Social Enterprise

Bruce Sterling: All blogs will die by 2018


Security expert and tech curmudgeon Bruce Sterling famously quipped at this year's South-by-Southwest conference that "I don't think there will be that many [blogs] around in 10 years. I think they are a passing thing." This got the blogosphere all a-twitter (ahem), but I think enough time has passed that we can look past this ill-worded point from Sterling's SXSW rant and get to the real moneyline:

"You are never going to see a painting by committee that is a great painting."

And he's right. This was Sterling's indictment of Wikipedia--and to the "wisdom of crowds" fad sweeping the Web 2.0 pitch sessions of Silicon Valley--but it's also a fair assessment of what holds most (not all) open source enterprises back: Lack of vision.

Nearly all great innovation comes from a singular vision pursued doggedly until it achieves success. Apple is a great example of this, as the company didn't really resume its cutting-edge status (for better or worse) until Steve Jobs returned, and gave us the iMac and iPod (for better or worse). And say what you will about Microsoft, but it was Bill Gates singular vision for Windows and the software industry that drove his company to its excess...er, success.

Opening your project up to an unreliable parade of volunteer contributors allows for a great, lowest-common-denominator consensus product. That's fine for Wikipedia, but I wouldn't count on any grand intellectual discourse arising therein. Same goes for most software developed by this method--almost all the great open source apps are me-too knockoffs of innovative proprietary programs, and those that are original were almost always created under the watchful eye of a passionate, insightful overseer or organization. Firefox is actually Mozilla Firefox, after all.

It's this necessity of vision, however, that will make blogs survive. "Blogs" as a catchphrase is meaningless; they're just a platform that makes it easy to publish text and media to the Web. It's mistaking a tool for a trend, and I'm sure the shine will wear off in a few years, when those blogging for trendiness' sake hop on the next fad. But by allowing bloggers to write and publish without need for the middling assistance of technicians--by simply letting writers write--they afford a singular vision, rather than block it. And that is why they'll survive.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

46 comments
Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

This is something I wrote over in ZDNet a short while ago; but I think it applies here quite well with some minor editing. There's one thing that bloggers should have before receiving a mantle of legitimacy and protection as journalists. They need to adhere to a system of ethics. The following sites are only a few of the many that exist out there on ethical standards for journalists: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_ethics_and_standards http://www.journalism.indiana.edu/Ethics/ And if you want a list of organizations that have journalist codes of ethics, you can find one here: http://www.web-miner.com/journethics.htm#orgs If you don't have an ethical code that you subscribe to, and you're a blogger, then you're really just a hack.

ralphclark
ralphclark

"...almost all the great open source apps are me-too knockoffs of innovative proprietary programs, and those that are original were almost always created under the watchful eye of a passionate, insightful overseer or organization. Firefox is actually Mozilla Firefox, after all." I think this contention is a tautology. I can't think of a single active, open source project that lacks a project team or at least a project leader of some sort. There will always be somebody "in charge", and they are there because they have a vision of where to go next with it. When the last person leaves, there is no maintainer, there are no more releases, and the project dies. So I don't see how there can be any open source projects that are still alive but somehow drifting aimlessly, as you seem to imply in order to make your point. It's a logical impossibility, isn't it?

rgeiken
rgeiken

Probably the reason that blogs have become so popular is that you can't trust what you read in the newspapers and hear on radio or TV. People are looking for different points of view on issues. Also, I am a dedicated user of Wikipedia which I consider to be a good source of information especially on a technical matters. All Encyclopedias are created by committees. That doesn't mean that I will believe political information that I find on Wikipedia. It is usually better to get information from various sources, and if they pretty much agree, it can be considered to have good reliability. I have never done any Blogging, since I will be learning more when I am reading things rather than writing them.

Super Travis
Super Travis

Perhaps this is being nit-picky, but that's like saying back in the 90's "All BBS systems will die by 2000." There are still some around, but they are by no means popular. No technology will totally die out any time soon. There will probably be some people watching betamax in 2050 at least. Some people will have a Windows 3.1 machine in their home in 2025.

