Opinions as Online Currency

Over on the Booknet Canada blog, Morgan Cowie wrote about subscription models in online news and how they don’t work in part because they stifle the sharing and conversation that make the Web go ’round. She wonders if similar models would work for ebooks, which are very different from news articles*.

But I’m not really wanting to talk about ebooks. I want to talk about this quote from the post: “Online content is the currency of connection and limiting the way this can be spread undercuts one of the primary functions of reading news in the first place.”

I agree with the second part of this statement: restricting people’s ability to share online content not only stifles one of the primary uses of the web (to share the stuff we like or dislike), but it also consequently inserts a great big barrier to people finding that info at all. That can’t be in the best interest of media sites, eh?

The first part of that quote I’d like to pick apart a little. I don’t think it’s online content, per se, that’s the currency of connection. I think opinions are the currency that makes the online world spin. We share opinions in exchange for content. That content is the product, really; opinions are the figurative coins. Sort of. Really, opinions are the value we place on that content. (This is a difficult metaphor to run with; forgive me.)

People aren’t interested in any old content just because it’s there. We’re interested in things we relate to in some way or another, and we’re interested in things other people we relate to are interested in. It matters to me that someone I like and admire enjoys a certain book, or that someone I know has similar taste to mine loves a new band. I like to engage with people who hate things I love and vice versa.

Opinions are the things that matter, from the passive endorsement of passing along a link without comment, to the commenting on said passing on, to big long rambling blog posts like this one.

What’s your opinion?

* I haven’t really taken the ebook plunge yet, for several reasons. One, I despise the DRM and proprietary formats of Amazon’s Kindle (also, the Kindle isn’t available in Canada yet), and I’ve heard iffy things about the consistent working of the Sony Reader. Also, books are about the one thing we collect chez Werker, and I love full bookshelves; we also lend books to friends all the time. Maybe when Sony puts out a new version of their reader I’ll take the plunge for books I won’t feel compelled to keep or lend out.

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