Humans do it better

Here at Plow we are starting to tell our points of view on the state of web content and social media in a new series of blog posts. This is…

Here at Plow we are starting to tell our points of view on the state of web content and social media in a new series of blog posts. This is a departure from our usual “what’s new in the app!” posts of the past. We still will have those (and a big one is coming up soon) but we wanted to make sure we let the community know to expect something a little different. Please let us know what you think here or on Twitter.

Crowd, James Cridland, CC BY 2.0,

The best algorithms have always harnessed human judgment. Think of Google’s Page Rank, which originally took the ‘endorsements’ of other sites around the web, in the form of linked references to a site, to create a vastly more useful index of the web. Or user reviews from the platforms you trust like Yelp or Reddit, which allow you to find tribes of people that share a particular context with you, and allow you to sort and organize based on collective experience. Fully automated systems do an excellent job of categorizing data and separating potentially useful content from the expanding mass of spam and irrelevance that has become our internet. But we are suffering from an explosion of content so massive that identifying the top 5% is hardly worth celebrating. To find content that is actually worth your time, you need a resource that harnesses human judgment and organizes it around your varied and changing personal contexts.

To produce this resource, we’ll need to lean in as contributors. Fortunately, we don’t have to go it alone.

No matter your context at any point in time, the world is large and humans like you are everywhere. You would be hard pressed to find contexts that are not shared by at least tens of thousands of peers across the net. People that share your professional pursuits. People that live in your area. People that share your worldview or social, academic, or cultural interests. The networked world allows you to find a critical mass of peers for each these contexts. The best platforms over the last 10 years have found ways to rally people around common interests and channel their collective efforts to create resources with outsized social benefit.

While human judgment will remain king going forward, this should not belittle the role of machine learning, editorial discretion from reputable publications, or the role of individual content celebrities. These tools will continue to play important roles in defining the base layers of content that humans will judge. But these are lazy proxies for the content that should demand your attention at any given point in time.

No algorithm, publication, or individual expert should own your attention.

Your time is precious. Don’t leave it to the machines. You have the right to draft off the effort already expended by others. And when you find something worthwhile, pay it forward and make the resource that much richer for everyone!

If you liked this post, we’d greatly appreciate if you’d click the heart below and leave us some feedback here or on Twitter. We have lots of more to say on how content filtering and social needs to change but very much want to hear from the community.

Plow is an independent social platform and collection of communities where people find and share the best content without the noise of big social media, and get the information that matters with less effort.