apotheon
apotheon

. . . you just made that comment about open source software to guarantee discussion, didn't you? I know you can't possibly actually think that open source projects are inspirationally bankrupt. The real reason some of the higher-profile open source projects are knock-offs of commercial software is that they (mistakenly) think that's how to encourage migration from the commercial software. The people they're trying to please with this approach -- people who want the original software, or an exact clone with the serial numbers filed off -- will never be satisfied that it's close enough, and those who actually want something better will never be satisfied with a copy. A great many open source projects are actually quite innovative. You just aren't going to see most of them much without being really involved in the open source community, because those involved in proprietary, closed source software will do everything in their power to make sure the spotlight stays away from such projects. Innovative version control systems like Mercurial and Git, development tools like the Deputy compiler, and while some might think the stultifying effects of "design by committee" define Wikipedia (while others might point out that "design by committee" is exactly what's needed for a neutral POV encyclopedic reference), wiki software itself started as open source software and has progressed into its own miniature open source software industry. Open source software doesn't lack innovation -- far from it. It just doesn't advertise every pathetic little pseudo-innovation as though it were going to solve world hunger in twenty-four hours. The great "innovation" at Apple since Jobs came back consists of: 1. adding colors to computers while removing capabilities 2. removing colors from MP3 players while removing capabilities 3. creating a Frankenstein monster OS by putting together a bunch of good ideas "borrowed" from other OSes If you wanted to prove that a corporation with a visionary at the helm outshone the innovation of open source projects, perhaps you shouldn't have picked a corporation whose biggest actual positive advance in recent years consisted of borrowing heavily from open source projects (put FreeBSD together with a GUI that matches the drapes for MacOS X). edit: By the way, if you want to look to science fiction writers for interesting views of the future, you're better off looking to Neal Stephenson or William Gibson than Bruce Sterling. Bruce Sterling is pretty well known in some circles for making broad, sweeping, and wrong generalizations about technology and social phenomena when he's speaking of the real world.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

1. I agree anything done by committee consensus doesn't have much initiative - I've been part of several committees in the past. 2. However, the committee process, when properly managed does create innovation as the different minds throw different ideas onto the table and these often spur on new ideas by others - this is a process called synergy and works well. Most people call it a 'think tank' process. 3. Many people providing input into the development stage of a project will see it along faster and more accurately, again, provided it's managed properly. ------- The way innovation comes about is many people discuss ideas, this triggers a new idea or concept in one mind. That mind starts to develop it further. At some point the idea / concept is placed on the table for discussion by others, often this leads to improvements of it. At some point, the originator or an appointed coordinator takes charge and says "This is what we'll run with." Then all those involved start working on various aspects of it while the coordinator keeps them all aimed in the same direction and goal. Gee it works like a good team. And that's how it should go. Sadly, too often the group is made up of people with ideas and not prepared to put them forward, others aren't prepared to do the work required, just pick holes. And the most common is the originator (a person who can't organise a drunken party in a bottle shop with a suitcase full of $100 bills) insists it's their idea and they have to coordinate ti - thus it fails to go forward due to their lack of planning / management skills. Wikipedia is a typical committee by consensus process. Open Source is a typical team or think tank approach - sadly some projects lack a good coordinator, while so have a good coordinator and go well. ---------- Some blogs are just people's way of putting something out to the public - usually of a personal information process. Others are a way of making social comment or comment on the news. Some are actual news, but most a personal opinion / comment. And some a a yeast starter for think tank processes.

Wayne M.
Wayne M.

Blogs, especially the personal diary published to the world sort, will disappear much like CB radios in the 1980s. Good writing is difficult. Deciding upon a topic, researching it, presenting it in a logical format, etc., is hard work. The result is that most blogs are little more than personal opinion or gossipy "facts." I am still hoping for resurgence in print. I appreciate edited articles that must compete for space based on relevance.

royhayward
royhayward

Blogs are not a fad (not all open-source projects either), even while we have an overabundance of immature, ill-conceived, useless blogs out there where Sally and Billy are talking about their day at school. Those will come and go. But you also have blogs out there that are the virtual meeting place for a community that actually exists in the real world. And you have those that are in-between, like TR. (I don't think I have ever met anyone here) I would feel more confident in a prediction of the demise of print media, (or at least its conversion to blog media) in the not to distant future. I don't get any of my news directly from Periodicals in Print. Blogs are the new journalism. I imagine that by 2018, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal will be only printing for a select few that want collector?s items and souvenirs. Subscribers will be going on line and commenting on the articles in a heavily moderated forum. And just like the dot.com companies were a massive failure of massive number of companies, there will be a culling of blogs and online and open source projects. But there are so many, that it won't really be noticed, and their contribution to the economy is so small in percentage that it doesn't really matter.

DadsPad
DadsPad

I agree that it fully applies to News and any other professional blogs. But, most blogs are more in need of writing ability than ethics. Most blogs are realy journals; this is what I did today or this is my thought of the day. Other than that, they are for a specifice purpose. Of course, the ethics rules could not hurt any of them either. :)

pickleman
pickleman

Wow...it's been at least a few weeks since I've read such an idiotic statement. So let me get this straight - you can't trust the newspapers...or the radio...or the TV news...but you CAN trust what some unemployed greasy angry fat guy writes on his blog while sitting in his underwear, right? Get a grip...and then come back and join us here on planet earth when you're ready.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

