I've been thinking a lot lately about how exactly the internet functions from a human standpoint. There are a number of ways for raw information to be transferred, but the most important, and valuable, information seems to travel between people. This information usually seems to be of the recommendation type, meaning it's experience related information. In a way it's not unlike the passing of generational knowledge from one group to the next.
What exactly am I talking about? Well, I'll go out on a limb and use myself as an example. When I first went online I probably knew about less than a dozen sites on the internet. I knew that if I wanted to find stuff, I could probably go to Yahoo! or WebCrawler, and I could find my way to a few corporate sites for information about things I was interested in. Aside from that I didn't know much. However, over time, I came to learn of AltaVista (when it was brand new), and eventually Google (currently all the rage). I don't really know how (under what influence) I made those transitions, but I did. In some manner, some one passed along knowledge about where I could go to find what I was looking for.
The same is true for many of the sites I visit and hang out at today. I don't know how, why, or under what circumstance, but I found my way to Slashdot, to Kuro5hin, and many other sites that I enjoy and frequent. One thing that I can say for sure though, is that I have never in my life seen an ad for Google, Slashdot, freshmeat or Kuro5hin. It seems as though the recommendation, the knowledge, experience, or whatever you choose to call it came to me via another person, and that it also came to them via another person.
It seems as though the best form of advertising and promotion is none at all. The key to success, seems to lie in initially connecting with a solid and vigilant user base that spreads the word. I can't say I've ever seen an ad for Napster. Many of today's popular sites, seem to have grown mainly, even exclusively, through word of mouth.
The particularly interesting thing to me has been the introduction of information dissemination points. Take Slashdot for example. They have essentially gained the power to influence a large community by choosing to plug or link other sites. I think this is evidenced by the relative success of sites that have been mentioned there, particularly their own (newsforge, sourceforge). The "slashdot effect" has a fear/crave association to it. Is this power or ability good or bad?
So really, I would like to hear what all of you have to say on the subject. How do you hear about sites? How did you come to k5? If you have ever created a site, how did you get users? Was it slow and steady, was their a bolt of registrations? Do you even agree with some of what I have theorized above? And, what is your take on how information travels on the internet?
(Oh, and it you have any good sites on dancing lemurs, I'd love to know about them.)