I'm going to keep it light today with a couple of amusing bits about Social Media and its implications that are making the rounds.
The first is a claim of Wiki-tampering that has been leveled against Expedia. It seems that in Expedia's entry on Wikipedia, that portion of the entry that would contain critical comments about the company's services keeps getting whitewashed. A disgruntled Expedia customer noticed the frequent deletions of criticism, and decided to investigate. They discovered that the IP address of the editor who kept changing the entry in Expedia's favor was owned by, well, guess. Yup. Expedia. And thus the coverup becomes bigger news than the crime.
You can take a few things from this story. First, disgruntled customers are not a species you want to poke with a stick. And disgruntled ~travel~ customers are like rabid grizzlies. I know. I've been one. I, um, own the number one spot on Google for "Travelocity Sucks", and it's one of the most visited entries on my blog. Am I proud of that? Not really. But when your Christmas vacation is ruined by bad service, you can understand why someone would dig through Wikipedia's editor logs to find out who is erasing the criticism.
Second, maybe instead of paying someone to track and erase criticism, Expedia should pay someone to resolve more customer service complaints. Yes, I know, there are some customers with unreasonable demands that will never be happy. But that's a necessary cost of doing business. Getting caught trying to whitewash your reputation is not. It just tends to make your customer service priorities look a little tweaked.
Third, if you're going to do it, for pete's sake don't leave a trail back to your front door. Doesn't anyone watch CSI?
Another story that's been going around the past week is the unlikely success of American Idol contest Sanjay Malakar. In a prime-time grudge match of aspiring divas and rock stars, Sanjay has the most talented hair. It's not even close. But since the show is actually about singing, Sanjay's weak performances have a lot of people wondering how he has managed to survive. Rumours abound. Some say the show is rigged. Others say it's a diabolical plot by Indian call centers to overwhelm the vote-by-phone system that allows the public to determine the fate of Idol contestants. (Really. I didn't make that up.) But the most intriguing answer to Sanjay's absurd survival is VoteForTheWorst.com--a dark and dangerous counter-culture group dedicated to keeping the worst Idol contestant alive until the final weeks of the show.
Think about that for a moment. You have what may prove to be the most popular and successful television show ever. It's in its 6th season, and viewers may be getting a little bored. So someone comes up with the idea of generating a voting campaign for the worst contestent. Add to the entertainment by forcing the judges, and the public, to listen to the worst contestant week after week. It's cruel--not least to the hapless contestant. Though not so cruel as feeding people to the lions for entertainment, and when you open up a show to mob voting, you're likely to see the uglier side of society emerge.
What I find interesting about this story is that it's a perfect example of social media, and its unintended consequences, for better or worse. Whether VoteForTheWorst is actually preserving Sanjay, it shows how public involvement can change the nature, and in some senses even the intent, of even something so sacred as the world's most popular television show. People can make content their own in ways that producers might never anticipate. Who knows where this may lead.
It's a brave new world.