So the big geek-out thing as of late has been buddyzoo, which allows you to calculate your worth as a person via reciprical rankings done on your AIM buddy list.
I know this is going to be an important and/or big meme over the next month or two because I was told about it not once, not twice, but three times. Three people on my list, who have no real connection other than being Cornellians (which, if you’ve gone to school at Cornell, you know is not a connection) – so I guess that makes it a “burst” or whatever Kleinberg is pushing them as these days.
It got me thinking, though – there’s a huge obsession with having a rank in everything we do. I’m certainly not excluding myself from this, given that I have a big fat link to blogshares (go buy some of my stock!) and I’ve been known to google for myself about twice a month to see how I rank on my own name. But consider:

  • The way we know which entertainment is the “best” is by how it ranks in the weekly sales chart, or Neilsen ratings, or if you want to ignore sales data by composite reviews.
  • Video gamers are obsessed with ranking. Internet Ranking is huge these days. Konami put it in MGS2:Substance – why? Who cares! Get ranked, kids! Amplitude has online ranking that will drive you batty with the desire to play more and more. The DDR tournament scene is entirely driven on PA, which is a cold numerical calculation on who’s better than who – and of course, there’s controversy in counting algorithms all the time. All of our Freeverse games are ranked, and people go ape over their ranking.
  • And then there’s the blogisphere, where what you care about most is how many people are viewing you. I’m not talking just daily hits/impressions/whatever. It costs “credits” to subscribe to my LiveJournal syndicated account, but the more people that do so, the less credits it costs. My blog “share” price is dictated by links out, links in, and market traffic. There’s a slew of google related measures of success – googlejuice, googlerank, googledance, and googlewashing.
  • Let’s not get started on Cornell and the words “Standard dev”, where your place in society is dictated by how far you fall from the mean.

This is all crazy, isn’t it? I always hear advertisements saying “we won’t just treat you like a number” – but more and more, isn’t that all we want?
I realize that Cory Doctorow focuses on “whuffie” in DAOITMK (which I’ve unfortunately put on hiatus while I pick up my new book) which adds some more insight into this all – expect a revisiting of this topic once I get around to finishing that.
I leave you with a quote that stuck with me when I played through Deus Ex three years ago. In one of the side areas, you can have a long conversation with an AI named Morpheus – as I recall, most of it isn’t essential to the plot, but it’s a nice diversion. This one quote stuck with me enough to make the quotefile, and it definitely applies now:
“The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms.”