Saturday, August 27, 2011

Two Conspiracy Theories About Two Internet Companies

1) Is surrepetitious plausible deniability built into Facebook? Facebook is notoriously buggy. In particular sometimes users inexplicably can't see friends, or get error messages when they try to send friend requests to other users (this particular problem is affecting me right now). Of course, actual bugginess in a massive network is the simplest explanation. But Facebook isn't run by morons, and it's interesting that those errors which occur most seem to be exactly those which facilitate the kind of social "plausible deniability" that can lubricate complex group relationships. "Oh, I didn't know that you had dated X..." (when you did) or "I would have sent you a friend invite, but for some reason the system wouldn't let me" (when you had no intention of sending one). For this to work most effectively, it would have to be on the down low, or everyone would suspsect that this is what was going on, because they would be able to more effectively use the trick themselves.

2) Is Bitcoin bolstering its bubble by encouraging negative press? There's no shortage of (probably reasonable) scare stories comparing Bitcoin to various extraordinary popular delusions. The question at this point is: after this deluge of negative predictions from some very heavy hitters, what would it take to convince Bitcoin investors that there will eventually be a collapse? It seems that the Bitcoin bubble has already endured worse pricks than the 1920s stock market or the aughts housing market, and still the craze continues. (I retrodict that there are far more negative bitcoin articles for July 2011 than for the U.S. housing market in July 2006, and the Bitcoin market is much smaller.) Is it possible that right from the start, Bitcoin's most interested parties were good students of history in the sense that they actively pumped the internet with negative publicity? That way the bubble will build for much longer, because buyers-in will have been hearing panicked shouts to sell the whole time.

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