Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, July 21, 2021

Apparently Bill Tancer, General Manager of Global Research at Hitwise, has such a bleeding-edge mentality when it comes to Web usage that he can’t fathom why millions of people, in the face of a rapidly-evolving online landscape, still troll Internet message boards.

We’re now in an era where MySpace usage is growing at a phenomenal rate, Wikipedia has over five million entries and users are posting their video commentary along with exploding Diet Coke/Mentos videos. Yet message boards devoted to financial information, as well as a myriad of other topics, continue to thrive — even in a time when most mainstream online participation is user reviews and blog commentary. And as we’ve seen with many Web 2.0 applications, anonymity, a key feature of message board postings, can call into question the veracity and motive of the boards’ content.

Yahoo! Message Boards is ranked as the 223rd most popular Internet site in the U.S. for the week ending July 14, 2007, according to Hitwise. It was also the 25th most popular Yahoo! Property during that same timeframe.

It’s not at all surprising to me. Blogs, online videos and other modern-day Web content may be more complex and engaging, but they require a pretty high level of commitment. Message boards are relatively commitment-free: Registration is typically simple and quick, and you can contribute and read as much or as little as you want. And they’re easy to follow and access, and there are plenty of playmates/adversaries to interact with.

Add to that that lots of message board devotees tend to be long-timers: They started on the boards when they first found the Web, some ten years ago. They’ve never seen a need to move onto other outlets, because they’ve worked so well for them over the years. In fact, I’ve heard of some downright hostility by board regulars toward blogs and other latter-day vehicles of Web expression.

I’ve experienced some anecdotal evidence of how sticky boards remain. I find that every time someone posts a link to this blog onto some message board post, I get healthy spike of hits, even if it’s on a relatively obscure board. That points to a high level of participation and trust in member contributions. In fact, in the limited SEO consultations I’ve done, I often recommend currying favor from message board regulars, just to pick up this type of exposure.

So yes, the hopelessly old-school boards (no longer BBS) are still around, and are still a force. Don’t count on them going away anytime soon.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/21/2007 07:03:11 PM
Category: Internet, Society
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After getting a reporter’s-eye view of the circus atmosphere surrounding the Catholic Church sex scandal in southern California, Los Angeles Times’ religion reporter William Lobdell has lost his religion and his job — both by choice:

As I walked into the long twilight of a Portland summer evening, I felt used up and numb.

My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago — probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up.

Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don’t. It’s not a choice. It can’t be willed into existence. And there’s no faking it if you’re honest about the state of your soul.

This coda comes from someone who, prior to seeing the seedy side of organized religion, had been devout. In fact, he lobbied to get assigned to the religion beat, in part to counteract what he saw as prejudicial characterizations of religious people in mainstream media. So he went into it supposedly secure in his faith.

How did Lobdell get so shaken? I can certainly see how encountering constant hypocrisy, exploitation, and dirty-dealing would sour even a lifelong church-goer. That such atrocities were perpetrated under the guise of religious purpose ought to trigger a spiritual struggle.

But.

It seems to me that Lobdell’s faith was misplaced in the first place: More rooted in his church (which wasn’t Catholic) than in his religion. Millions of faithful reconcile a pretty steady flow of church scandals — sex, financial improprieties and other Seven Deadly Sins terrain — by re-confiming their devotion to God and creed, if not the religious establishment. At some point, they’ll abandon their church as being, indeed, too corrupt and out-of-touch to be worthy of allegiance — but they’ll retain belief in God as something purer than Earthly failings. (Whether you think you can claim to be Catholic or Baptist or whatever without belonging to that church is a different debate.)

But to lose faith in God altogether directly because of the evils that take place within the church? To do that is to place greater weight on those crimes because they were carried out by clergy. It even hints at considering a house of worship as an insulator to the outside world, where those same sins are committed every day — and yet don’t manage to shake one’s faith as directly, I guess.

So like I said, to me this comes off as Lobdell losing faith in the church structure, and considering that to be one and the same as God. If he was more dedicated to religious ritual than to the underlying meaning of it, then it doesn’t surprise me that he’d give up. The wonder is how he managed to convince himself that he was ever especially religious to begin with.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 07/21/2007 06:36:23 PM
Category: Publishing, Society
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