with its rabid userbase. And it worked.Now, a small group is deciding on such incredibly anti-Twitter “innovations” as promoted Tweets and – much worse, in my view – the rank dishonesty of promoted “trends.”Long way around of saying, yeah – I’m down with democratizing publishing. Tearing down the walls. Curation and groups based on interest. But losing Twitter (and I fear we’re in the very early stages of Digg-like decision-making) is inherently bad for that ideal. It’s a more important platform than it is a company…

    1. William Mougayar

      Tom,Great thoughts. But I don’t think Twitter wants to be “the media product”. If they do, they will fail. I believe they are headed towards being a conduit as well as a media booster and enhancer. Twitter is a proxy to the web, to our thoughts and to our actions. It’s beyond media in my opinion.

    2. fredwilson

      it can’t be a platform if it can’t be a companyit costs way too much to operate to be a non profiti think promoted tweets is a revolution in advertising, content is now the ad uniti’d be happy to sit down and talk to you about this. i don’t share your views but i do want to understand them and where they are coming from

      1. William Mougayar

        Maybe I still don’t understand the full value of promoted tweets.

        1. fredwilson

          steve martin walks out of Harry Potter tonight and tweets:”just spent 2 1/2 hours in the deathly hallows and enjoyed it immensely”warner brothers sees that tweet and immediately promotes it (spendsmoney to do that)the tweet starts showing up at the top of the search results on harrypotter, deathly hallows, steve martin, etcand sometime in the next year it will start showing up in timelines ofpeople who are following harry potter, deathly follows, and aretweeting about the filmbut the promoted tweet will not stay in search or timelines if it doesnot resonate, which means it is highly RT’d, clicked on, etconce the resonation fades, the promoted tweet is gone

          1. William Mougayar

            I like this example and just noticed Twitter even has Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts as part of the Promoted Products series.If these all stay in-context, that would be great. We need more examples that show value like that.FAQ on Promoted Tweets

          2. fredwilson

            too many people hating on twitter and too few actually payingattention to what they are doing

          3. Rich Ullman

            That’s very true. The first is, unfortunately, easier.

      2. Ameeda Chowdhury

        True “Content is now the ad unit”- and increasingly true in reverse that the ads will become content on par with the basic flow of content.

        1. ShanaC

          Content has always been the ad unit- the medium is the message, you know.

      3. William Carleton

        Tom and Fred, I would be very interested in your dialogue on this. I find myself (also) “lamenting the Twitter that did not become” but Fred if you see how advertising supports the mission without undermining it, I’d very much like to understand that.

    3. Prokofy

      I agree that promoted trends destroys authenticity, but as long as it is marked as an ad — “promoted,” I can judge what it is and accept it or ignore it.I’m more concerned about the other rigging done by the devs, which is to make a recommended list of their friends, and to have allowed some of their friends to amass huge followers’ lists beyond the cap of 2,000 using scripts — which they now disallow. The ordinary mortals like me not on the A-list of bloggers is stuck at 2,000 forever, unless I’m willing to accept SEO hustlers and prostitutes as friends to boost me over the limit. But I regularly cull out those people which constantly reduces my follower list back down and creates a churn of regular people and fakes.No media has ever been supported by subcriptions or metering. All media requires ads to survive. It’s a fact of life. The question is whether the ads really work on Twitter. I hear they do; I have my doubts.

  13. Norm Levy

    Our “Voices” in Twitter is a misnomer unless we use 🙂

  14. Heidi Cohen

    Fred-Thank you for highlighting Ev Williams’ commentary since it speaks to the underpinnings of social media that can be traced back to the Cluetrain Manifesto. When examining how social media has democratized publishing and accelerated information distribution, this thinking is important to remember especially since it comes from one of the architects of the process of change. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  15. pickovven

    … yet no one has mentioned John Stuart Mill’s philosophy that competing ideas/voices, which we call noise, has a way of giving ‘truth’ a loudspeaker when the exchange is free and easy. In this case, it might not be truth but simply what interests us.

  16. Josh Klein

    What’s scary to me is not so much the noise of the masses, but rather the ability for people to only listen to ideas they already like. As media fragments and we have to choose what to listen to, read, and watch… we naturally gravitate towards things we already like and away from things that push our boundaries. How do we combat the echo chamber effect?

    1. Emmanuel Bellity

      I agree there is even a fancy concept for that, Confirmation Bias:…Actually it’s hard to fight because its deep down in our psychology – even if you are being presented a different kind of information, you’re going to read it from a personal angle and somehow select the arguments that make more sense to you and underestimate the others

  17. Steve Hallock

    The argument that democratic publishing creates TOO MUCH noise largely comes from people who either do not understand or are unwilling to accept basic human traits.There is no question that when everyone publishes, noise is created. However, it is self-canceling as the network effects of so many publishers serves to lift the good content from the bad. We have numerous tools to aid this and tailor it to our own preferences (Google, “following”, the social graph, etc).There is, unfortunately, no way to avoid the fact that some people are just not very smart, not very well-educated, and not very capable. A portion of them will undoubtedly get lost in the sea of noise or end up keyed in to the wrong content. Again, this is an axiom of the system. Counterintuitive to some is that the way to mitigate this is to allow for MORE content, i.e. lower barriers, rather than less. The fewer alternatives, the less competition, the less likely for the easiest to find content being the best. The more we can rely on network effects rather than money and infrastructure to weed through content, the better the best content will be and ultimately the easier to find.

