Monday, March 26, 2012

Do I Taste Better When You Know it's Me?

Perception Projection
The perception of "who we are" in the social network is a mosaic that includes every post we've made.

Coke makes cola taste better. Not Coke the secret formula. Coke the brand.  People prefer Coke and Pepsi pretty evenly in blind taste tests. But three out of four prefer the taste of Coke when the cup is labeled with the brand name. Researchers can actually see the impact of the brand in real-time brain scans.

These findings add an interesting dimension to our discussion over the past few weeks related to influence and SLebrity.  Are posts from people with strong "personal brands" within the Second Life community more valued and discussed than they would otherwise merit?  If we were forced to reboot identities and start from scratch, would the same people end up making a name for themselves or would new voices emerge within an even playing field? 

I wonder to what extent we'd perceive each tweet in our stream differently if the sender's name were hidden. It would be a very interesting experiment.





18 comments:

Imnotgoing Sideways said...

It's not unlike going around in an unknown alt in SL. One alt has been my means of getting to discussions I'd sooner be pre-emptively banned from due to my name. (^_^)

Sort of a 'whatever works' thing. Some people who really views me as some sort of rival actually gets along with me quite well... When I'm not "me". XD

Maria Korolov said...

I totally agree. I *know* I can't taste the difference -- when people serve me cola in a restaurant, I don't know which I'm getting.

But if, say, Diet Pepsi was on sale, and I bought it instead of Diet Coke -- which I did once -- every sip tasted awful. I could see, right there on the can, a constant reminder that I wasn't drinking Diet Coke but some other, inferior, beverage!

Even knowing it was all in my head. I don't buy anything else but Diet Coke.

Now ginger ale is a different story -- I have no problems drinking generic and am perfectly happy with it no matter what the brand.

But this reminds me of something. There was a great scene in Spin City where Michael J. Fox bites Heidi Klum. "What did Heidi Klum's butt taste like?" he's asked later. And he says: "Tastes like chicken."

I would have to assume that the spiffier the celebrity, they more they'd taste like Heidi Klum.

But I don't think that all celebrities taste alike. I can think of a couple who probably wouldn't taste like Heidi Klum at all!

Chestnut Rau said...

Perhaps I already blog as an alt.

Joe Nickence said...

Heh. Personally, it all boils down to a nymwars reference. It doesn't make a damn bit of difference who I am or what my name is. It doesn't matter who I blog as, or where. Hardly anybody reads me, or comments on what I say, anyway. It depends on timing, and what the popular topic of the day is.

Tateru Nino said...

Perhaps I already blog as an alt.

Botgirl Questi said...

Imnotgoing: I didn't mention the flip side of micro-celebrity, which you bring up in your comment. One of the great things about virtual identity is that you can escape the baggage of your reputation by shifting to a pseudonymous alt account. It gives you a chance to either start over, or at least have a separate thread of social interaction and/or creative outlet.

I've noticed that people who put you up on a pedestal tend to flip if you don't meet their (imagined) expectations. Then you end up under the pedestal and instead of exaggerating and projecting a positive view, they exaggerate and project a negative view.

Botgirl Questi said...

Maria: I loved your comment. If I'm hearing properly through the tongue in your cheek, you're saying that some content really is generic while others has a distinctive taste. Is that right?

Botgirl Questi said...

Chestnut and Tateru: And, um, theoretically, if that's true, what have you noticed?

Botgirl Questi said...

Joe: That makes sense if you're not well known to many of the people who follow you. Or at least if they don't have a strong positive or negative impression of you.

Mr. Crap Mariner said...

My alt is far, far more popular than me, and I envy him.

Maybe... I'll have to... KILL HIM!

-ls/cm

Chestnut Rau said...

I actually don't blog as an alt. Although technically the name you all know me by is not my "real" name at all.

This post got me thinking about a number of things -- first would my "wallet name" write the same way Chestnut does? I think so, as I try to be as genuine as possible but there is freedom in not being connected to my family and work identity so I can't say for sure.

I also playfully considered what it would be like to create an avatar alt and argue with myself. I think it would be a great thought exercise to see if I could present fully developed ideas and arguments on different sides of an issue.

Having said all of that? I really only have one blog.

Yordie Sands said...

Some SL writers have a strong impact on me because they have a good track record of being right. This is where the difference is for me when it comes to _information_. Authors with brands I trust have credibility that's been earned.