I would never. ;) Honestly, I think open source CAN produce great products, but I also believe that *as a whole* open source will never be as innovative as for-profit design. That said, for-profit and open-source development start to look very similar when the dev teams reach a certain size or a certain age, as what's best for the organization begins to overtake what's best for the product and the customer (I'm looking at you, Microsoft and Red Hat). My point, which I guess was lost, is the a group of passionate, like-minded individuals with a vision will always outperform an uninvested, design-by-committee team. Small, for-profit startups and successful for-profit developers of all sizes tend to embody the passionate model more often than opensource projects, in my experience--if only because they've cashed in, put their livelihoods on the line and HAVE to make a good product to survive. (For my money, this is why Microsoft--and IBM before it--have fallen from grace: Their market penetration is so powerful that the product doesn't HAVE to be good, so it isn't.) To your point, many open source projects are less about creating a good product than proving the innate viability of open source--"See, OpenOffice is just as good as Word"--than with actually building a better (not equal) mousetrap. Firefox is an example of how actually trying to outdo a for-profit product can work for open source. Same with wiki-tech and with a lot of high-end developer-centric tools, because the guys who built it were trying to MAKE BETTER SOFTWARE, not prove some political point about Creative Commons. I guess my point is that singularity of vision and purpose create the best results, and open source is a little too distractable to ever beat closed source at that game.

PrinceGaz
PrinceGaz

I saw CB radio come and go here in the UK in the space of about a year in the early 1980s when it was legalised (while true radio enthusiasts using amateur radio were totally unaffected and the hobby remains as strong to this day). Once the novelty of chatting to other people a few miles away was over, everyone got bored of listening to people talking about something they weren't really interested in and it died a death very quickly as people found better things to do with their time. Blogging is likely to go the same way. Regardless of what we might like to think, writing articles that will entertain most readers is not something most of us can do (despite our best efforts), but that doesn't stop millions from trying. Most blogs are (at best) a brief insight into someones life, but more often that not are totally irrelvant to you and a waste of time reading by any but those who actually know the blogger in person (so the blog is basically a way of letting friends know what they have been doing). There's nothing wrong with Web 2.0 as it is called, but it is seriously over-hyped as the content is only as good as the people writing it, and the majority of people now writing on the web are rubbish (myself included when I tried blogging).

rclark
rclark

I like wikis of every sort, but especially the pedia. I don?t mind having to wade through the comments by every freak-a-zoid on the subject. They all provide input. The process by which you weed through the chaff to get to the kernel of truth is food for thought, and steps on the journey of discovery. Open and inquiring minds do want to know, and all points of view, even those espoused by the margins are valid. Inspiration and leaps of understanding do not come from listening to yourself. Brainstorming does not produce efficiency. But it does sometimes lead to insight, progress, teamwork, and inspiration. Besides, most of the journeys of discovery and progress did not occur because a researcher got to the end and said ?FINALLY!?. They happened when looking in a totally different direction and came upon, ?Weird. I wonder why it did that?? Open and inquiring minds do inquire, consider, judge, weigh, and decide. Then they do it again, from birth to grave, discovery never ends. On the other hand, the people you listen to help define the journey. Good people and great minds help the speed of the journey.

Synthetic
Synthetic

While I agree with the main position on seeing more consolidation, and seeing fewer personal blogs, I can't see that we will loose the types of expressions, just some of the formatting. People love to talk, love to think someone else wants to hear what they have to say, we are social animals so some form of personal blogs will continue to stick around though some of the fad aspect will hopefulyl fade. I would predict more consolidation amongst serious blogs sites and blogger and this is what capital does with anything new that has yet to be truly taped for marketing revenue. There will always exit some middle ground such as TR for like minded people to discuss in topics of interest. As for print media, that line has been told time and time again, many different media types were supposed to put it out of business. I believe the environment and resource implications will shape the future of print media as much as technology will. I love my paper at the pub, Sudoku partially done, scribbles on the sides, wet from my cocktail in the corner; I receive numerous magazines and lots of very small circulation social and political "zines" that the DIY set is generally not prepared or financially willing to engage in electronic only copies of such media, and for the majority of the world this remains out of the question. When it comes to printing thoughts versus electronic posting, a simple flick of the switch, massive solar wind, cease and desist to ones IP by a financially connected company, all these and more will ground that medium; paper, the one item (coupled with some form of shared knowledge) has made civilization what it is. We have had IC and electronic mediums for a very short span and to many questions will hang around for a long time before we see the last of the major media prints takes out a process of sharing knowledge that has been around for over 5000 years. Just my breif opinion, cheers!

unhappyuser
unhappyuser

Will there be a party? Will someone announce it on their blog? There will most likely be something new to replace blogs before then, like live video vlogs or a people accessible viewer (PAV). I hereby take claim to this name. All copyrights are mine! ; - ) EMD

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I hope printed periodicals never die. I enjoy reading a printed newspaper over my breakfast without having to get connected or provide power, and to re-read a paragraph without having to hit a Previous Page key. I like reading the sports page while on the throne; it doesn't weigh much, and it's handy if someone forgot to restock the essential supplies, if you know what I mean. I always have a couple of recent NatGeos or Smithsonians in the car for lunchtime reading or while waiting on an oil change. I question equating web logs with journalism, at least not most of them. Journalism to me implies some method of accountability for validity of content. That's why I never believe something based solely on a Wikipedia entry. There should also be a clear differentiation between editorial content and content reported as fact. I don't see that in many web logs; there's too much presentation of opinion as fact for me to consider many of them as journalism. I also don't regard the endless linking to tertiary sources linked to secondary sources linked to the primary source as journalism. The primary source may be journalism; linking or including someone else's content is not. That's the electronic equivalent of reprinting. I'm not saying a web log can't be journalism, just that I haven't seen too that would meet my qualifications. I'd be happy to view examples contrary to this opinion. I also don't think web logs will die. They evolved from personal web pages and will evolve into something else.