  18. Alex Murphy

    It took 300 years for the invention of the printing press, and the rapid rise of literacy to result in the Age of Enlightenment that gave us the founding of the United States of America.The printing press enable the rapid increase in the distribution of ideas and information, it was radical, but it was only available to a few.The ability for anyone to create their own platform of ideas, and to distribute those ideas to the world is even more radical. It will be awesome to see what this new information age creates in 20 to 30 years and beyond … not to mention 300 years from now.

  19. kenberger

    “Everyone should have a printing press and should use it as often as they see fit.”Even osama bin laden, true? Freedom of Speech.

  20. Karthik Ramakrishnan

    Well written and well said by both Ev and you. I realized the power of twitter when Bombay was hit by terrorists in 2008. Every person on the street was a live reporter thanks to his/her tweets from the scene of carnage. Twitter is the new Digg and more.Love reading your blogs! You churn out great stuff.Karthik

  21. Emmanuel Bellity

    That’s to me one of the most interesting impact of technology. Everyone has a voice and can express it, and with mobile it is now spreading in emerging countries as well. That’s very powerful for democracy. Hence the need for a mobile social voting platform.

  22. vruz

    Do you think Twitter can continue to be that if they seek an IPO and become yet another corporate mamooth?What are the chances they can stay true to this admirable core belief?

    1. fredwilson

      that’s awesome

  23. ShanaC

    I don’t think people realize that what you advocate includes shaking apart political and social realities. If everyone has a voice, what is to stop those from exposing others to a different life.There are days where I wish I could introduce you to some people I know. Their lives have been totally upended by the internet. I equally meet people who fear the internet so much- I think they realize than in their heart of hearts, if they are exposed to other worlds, they won’t stay in the one they are in.The internet is the biggest social change I have seen in my life

  24. Kleinschtuba

    I believe Twitter is to communication what Big Macs are to a healthy diet. I simply do not believe that the net effect is positive. Did you ever see movie “Idiocracy” ??? Twitter brings us closer to that reality. Kick my balls!

  25. Michael Tupper

    Its ironic that it is termed as “voice”, since that is the only essential element that is still missing from the social graph: audio/voice. Unless its video or music, the social graph is on mute.

  26. Mark Mc Laughlin

    Fred,Could you extend this analogy further in terms of what the internet enables people to do that they previously couldn’t?Lowering the barrier and disintermediation of established monopolies are very similar in the industry I work in (ticketing and venue management software).The most interesting thing how established players spend so much time trying to convince their clients that what the service they provide couldn’t be taken in-house as they don’t want to cannibalise their existing business models even if they are crumbling.Software lowers the barrier to empower the rights holder to do it themselves and ticketing and most products sold online are ultimately a digital receipt and this is why we believe the event ticketing industry will follow the travel industry and take their ticketing in-house as their our real operational and financial benefits.ThanksMark

  27. paramendra

    Blogger continues to be my favorite social media platform. It is not Facebook, it is not Twitter. And I am not switching to WordPress. Here’s to Ev.

  28. dbv

    Clay Shirkey’s failure of filters is a wonderful insight into the evolution of the web. The Internet and web are monstrous in size and the speed with which new things catch fire and spread is breathtaking. Google went live with 10m or so pages in ’98. Today, Facebook has 650m users and there supposedly 1 trillion web pages. With the mobile internet, the talk is of billions of users connected into real-time services. When you stand back for a while, all this is truly staggering when you compare with just 10 years ago.I’ve posited before that Twitter may have difficulty reaching a larger number of users and may in fact see a decline to a steady-state of tens of millions of users. My reasoning is that the population of potential Internet users for a service are massive where the early adopters could easily be a hundred million users now. Facebook made the transition from early adopters to the early majority. Maybe, Twitter fill find it difficult to do so.It is possible that in a few years time, a base of 100m users for an ad-supported service won’t be taken as seriously as one with a minimum billion users. The technology adoption cycle has to be applied to an Internet of billions of users.

  29. howardlindzon

    You nailed it all the way back with geocoties and thestreet. amazing how hard it is in publishing to stay relevant for 5 years let alone 10 anymore

  30. Donna Brewington White

    Regarding all the voices and players “publishing” on the internet, it feels like a study of free market enterprise with some of the same factors at work. Like in capitalism, cream rises to the top, the fittest survive and those offering the greatest value (contribution) and sometimes just sheer volume emerge to the forefront. However, even in using the word “forefront”, there are a myriad of “fronts” representing the interface with different audiences of varying composition and size. That’s a lot of places to shine. One of the things that fascinates me about the internet is that even though in some ways it feels like it’s been around forever and has become multilayered and complex, it is still so new. Seems like we have only begun to explore the boundaries of a vast frontier. And for some a massive playground.

  31. Ateeqahmed

    The internet is the biggest social change I have seen in my life ..nice one