here, that the type of person who takes the lead in generating content, blogging and the online world isn't necessarily reflective of society as a whole.
My wondering is, if we don't understand and take account of any built in bias, what impact could that have long term in the way we ask brands to engage in the online space?
Would sections of society become left out of the virtual world? Would the participatory nature of the blogging community, like open source software development, somehow skew everyone's perception of the real world?
To be crude to prove a point. If ultimately all off line research were discarded in favour of data from "pure" customer sentiment online. What general biases would start to emerge?
Could it be, that in the future we will have a sense of the way certain groups of bloggers think, as we do now with the leanings of the printed media - or would a general viewpoint emerge? Would we find "most" online reaction more left wing, more green, more anti big business than our conventional media. I suspect so.
The argument against, would suggest as more of the population engage and generate content, then any early leanings one way or the other will soon disappear. But it would be foolish to ignore the possibility, certainly in the short term.
I'm reminded of the 3 personality types profiled in the Tipping Point - mavens, connectors and salesmen. In the real world Gladwell assumes all 3 personality types interact, to generate a tipping phenomena. But what would happen if we were to profile 1000 bloggers and find a disproportionate number of them were salesmen? What would that do to an ideas ability to "tip" online?
Perhaps there is a large chunk of research or book I've missed. If not this would be a fascinating area of study for a brand or institution.