SObaldrick
SObaldrick

The greasy fat guy in his pajamas is sharing what he believes to be his knowledge about a subject to the world, for free. The person in the newsroom is a paid employee and it is in their interest to make sure that what they report is going to keep the money coming in. Which do I trust the more? Never trust a single 'news' source. Verify what you read on Wikipedia by searching for it on the 'net. Wikipedia is a great place to start. If a random blog states the same then there is a good chance that it is true. Les.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]Honestly, I think open source CAN produce great products, but I also believe that *as a whole* open source will never be as innovative as for-profit design.[/i]" From what I've seen, that belief is entirely based on an erroneous picture of open source development as a process where a bunch of people sit around debating the color of paint to use for the bike shed. In truth, projects like that never actually get going in the open source world. The projects that actually appear on anyone's radar are those where a bunch of like-minded individuals gets together (or one single person with a need gets it together) to apply a singular vision to the creation of a new piece of software. Meanwhile, in the world of closed source development, a project is pursued because it was decreed -- not because of a need. As a result, it doesn't matter if the only solid decision made is the color of the bike shed, the thing will be completed even if nobody has a single original idea for the entire lifespan of the project. Check out the lifespan of DOS, if you don't believe me. In any case, I think you're making the division between ideas in the wrong place. For-profit development is not the other side of the coin. A lot of open source development is for profit. The opposing example is closed-source, proprietary development (which may or may not be for profit, but usually is). Open source software is, in and of itself, profit-neutral -- it is generally based around needs and ideas rather than an attempt to squeeze some money out of credulous customers who "don't know" they "need" what you're offering, but open source software makes profits too, and is often enough designed specifically with profit in mind. "[i]My point, which I guess was lost, is the a group of passionate, like-minded individuals with a vision will always outperform an uninvested, design-by-committee team.[/i]" I guess you should actually be saying corporate software development doesn't innovate, instead, then. "[i]Small, for-profit startups and successful for-profit developers of all sizes tend to embody the passionate model more often than opensource projects, in my experience--if only because they've cashed in, put their livelihoods on the line and HAVE to make a good product to survive.[/i] I think you're going to see that, increasingly, these small startups [b]are[/b] open source projects in the years to come. The startups that try to make their living on closed source software are going to find it more and more difficult to compete. "[i]To your point, many open source projects are less about creating a good product than proving the innate viability of open source--"See, OpenOffice is just as good as Word"--than with actually building a better (not equal) mousetrap.[/i]" I think you misread my point, then. There are certain projects that, just because they suddenly find themselves actually in competition with a market dominating alternative, think they have to emulate the market dominator to gain market share. [b]That[/b] was my point. Most open source projects don't do that, though -- it's an aberration, not the norm. You'll find that far more open source projects are [b]specifically[/b] about creating a good project, whereas closed source software development tends to be about creating buzz instead. This is why Linux distributions tend to be better than MS Windows for most purposes but, having started chasing after emulation of MS Windows in an attempt to take market share from Microsoft, are not as good as they could be -- while the FreeBSD and OpenBSD projects (for example) are still focused on producing the best OSes they can. Many people in the Linux world are still focused on quality (enough to keep Linux distributions ahead of MS Windows, at least), but many are focused on MS Windows emulation (thus projects like Ubuntu). "[i]I guess my point is that singularity of vision and purpose create the best results[/i]" I agree with that. "[i]open source is a little too distractable to ever beat closed source at that game.[/i]" I disagree with that, and I think the evidence very strongly supports my position. After all, if open source software was all about emulating closed source software rather than doing something new and interesting, all the open source spreadsheet programs out there would be trying to duplicate MS Office Excel functionality rather than develop its own. Why is it, then, that OpenOffice.org (and, potentially, KOffice) is the only example that's chasing after exact MS Office parity with spreadsheet design? There are dozens of other open source spreadsheet applications out there, most of which are actually better designed than MS Office, OpenOffice.org, or KOffice.

rclark
rclark

IBM may be overpriced. They may be idiots at service. But their Operating Systems and midrange hardware are not to be compared to anything else on the planet. We are talking about hardware that runs for decades and operating systems and databases that are easy to run, totally secure, and go for years without patching.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

