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How the Web is Helping the Indecisive

Submitted by Candice Horn on November 8, 2010 – 3:19 amComments

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imagesWoe is on the indecisive.

How many people do you know that are overwhelmed by the staggering amount of choices in New York City? There are probably thousands of competing bars, events, and restaurants that vary in degrees of coolness. How can one sift through so many?

With the endless possibilities, it’s easy to be crippled by indecisiveness. What would be a better time than now for the Internet to stroll along and solve our problems?

Word of Mouth has never been more popular.

Social networking and websites are saving us. True, this is a big statement. However, with the introduction of complex and interactive websites, it’s hard to argue that some people do incorporate them into their decision making process. What’s better than being in the know, and being able to show your friends the newest spots? The hippest music? Perhaps the web becoming more social is the key to solving some of our indecisiveness. Here are some examples how:

  1. Sites like Pandora. Pandora was probably the first of its kind. If you’ve been living under a rock, Pandora suggests new music for you based on what your favorite tunes. This isn’t the only site now that makes choices for you–it was merely the beginning. Examples:
  • Hunch.com- This database prompts users with twenty questions (or more if you have the time) to predict a wide selection of things that they might be interested in. Books, computers, electronics, new hobbies to pick up….all the great things that you can try worry free, based on your interests.
  • The Magic Eight Ball- A more generalized, fun way to make small decisions—if you believe in fate. Works just like an eight ball, but users must type the question into the box below.
  • StumbleUpon- The general idea is to direct users to discover a corner of the Internet that corresponds to their interests– through websites and links. With each “like” voted, you get that much closer to a personalized experience.
  1. Crowd Sourcing. An extreme example of how indecisiveness can be solved, but needed to be included. Although the subjects in question were focusing on becoming the next viral sensation, this is a good example of decision making influenced by suggestions. “Dating Brian” was one of the first to appear, in which Brian allows his users to choose which thirty girls he would date in thirty days. “Dan 3.0″ was another great idea–in which the subject, Dan Brown, took suggestions from viewers for the course of a year.
  2. Yelp! Although there are many other websites that accumulate the opinions of the public, none are as popular as Yelp! This website has legitimized the value of public opinion on any location, with helpful rankings and an indispensable application for mobile phones.
  3. Blogs. Depending on the blog you follow, most blogs usually chronicle trends and the hottest destinations in each topic. Think of sites such as Daily Candy, The Daily Beast, or Thrillist—some which hire reporters to personally uncover locations even before newspapers and magazines do. These suggestions are usually what people “who are in the know” look into when planning their night out.
  4. Facebook Questions. A new addition to Facebook, but with a Yelp! perspective in mind and also relying heavily on word of mouth. The basic principal is –you ask your friends questions. Why not ask everyone on Facebook publicly, and get a variety of opinions? I’ve seen people ask about the best steak houses to visit or things to see.
  5. Foursquare. Checking in? If you’re a stalker of any kind, it’s that much easier to piggyback off the places that other people have been to– or the places that they keep going to. Chances are, if they’re the mayor of that certain place, then it’s probably good.
  6. Facebook News Feed. This is where the majority of lurking comes into play, especially with the help of Facebook Places and links. All the most popular links, events, and comments can be viewed by a multitude of people. For example, think of Impromptu Everywhere. Whenever they have an event, they post it on Facebook—and every time a person chooses to attend, this pops up on the general News Feed. Others then become aware of this event, and if it’s public, can also choose to attend as well. Funny links get shared on everyone’s News Feed, which in turns fuels the social conversation. You don’t need to find the funniest link anymore or figure out the coolest places to go—you can just look on your News Feed or what your friends are up to on their wall.

There are probably a lot more sites that influence decision-making. Either way, these all fuel the importance of word of mouth from people you trust–no more experts, celebrities, or those who may be paid to promote anything.

The eerie thing about all this is how much of the same knowledge we’re spreading. It’s a strange feeling for me when I see my friends in Thailand talking about the best places to visit in New York, and sharing the exact same videos, except that they’re a week later. It’s funny how word of mouth isn’t restricted anymore and really does extend across countries. In a sense, we’re all piggy backing off one another, and that may leave room for some places to be ignored if they’re not the newest trend setting places.

Perhaps it all helps to the overall conversation that the world is now having. Let’s hope we’re not too distracted by all the cute puppies, pop culture trends and funny marketing ads to really just pull ourselves away.

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