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Foraging and surfing

I’ve often said that we don’t know enough about how peope behave online – e.g. how they read blogs or other web sites. Do we visit the same sites over and over again? Or do we surf, following links we stumble across as we wander, and now with pervasive social media, those that are posted on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.? More likely both – we have some sites we visit regularly, but we also bounce around a lot.

Behaviors are probably more complex than we think. Seth Godin writes that he learned, from Clay Shirky, of something called a Lévy flight: Example: “an animal that forages will hang out in a small area, looking for nuts or berries, then will realize it has used up all the likely sources in this spot. It will then head off in a random direction, walk many paces, and start foraging again.” The online version:

Someone discovers your site. They poke and prod and join and return and return again. Then they feel as though there’s no more benefit and they move on, surfing until they find another place to forage.

Godin calls this “a much more nuanced representation of consumer behavior than solely thinking about the ideas of brand loyalty or random web surfing.” But I’m enough of a nimrod to want to substitute the word human for consumer.

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