CB Started in the early 1970s and every man and his dog was into it for over a decade. Now it's still heavily used, but not as common as it once was. All vehicles driving long distances have CB, even people take multi month holidays to drive around Australia are advised to get CB fitted. All the farmers have CBs in their cars, tractors, and other vehicles. I strongly suspect the use of CB in the USA is still as common as here. But then, the USA has a much lower overall population density than the UK, despite being about ten times the population density of Australia, it's still only a similar fraction of what the UK has. Both countries still use CB extensively for general communications within, and across, communities. Blogs will continue to exist for many reasons, some for local or regional output, some for national coverage of like interests. They're just another form of web page, just updated more often.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]Journalism to me implies some method of accountability for validity of content.[/i]" Considering high-profile examples of a complete lack of journalistic integrity in mainstream media sources in recent years, White House spin showing up entirely unedited for journalistic content appearing in supposed news sources, and the ease of examining the community mechanisms for dealing with accuracy and accountability in places like Wikipedia, I find this statement surprising.

DadsPad
DadsPad

Newspapers - I sincerely hope they stay, but the media must change and become more eletronic for those that do not want to read a newspaper. I, also, remember reading of a development of a paper-like substance that will actually be like a monitor, but be big an flexible as a news paper. Haven't read much about it in some time, though. I can't even imagine using a PDA for indepth news. Books.. I read a lot of books. Unlike news papers, the number of books written seem to be on the increase. Reading a long written piece on any monitor I have ever used gives me eyestrain and head aches. Blogs .. Most blogs are worthwhile for only a few people, but they have some good uses. Being a fan of Robert Jordan, I went to his website to see when the latest installment of Wheel of Time is scheduled to be released. I found his blog and that he is fighting cancer (blog says it is being sucessful with new drugs). This told be there are more important things that writting a new novel; the blog was very informative of what he was going through (has a lot of fans) , I left only with good wishes for his health. Did not mean to leave this no a sad note, but there it is. :|

DanLM
DanLM

;o) But, I agree. I prefer a printed book to any audio book. I prefer reading a newspaper spread out on the floor to having to read page by page through a web site for the news. I prefer printed reference material to any ebook. Journalism, blogs or otherwise? I don't trust either. I try to read multiple sources on any given subject that interests me. Because I don't care what the source, it's most likely one sided with specific facts glossed over. If anything is going to kill hard copy media, it will be the cost factor. I just bought two reference ebooks. I chose the ebook for 1 reason, and one reason only. Cheaper by 20 dollars. That was just to much to ignore, no matter what my preference. And I am sure it is the same with written journalism. It's just cheaper to post it then to print it. Id say if anything kills blogs it will be the crap that is appearing in them. But if the crap that appears in hard copy news hasn't killed that yet, then why would it kill blogs? Dan

DanLM
DanLM

Never trust any single source. No matter what it is. God, just the thought... [i]greasy fat guy in his pajamas[/i].... shudder. But never just disbelieve a news item just because of where it's being delivered from. Check it out on other sources because it just might be true. The argument about the U.S. 16th amendment not being legal still has me digging. There are some facts in that claim that still has me digging. And that argument never came from traditional news. At least in our age. Dan

DadsPad
DadsPad

I just want to add, if CB Radio has died, why are so many for sale? Why do we still have them reviewed in magazines? :D It seems that Cell Phones have replaced the popularity of CB Radios in cars. Yes, I know accidents are happening with use of cell phones in cars, but did they not do worse using CB radios while driving? As for Blogs, (since they do fill a need to society) they will be around until something better replaces it. Just nothing to replace it has been announced yet.

doug
doug

I read a lot of history, and I have found wikopedia very useful. All historians have biases, it's just the way things are. When I start reading a book about a piece of history I'm unfamiliar with, Wikopdeia is the place to go to put it into context. There is absolutely no other place you can go where every viewpoint is carefully considered. Print journalism, in fact, all professional media journalism, is just not as reliable as an open internet forum. I'm a liberal, yet I all the time read or hear liberal journalists say things that I would never get away with saying on the political forums I frequent. I would be attacked by conservatives who have studied whatever it was and could cite chapter and verse against it. Heck, Dan Rether was still pushing his Bush AWOL records weeks after the conservatives on a forum I go to had identified the exact year Microsoft came out with the typestyle on his documents. Hint: It was much later than supposed.

