Some time you have to reinvent yourself ..

Actually you can never rest on your past laurels!

You have to re-invent yourself all the time. Old clothes however fashionable for it’s time, looks old and are not pleasing to the eyes.

The beauty of youthfulness is not easy to articulate but is all around us, to see.

With time, wear and tear takes it’s toll on human body . It leaves deep psychological scars. It impacts all that has been conceived by humans.

Why this sudden convulsions about change and getting old?

I know, I am getting old but thats not the reason for my preoccupation with such thoughts.  I was wondering about the evolution of a particular type of product, specifically a web product, with time.

Hang on and I will explain myself.

In fact, web exploded from irc, nntp (news boards) to various question – answer forums where like minded people could connect, ask questions , get relevant answers from experts. It helped build a community that could exist solely on the web and  minimized the needs for physical meetings. Most communities benefit from being local. Web forums breached these barriers as this was not much of a requirement any way.

How ever, certain characteristics have remained the same, even with these virtual forums. The involvement in these forums allowed an individual to build a community acceptance. It increased the visibility of person among the like minded folks who have come together on a web forum for a particular purpose. Personalities emerged from the way they interacted in these forums.

Here are some of the sites that has been successful in the past and look as forlorn as they could today.

The newer generation seems to be building such communities at stackexchange. This is not because the older sites have outlived their usefulness. You still go to old sites because they appear in the search. They have wealth of information locked in, which could be useful answer to your query.

How ever, they are no more an active playgrounds for today’s generation. Some did fared better than others. In the Twitter and Facebook paralance, they are so uncool.

“Wiki answers” emulates wikipedia and since it is a wiki, the information usually gravitate towards being better. Other sites that depend on more interactive information, had fared worser. “Google Answers” is closed for the moment. “Yahoo answers” have release a mammoth pile of noise from which it is very difficult to sieve nuggets of wisdom.

What happened?

They provided a free forum that would be managed by a fewer folks. How ever, most of interactions (query / reply) on these sites were plagued by lime light whores, who did not have much to offer, but wanted their 15 minutes of fame by hitting the “Reply” button. The forum owners realized that this was next to impossible to manage. The resultant effect has been that noise subsumed the useful signals contained in these forums.

Web products like Stackoverflow has been built on the giant shoulders of these older web products.  They have learn from their failings. They have grown, evolved and is the likely heir to the same mantle that each of these older products have worn for some period of time in the past.

So what has been the difference?

With time, the notion of social applications emerged. These newer platforms granted more freedom and bestowed more responsibility in participating and building useful information. These platforms have also provided selective folks from the community the same power as the owners in maintaining the platform. They selection is based on an automated reputation system. They have built reputation system that guarantees to have similar effect on the user as a person that gets accepted in a society. They have also added a way to measure this reputation and bestow responsibilities and freedom on the individual who has shown a degree of maturity in the past.  Stackoverflow is among one such products.

Wish, we had created a similar reputation system within the various social instruments that we have invented as a society.

We have fragments of this approach in our daily life. Take the case of traffic violations, repeated offenders have more stringent restrictions and judicial punishment than a first time flingers. We could do with a more integrated response, where an individual’s privileges are dependent on such a reputation system that starts when one is young and it dies along with you. I know, you are thinking of taxes, but that is devious thinking.

Unfortunately, we have seen two extreme end of the spectrum in the society that has not been useful to it. The society has either responded with extreme freedom and have your own – Wild wild west , Bihar .. or has responded with a complete restriction of freedom like the iron curtain practices of the communist and military regimes. Neither had a positive impact on the society.

I know, you must be wondering, what did I start with and where have I ended with!

I guess, correct or incorrect but new ideas can result from sudden and unexpected juxtaposition of seemingly different notions.

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