When it comes to discovery, adventure, humor and such, that's different. If someone delights me with point of view, their brand takes on a bit of a magical quality with me and their brand becomes part of the magic.

There's so much blogging and news on the Internet, so it's hard to find authors to connect with. And credibility takes time to earn. I'm pretty sure I'd like the authors I like today if they had different names, but I might never find them out there in the expanse.

And another great thought provoking post, Botgirl! You've got a good brand going. ;)

Maria Korolov said...

BotGirl --

No, I guess I was saying that for some people, their "SLebrity" makes them taste better -- and, for others, it makes them taste worse.

To give an RL example, I would NOT want to bite Rush Limbaugh anywhere on his body. I'm not saying that there's an VW equivalent. But I'm not denying it, either.

Meanwhile, I think biting you WOULD be a tasty treat, much like biting Heidi Klum. Maybe a little spicier -- German cuisine is so bland! :-)

Maria Korolov said...

But, on a more serious note, I do put more weight into a blog post if I know who wrote it -- and I know they have a good reputation.

If you take a misspelled, ungrammatical article, but it's from a big-name figure, someone with an impact, I might ask them for a reprint, and edit it (after all, they're busy, or a non-native English speaker, or a developer, or what have you) and run the reprint.

But if it's a high school student doing a class paper, then their opinion -- even though it might be identical -- isn't going to carry much weight, especially if it's a one-off post to fulfill a class requirement. Now, that same student could put work in it and develop a reputation by consistently writing interesting, informative, or enlightening posts.

I also tend to prefer blogs written "on the record" -- not necessarily legal names, but identifiable names. But that's mostly because I have a business focus. If someone from a big organization writes something explosive it makes a bigger impact, because they're normally more circumspect. Warren Buffet's thoughts on investing carry more weight than those of a neighborhood bookkeeper.

Ramesh Ramloll said...

yes, often if you are unknown and even if you say something meaningful, it is less likely that what you say will receive the same amount of coverage than say some pleasant social extrovert out there. But I think, the brand factor is only significant for stuff that are not radically different. If you come up with something really ground breaking then ... in all likelihood the product will create the brand even if it is misbranded as 'shit'. 'Shit' can even be transformed into something positive.

Deoridhe said...

One of the interesting things about having a stable online identity across multiple platforms is I've gotten to see how people in new situations react to me when I'm a "blank slate" to them, and compare it to previous relationships. It's not unlike moving to a new neighborhood. Oddly - or perhaps not? - a lot of the reactions are the same. I also recently returned to the stomping ground on SL where I started out, and interestingly my reputation had remained even though I've been absent for well over a year - I find the same thing happens when I revisit old forums and suchlike; there is a weight and reputation I have which is entirely outside of my control.

Now and then I've thought of "reinventing" myself, and I have an alt who is markedly different from me IC and OOC (she was a roleplaying alt, but one I wanted to not tie back to my main for various reasons) and people did react differently to her, except for the people who knew she was me (which were only a few close friends). I've not spent too much time on her, and I was surprised at the effort it took to NOT be me even under a different name and with an entirely different style.

Vaneeesa said...

I think the important thing to understand is that Coke and Pepsi are both, technically, poisons. They'll rot your teeth, fry your arteries, and shorten your life.

So simply blogging as an alt isn't enough. You have to carefully choose your alt. I'd suggest blogging as a filtered water or herbal tea. In either case, a twist of lemon tweets could add interest. Of course your social beverage taste may vary.

Remember to always alt blog responsibly.

Botgirl Questi said...

Crap: He's missing. Should we presume dead?

Chestnut: You've brought up another interesting side of the equation, which is how our identity (how we are known to other people) impacts what we write.

Yordie: Since I believe everything we post is telling a story about who we are, it makes sense to me that the meaning of what we post is at least partially perceived within the context of what's come before.

Maria: Thanks for clarifying! I think it makes sense to consider the source. And since we have a lot more limited time and attention than there are information sources, it's important to prioritize in some way. If I followed everyone, I couldn't give good attention to anyone.

Ramesh: The challenge is getting noticed, even if you have a good idea. The great thing about the internet is that everyone has a worldwide audience. The challenge is that it makes most people needles in a worldwide haystack.

Deoridhe: There's all kinds of research suggesting that our initial perception of people varies based upon status, appearance, group identity and other such factors. So what you say and do is evaluated to some degree within the context of who people think you are.

Vaneeesa: Good point! Good taste doesn't mean good for you.