ralphclark
ralphclark

In the post immedately above this one you raised some good points exposing a serious flaw in my argument and Wikipedia clearly does need to address these issues. Having said that, even so I have still found Wikipedia to be a great source of reliable information on a fairly wide range of factual subjects (eg. applied physical sciences), and on those subjects I have looked at where some amount of interpretation or opinion is involved, or where the facts themselves are widely contested (eg. theoretical physics, history), I have been pleased to note that this is frequently mentioned within the body of the article itself. The problem is those cases where such frankness has been omitted. I have heard of such cases in the fields of politics, recent history and political biography although I don't remember coming across any myself. I am inclined to think they are quite rare. However I admit that this rarity itself lends an insidiousness to such falsehoods in that they are all the more likely to go unchallenged by the unsuspecting general reader.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Somehow I missed the references to the Discussion and History tabs in your "Disingenuous Remark" post. Viewing these gave me a better idea of the background workings, but don't make me much more trusting in the content. Why not? All History and Discussion entries I saw were attributed to aliases. When I view the comments of a TR member I'm unfamiliar with, I check his profile before I assign any value to his comments. I clicked on a half dozen names at Wikipedia, but the information presented about those users, and the "checkbox" format used, was not helpful in determining their qualifications to be writing on the subject. "I don't know the phonetic alphabet." "I would rather be a samuria." This is the kind of background info I expect from someone's MySpace page, not from a contributor to an encyclopedia. I want real names and some idea of the contributor's background in the subject. Maybe there are other contributors with posted credentials I can put some faith in; again, I only looked at a handful. Also, on the History page, I didn't see anything detailing exactly what changed from the previous version. There were icons classifying changes into three general categories, but it appeared the only way to tell the difference between two versions was to open both and do a manual comparison. It's quite possible this feature exists and I missed it. I don't think comparing Wikipedia with a newspaper is a valid comparison. They serve two different purposes. (Yes, I know I'm the one who first made the comparison in this discussion. It was a bad decision on my part.) I'll agree I'm holding Wikipedia to a different standard that a printed encylopedia, probably because a print encyclopedia only had a limited number of people working on it and is only updated at selected intervals. I realize this means the knowledge pool and subjects covered are limited, and the information is old before it's published. I guess I'm willing to trade that for a personal feeling of greater reliability. Thanks.

ralphclark
ralphclark

You've asked me to explain the self correction mechanisms, in context of their openness and transparancy. But I already did that in the post to which you replied. See the History and Discussion tabs on any Wikipedia article page for an example.

ralphclark
ralphclark

Each article entry has a discussion tab and a history tab so not only can you see whether the page has been reviewed but also how it has been reviewed, by whom, and what has been changed. Serious print publications such as scientific journals try to come close to this but no frozen dead-tree format is capable of representing journaled updates in such a thorough, open and accessible way.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]I can't claim to know the origins of the word 'wiki' either, or if it signifies anything in this context.[/i]" The word "wiki" comes from Hawaiian, and means "quick". It's first use in relation to web development was for something called the "WikiWikiWeb", and as a result of that the term "wiki" in software-related use has come to refer to software that is built on the same principles as the "WikiWikiWeb", using collaborative editing processes to generate and update content. "[i]Is there a 'wikitionary' too?[/i]" Actually, it's called "Wiktionary" -- and yes, it exists. It's not as extensive as a standard unabridged hardcopy dictionary yet, as far as I'm aware, but it's getting there. It also contains a lot more formal industry jargon and other terms that don't make it into dictionaries very often (but should) while crap like "D'oh!" gets into the OED. "[i]However, I rarely feel the need for constant updates; once a day is usually enough for me.[/i]" I get most of my news from social bookmarking sites, these days. Pick the right site, and you can get more focus on the stuff that's more important to you. I do occasionally check out Wikinews, however, and find that its articles tend to carry significantly less bias than I generally find in places like MSNBC, Yahoo! News, and CNN. "[i]Maybe that's another reason the printed newspaper fits me better. Do I really need to know right away about a London train bombing if I'm not trying to commute in London?[/i]" Probably not. Use what works for you.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

