In my last piece I finished with a throwaway remark “And there’s another thing: social media – don’t get me started….”. That quip generated more private correspondence than the rest of the article.

I have been around the internet for a long time – long enough to remember when Mosaic was the hot new kid on the block. Many of my attitudes were formed then, by the absorption of ‘netiquette’ (remember that?) through cultural osmosis and also through a willing acquiescence in the projection of West Coast psychedelic world views onto the emerging medium (feed your head with John Markoff: What the Dormouse Said). To this day the ongoing bending of the internet to the will of corporate and political interests is a continuing source of profound disappointment.

Purchasing Insight logoHow times change when distrust of breadheads (man) makes me an idealistic old fogey!

My scepticism has rapidly extended to social media and the supposed necessity of the likes of LinkedIn and Twitter for the conduct of business.

Let me set this up as a general assertion: the utility of social media is in inverse proportion to their use for marketing messages. Put another way, social media have become storm drains clogged with random detritus flushed downstream by permanent torrents of liquid spam.

Linked in interest groups are increasingly the target of robo-ads for jobs or yet more marketing messages. Twitter is great for niche news and personal use but noise is drowning out signal in all other respects. In personal space Facebook is increasingly dreadful unless it is firmly and aggressively ad-blocked.

And then there are blogs.  I agree with the thrust of Pete’s comments here – but I have to say also that there are massive quality control and credibility issues with so much of what appears.

This is not new. I still have a note I wrote in July 2001 commenting on those who pronounce on e-procurement and e-commerce strategies, approaches and technologies with few hints that they might actually get their hands dirty with something so vulgar as a tangible deliverable. Much of what I see in the procurement/e-procurement arena is not significantly different from what I saw twelve years ago when I first became involved, and no more convincing either.  The key difference with the move to on-line publication is sheer volume.

Print media were and are bad enough for requiring what Pete is now learning to call signal-noise disintermediation strategies: social media are worse. My own disintermediation strategy is quite simple: if the author has delivered something I’ll read and listen and learn. If they have only ever commented from the sidelines I’m unlikely to pay much attention because, another old fogey concept, they haven’t paid their dues. It follows that neither am I interested in aggregators of opinion – I am very interested in trusted mediators or what we used to call editors.

As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “don’t believe everything you read online”

Ian Burdon can be found on twitter @IanBurdon