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OK, I'll admit.  I love it when I see likes on stuff I write.  The good news is, if someone likes something online, chances are it will induce others to like it, too.

Found this out today in a story in the NYT by Kenneth Chang, who writes, "If you 'like' this article on a site like Facebook, somebody who reads it is more likely to approve of it, even if the reporting and writing are not all that great."

We'll skip that last part! But it's true.  How many times have you checked out something on Facebook a friend "liked"?  Even more insane, even if a friend dislikes something, Chang reports, "An unfair negative reaction will not spur others to dislike the article. Instead, a thumbs-down view will soon be counteracted by thumbs up from other readers."

Wish I could say I've seen that happen.  I remember writing several years ago an essay on parenting in which I talked (anonymously) about a friend and her humorous, I thought, way of disciplining her kids.  She had a meltdown over it and soon, there were what seemed like hundreds of unlikes and I've never really lived it down with a certain crowd of, shall I say, former friends.

But a new study has found, "A positive nudge. . . can set off a bandwagon of approval," Chang recounts, citing a story in Science magazine, which found that the first person reading a positive comment "was 32 percent more likely to give it an up vote if it had been already given a fake positive score."

Which brings us to a very interesting question, Chang posits: Is something popular because it is actually good, or is it popular just because it is popular?

Chang calls it the distortion of ratings through herding." and he says it's not new.   He quotes Duncan J. Watts, a scientist at Microsoft Research, who told him, "Something that starts slightly more popular will build upon that popularity until it is far ahead of its competitors — and conversely, something that does not catch on will usually fade away whether or not it is good."

Not sure what any of this means, but please, click like.        


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