You know, I never assigned any significance to the "pedia" part of the name. I just figured it was another name made of syllables shoved together in the fashion so popular with web businesses today. I can't claim to know the origins of the word "wiki" either, or if it signifies anything in this context. Is there a "wikitionary" too? "Google" wasn't originally even a word, at least not spelled that way. I haven't heard of Wikinews, but I'll take a look at it on your recommendation. However, I rarely feel the need for constant updates; once a day is usually enough for me. Maybe that's another reason the printed newspaper fits me better. Do I really need to know right away about a London train bombing if I'm not trying to commute in London?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"If you don't see weblogs in general as editorial content, you probably need to get out more. That's sorta the whole point of weblogs." I do see them as editorial content; I don't see them as journalistic content, at least not as journalistic content I trust as much as my local newspaper. I am aware the articles are often from major news agencies. Those articles are clearly attributed to those sources in the byline, something that doesn't always happen on the web. With those articles I'm directly access the original content (albeit with some editing for space). I don't have a printed editorial on a subject refer me to different publication to find the name of a third paper to tell me where to read the original article. I don't mind a first-hand link pointing directly back to the source, but I dislike having to skip through multiple web logs to get back to the original content. If I want to read an opinion, I want an opinion on the original subject; I don't want someone's opinion of what someone else thought about a third guy's outlook so many links removed that I can't even find the original content.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]Remember, most of Wikipedia contributors are anonymous, therefore the reader has limit resourses to validate the contributors facts.[/i]" One doesn't verify facts by checking to see what degrees are held by the people who have offered the facts. One verifies facts by checking out the facts themselves. That's why Wikipedia's review process is based on source citations, not the degrees of contributors. Considering the number of scandals in academic communities where supposed "authorities" have been caught in a bald-faced lie, I don't understand how anyone can trust the word of a professor of religion over the evidence of his own eyes. "[i]I use Wikipedia as a personal resource of information. If you use this as a reference in an official paper, i.e., term paper, it may not be an acceptable resource.[/i]" If you base a Master's thesis entirely on information from [b]any[/b] encyclopedia, you should get thrown out on your butt. Encyclopedias are places to [b]start[/b] looking, not places to [b]stop[/b]. "[i]Hope this helps people understand more about the lack of somepeople's trust in Wikipedia.[/i]" The problem is not that Wikipedia isn't trustworthy. The problem is that people still think that just because something's on a printed page, [b]that[/b] is trustworthy. All information resources deserve some skepticism. If you're not double-checking facts now and then, regardless of where you got them, you aren't paying attention. All Wikipedia has done is make the problems inherent in providing information resources more visible -- but people seem to think that just because Wikipedia shares such problems with the world, but something like Britannica or the New York Times hides its problems, Wikipedia must be the only one that has problems. That's as ridiculous as thinking that a piece of Microsoft software doesn't have any vulnerabilities, just because the thirty or so it [b]does[/b] have (and that Microsoft won't fix) are not publicly announced. The lesson you should be taking from any issues you have with Wikipedia inaccuracy isn't that Wikipedia is inaccurate (it's not, generally), but that "competing" sources of information are hiding something from you.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]Since I have other journalistic resources available to me that I'm more comfortable with, I probably won't view it as a primary source of information anytime soon.[/i]" Two things: 1. It's not supposed to be a "primary source" -- it's supposed to be an encyclopedia. 2. If you want news, try [url=http://en.wikinews.org][b]Wikinews[/b][/url] instead. When the London tubeway bombing happened, the major mainstream news outlets (like AP) were getting their information from Wikinews.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]At least with the paper I can check the Corrections notices daily, or call up the ombudsman.[/i]" I'm not sure I see how that compares favorably with an encyclopedic resource that typically corrects major errors in hours, if not minutes. "[i]I don't have any mechanisms for determining what web logs are presenting accurate and reliable information.[/i]" I don't know that anyone is willing to treat the average weblog as a real news source. They're more like the editorials page of the paper. The difference, of course, is that spin and opinion are expected in editorials -- while with front-page stories in the paper, people are trained to expect impartial reporting. What they actually get is still spin and opinion, just usually better hidden. "[i]It also wouldn't address the mixing of journalistic and editorial content without clearly labeling which is which.[/i]" How do [b]you[/b] sort through the combination of editorial and journalistic content in, say, the editorials of a newspaper, or even in the front page stories? "[i]With the paper the editorial page is clearly labeled. I don't believe all journalistic content is unbiased, but at least I can tell where the line is supposed to be.[/i]" If you don't see weblogs in general as editorial content, you probably need to get out more. That's sorta the whole point of weblogs. It's also worth noting that knowing "where the line is supposed to be" in no way protects one from the fact the line is crossed not just regularly, but constantly. In fact, the real problem is that the illusion of a line makes it more likely that people will accept bias as unquestioned fact. "[i]I absolutely hate the practice of third- and fourth-hand links. This is apparently an accepted practice in the format[/i]" You might want to stop reading the national and international news sections of your paper, then. Most of that stuff is lifted directly from news agencies like AP and BBC.

DadsPad
DadsPad

Essjay -- a Wikipedia administrator who claimed to be a tenured professor of religion -- was in fact a 24-year-old without a doctorate. .......... Wikipedia will now require contributors who claim lofty credentials to identify themselves instead of hiding behind pseudonyms The above was discovered and caused a lot of people to mistrust the information on Wikipedia. This does not necessarily mean all information is not valid, but the trust that it is persists. Remember, most of Wikipedia contributors are anonymous, therefore the reader has limit resourses to validate the contributors facts. I use Wikipedia as a personal resource of information. If you use this as a reference in an official paper, i.e., term paper, it may not be an acceptable resource. Hope this helps people understand more about the lack of somepeople's trust in Wikipedia.

DadsPad
DadsPad

I see the town now. :) I have many relatives north of you (Greenville, Spartanburg) although most are 2,3,4 cousins I have not met since I was very young. SC is a beautiful state, hope you enjoy your life there.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The Columbia paper does cover Batesburg news (and even high school sports) as part of a special section. On Thursdays they insert a section that's different for each delivery region. Living on the western side of the coverage area, I don't get the same insert as the folks in the eastern counties. Think of it as a local weekly included in the regional daily. However, I don't live in Batesburg. I'm in Lexington, a Columbia suburb about half-way between "Cola" and "The Twin Cities" (Batesburg-Leesville, the official name of the town). Lexington news usually appears in Columbia daily publication. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"It's clear that you have some sort of bias against Wikipedia ..." Yes, I do. I just don't trust it. My concerns about accuracy may be overblown. If so, they're due to my lack of understanding of the verification procedures they use. I just don't see what keep someone from posting that the grass is blue and the sky is green (on this planet). That doesn't mean it isn't a viable option for those who understand it. Since I have other journalistic resources available to me that I'm more comfortable with, I probably won't view it as a primary source of information anytime soon. "... its self correction mechanisms are open transparent" Perhaps you would explain them to me, please. As I said previously, I don't regard newspapers as perfect, just less imperfect than web logs. I do regard Wikipedia as more reliable than most single-author web logs, but it still looks like anarchy to me. Maybe I don't understand the whole "community" mindset.

