Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Web 2.0 and Information

First let’s distinguish between data and information, distilling useful knowledge (information) from an infinite sea of material. The debate rages as Web 2.0 drowns humanity in a bazillion blogs, YouTube videos, and an infinite expansion of uncontrolled web content consumed at the viewer’s peril.

Anyone can say anything, and we have arguments for and against the hyper-democratic sea of expression. The teaming masses of blithering idiots have been given a voice. Humanity is a network of conversations. Leadership is managing conversations. Drop dead top of the line no kidding leadership is managing the context of conversations.

The art of crafting context is the stuff that makes Caesars. Speaking, listening, and context involve rich and deep distinctions touched upon in The Blue Chapter.

Google Hillary just for videos, and there are pages of results pro and con. Who watches these productions? What difference do they make?

Those tapped in know Jennifer Granick’s well read Wired article about saving democracy via online disclosure sites like OpenSecrets. While Jennifer argues that Web 2.0 promotes democracy, another set of intellectuals argues that it reduces humanity to the lowest common denominator of ignorant and undisciplined content, washing away grounded academic discourse in an orgy of information anarchy, articulated in Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur. They eschew Wikipedia as unfounded nonsense anyone can post and edit. The assertion that anyone can post and edit is accurate.

The assertion that the product is unfounded nonsense is not accurate.

Librarians are not particularly pleased with Web 2.0, and Michael Gorman provides a good example of the technophobe argument in his "Sleep of Reason" material.

Michael and his ilk fail to grasp the two way nature of conversation and the power of listening. 98 percent of blogs are NEVER read. Movies bomb. Books end up on bargain shelves for $2.99. People visit Sonoran Alliance, RRR, and Arizona Congresswatch because the sites have earned readership with content that provides value.

I consider Wikipedia the distillation of the power of listening. Go ahead, post garbage at Wikipedia. Plant false information. Watch how long it persists. I posted here about an experiment where very obtuse errors were introduced into the Wikiverse. In a matter of hours, all errors were corrected. THINK.

Web 2.0 does not have aggressive white cell Wikignomes policing its content. My assertion: readers know this. The technophobes ground their concerns in the notion that if there are people stupid enough to believe Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Bill O’Reilly, surely they are vulnerable to nonsense at a Web site.

They underestimate the predisposition, growing sophistication, and filtering abilities of the surfers, who are not the same people that listen to Rush or watch Bill. Even the mediocre Web 2.0 consumers understand they traverse infinite ore to be mined for value. Discard the rest. The blogosphere is not an encyclopedia. The technophobes don’t get that we get it.

3 Comments:

Anonymous The Navigator said...

You did not find that image.

It's too good. It's spectacular. You created that image.

You're an artist, and you're getting better. The reference to white cells is crystallized elegance.

7/24/2007 2:00 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

Most of the people who would take the assertions of Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly et. al, are not the type who would best utilize web 2.0 anyway, regardless of any merits or flaws it might legitimately have.

To be fair, wikipedia _can_ retain some pretty egregious errors for extended periods of time. This will not typically be true for topical articles, or for fairly significant ones even if they are not topical.

However, just as you say 98% of blogs are not read, the same applies to the cast majority of wikipedia articles. An entry about a little-known politician can be maliciously modified and remain in that state for months (as has happened now and then).

Those types of abuses tend to be glaringly obvious once found. More pernicious are errors in technical articles, or articles about lesser-known subjects (famous chess players, say) where a mistake might slip in and remain unnoticed for some time as the article itself may not be read often, and when it is read, the reader doesn't possess the expertise to recognize the mistake.

Don't get me wrong -- I love wikipedia and what it symbolizes, and over time I think it is generally accurate and articles tend to converge to a point of increasing accuracy. Certainly, it can be kept up-to-date far more easily than an old encylopedia set can. Still, there are (as is usually the case) ways it can be abused and misused.

Of course, as you note in your conclusion, the real trick is everyone training their BS-meters. O'Reilly and Limbaugh both tend to max mine out.

7/24/2007 2:02 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Well said, Sirocco. Wikipedia is not perfect, but I stand by my assertion that it offers outstanding content with high reliability. I think the Wiki world is fascinating.

Navigator,

Do you know the doctor? I wish you guys would post like real people with blue names. I'll continue to allow anonymous posting so long as nothing horrible shows up, but your credibility and identity are compromised.

Anyone could post as you, except of course, for the reference to the white cells.

7/24/2007 6:24 PM  

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