Posted by: zyxo | March 7, 2008

crowds, ratings and pheromones

When there is a crowd, people go towards it to see what is happening. It may be interesting or there may be nothing to see. They do not know in advance. The crowd only dissipates when you can see from a distance that a lot more people are moving away from it than to it. So people know upfront that the thing is over.

Ants do not rely on crowds to know whether or not there is food. They use pheromones.

On the web people use ratings or page ranks to know if a webpage or site is worth surfing to. These ratings are local. There are the equivalence of a crowd watching some street artist. Only when you are already there, or the address is clickable, can you see what others think of it. Not before! This whould pose a problem for ants : how to get there ?

In the ant world pheromones are placed on the way between the food source and the ant hill, when the ants return home loaded with food. Other ants just have to follow the largest pheromone trails to find the food source. Pheromones dissipate and as such dissapear when the food source is depleted. Can we use things like pheromones on the internet ?

NO, for two reasons :

First : ant food gets depleted after a while, while the only thing that augments when shared is information/knowledge. So on the internet the information sources are not eaten, but copied and stay there, available for anyone forever.

Second : where could you lay pheromone trails on the internet ? There are no roads to follow. You just jump to where you want to be, you do not follow a road ! So Surfers on the internet behave like locusts. They jump from one place to the other without touching the ground in between.

One more thought about depletion : even on the internet the information gets depleted. Although it stays there, it becomes obsolete, newer information is more interesting, so it is necessary for googles and yahoo’s and diggs to let their page ranks evaporate, and give a higher weight on more recent links, clicks, rss feeds and whatever shows interest in some web page.

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