DanLM
DanLM

It is now so huge, who is to know if the specific information you are referencing has ever been reviewed for accuracy? Ever? I actually do not think people place incorrect information there on purpose, but I think there are scores of individuals that contribute to that specific information source that are not qualified to do so. Dan

DadsPad
DadsPad

In general I agree with you on print journalism. But I was mainly refering to Daily Newspapers, not the more 'yellow' journalism. I have lived in more metropolitan areas most of my life, that is where you can pick up local news. Good as the 24-hr news channels are for national up to the minute news, there's no way they can cover local siturations and happenings. We also use local adds and coupons that are in the newspaper. I don't know if Columbia would cover local Batesburg news, which may make a difference to you. Wikipedia, I find it a good quick reference, but not a definitive one. For instance, once I was curious (which I am want to do) about a Star Trek Voyager episode. Google gave one Wikipedia reference, and I was very surprised how extensive and easy to navigate it was. All that said, I wish they would change the name, people still tend to trust something that sounds like it is an encylopedia. Blogs and Web logs: there is no structure on how these are written and are part of the evolution of the internet. Humans have always complained, gave opinions and talked about what happened (to me). And, like real life, the ones better written and more interesting will be more popular and last longer. If Web Logs go out of style, then something else will just replace it. I agree whole heartedly with the third and fourth hand links, most irritating.

ralphclark
ralphclark

"At least with the paper I can check the Corrections notices daily" Yes, with the newspaper you would be forced to read every page of every single future issue for several weeks, to be sure of catching a correction buried at the foot of page umpteen. But with Wikipedia you can check back later any time you like. You can just check the history tab on the article's page to see a list of changes if you can't be bothered to re-read the whole entry. "or call up the ombudsman." complaining via the ombudsman is a laborious process, encrusted with bureaucracy and procedure, that is observed far more often in the breach than in the observance. Also since any decisions are made behind closed doors, you have no guarantee that the decision making process takes all pertinent matters properly into account. However, correcting mistakes in Wikipedia is far simpler, more transparent and more direct and there are several avenues through which problems can be addressed. There is a general "Report a problem" link as well as other more specific reporting mechanisms on the main contacts page. On the article page itself there is a talk page and a discussion page to which you may port remarks, and you can even directly submit a change to the article yourself if you have correct information to contribute. It's much more transparent than the newspaper. On the whole the accuracy of Wikipedia articles, being written by subject matter experts, is far better than the newspaper which is written by journalists who are often amazingly unconcerned about reporting the facts correctly and in the proper context. For example if you read science articles in the newspaper you are likely to end up more ignorant and misinformed than you were to begin with. Wikipedia, on the other hand, is a fantastic resource for obtaining a basic grasp of just about any scientific subject imaginable. It's clear that you have some sort of bias against Wikipedia because you have selected the few arguments against it and exaggerated them out of all proportion. But you made a tactical mistake in attempting to compare it to newspapers, whose historical reputation in terms of inaccuracy and bias is very well known to just about everybody. Wikipedia might get it wrong occasionally because some individual behaved poorly. But it is more widely peer reviewed than any other publication I can think of, and its self correction mechanisms are open transparent and perfectly effective over time.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I don't consider print journalism perfect, just a less imperfect source than web logs. I also consider print far less imperfect than the 24-hour television "news" channels. You may understand the mechanisms behind Wikipedia. To me it looks like a road house bathroom wall on steroids: anyone can scrawl anything at any time. Say I'm ignorant on a subject (just leave the straight line alone, okay?) and view material about in on Wikipedia. If I look between the time some jokester posts something bogus and the time it gets cleaned up, I'll think the material was legit. While I'm aware of this potential issue and will cross-check with other web and non-web sources, there are still people who think everything on the web is true. At least with the paper I can check the Corrections notices daily, or call up the ombudsman. I don't have any mechanisms for determining what web logs are presenting accurate and reliable information. Even if every post on Wikipedia was pre-screened, that wouldn't fix the reliability issue with other web logs. It also wouldn't address the mixing of journalistic and editorial content without clearly labeling which is which. With the paper the editorial page is clearly labeled. I don't believe all journalistic content is unbiased, but at least I can tell where the line is supposed to be. And as I noted, I absolutely hate the practice of third- and fourth-hand links. This is apparently an accepted practice in the format, but it just rubs me wrong on emotional level. Sorry, I've got no better justification for my dislike of this feature.

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