Thursday, September 1, 2011

old post - in response to Info overload

Whew - been busy with "data" stuff - so I'm getting sleepy... Thought I'd stop and archive another "old post." This one is from March 23, 2009 and was a blog response to a friend's blog post, along with his comments. :-)

Over on a friend’s blog, I have been responding via comments with my thoughts about this topic. Pop on over and read that. I’ll wait...

Back? Okay. The next response I would have made would have been to say that you are saying you don’t want “truth” defined, but quality. Who is to determine what is quality and what is noise? Please don’t presume to know what I would find useful. It sounds to me like you’re looking for a service to determine what Brent wants to know and what Brent wants to ignore. I think that’s a valid thing for you to consider, but I don’t want it for me.

It sounds to me like you’re talking about a news service... One of the big things to come out of Hurricane Katrina was the instant news being reported via Twitter & blog postings. I’m sure to a lot of people much of that was considered noise, but to some people it was not enough information. Did the NY Times report everything that was blogged? No. Those that bought the paper paid them to give them what was relevant. Did they do a good job? Probably. Was it complete? No. Was it complete enough? Probably. :)

I still maintain that something like you’re talking about should be opt in only, then I can decide if I want to take your word for it or not.

As for my comment about Wikipedia vs Britannica or World Book... Yes, I trust Wikipedia more for the very reason that a lot of people say they don’t trust it - because it can be changed by just anyone. Vandalism is dealt with quickly, for one thing, and I’d MUCH rather read about a medical procedure from something that’s updated frequently by the very professionals that engage in the activity than from a book that is only updated every few years and only then by a committee of “experts” that are only looking at information that other people submit, so they are also trusting others.

Thoughts? Comments?

Comment by CJ -
One of the good things about blogging is that it opens up opportunities to discuss issues like this, and disagreement is often a good thing as we all learn from it. To be honest J, I think tend to agree with B on this more, all in all. I work in a collegiate setting as you know and professors here would never take Wikipedia as an allowable source, but they would something along the lines of Britannica in certain situations. And it generates controversies of bias (on political or social issues) sometimes.

So again, I think the issue is all about what one wants to DO with Wikipedia. It's great for a quick way to get a light overview of an issue one doesn't really know much about already. And the biggest thing Wikipedia has going for it is accessibility--anyone can get to it anytime, for most any topic. The problem with the 'anyone-can-update' model is that it can avoid professional peer-review a little too much. I've seen a number of sloppily written entries on there and have sometimes seen information that presents opinion as if it were fact.

Also, from an academic standpoint though, the *search* for knowledge can be as important as the knowledge itself, and Wikipedia is almost *too* easy, to both find info and edit it. that's my 2 cents, which may be about all it's worth! :-)
Tuesday, March 24, 2009 - 09:54 AM

Comment by Brent -
Wow. I didn't realize I'd touched such a sensitive nerve here. Let me try to explain a bit more clearly.

1. I never suggested that I should dictate to you what you should read. That's what we call "censorship."
2. Who said the Internet had to cater to *my* whims? Who said I wanted to force my opinions on anyone? Where did you get the idea you might not be able to choose to "opt in" to any sort of quality rating system I made up? If you think I personally have some control over the Internet and the world in general, then you have a much higher opinion of me than anyone else does. :-)
3. Perhaps my mention of "Verisign" in my original post scared you off. All I meant by that reference was that there's a need for a sort of verifiable "stamp" -- but the community would provide the associated "quality rating," not a small outfit like Verisign. (Without something verifiable, anyone could just rate their own content and claim it was rated by the community.) Good analogue: You might not agree with the results, but they're there for you to consult as you see fit. Apply that paradigm across the web. You don't think that would be useful?
4. "Who is to determine what is quality and what is noise?" Not me. I'll state it once again: the community. This is exactly what goes on now in the "real world," but the 'Net has such low barriers to entry that there are virtually no controls on content at the moment. Ex.: Say I decide to be a stand-up comedian. My success or failure will depend on how many people I can get to pay for the privilege of listening to me. If I'm no good (decided by the community, not by any individual authority), then I'll be "weeded out." Now, you'll say maybe *you* might think I'm funny, and you wouldn't want to be denied the opportunity to make that choice yourself. Really? Are you willing to do that for the 245,987 other people out there who think they're funny, too? Do you actually have that kind of time?
5. As for Wikipedia, we'll have to agree to disagree. II think you're giving up authenticity for immediacy. There's value in the latter, but never at the expense of the former. And honestly, I don't see much new happening in Millard Fillmore's life (for example) at the moment, so I think I'm safer consulting a vetted, professionally edited source for research rather than the Wikipedia article which as likely as not will have a curse word inserted somewhere by a bored 15-year-old.

Dude, this isn't about censorship. It's about trying to make the best use of my limited time. In reading my blog, you've probably already picked up on my obsession with that goal. If you don't want the community's collected opinion on the utility of information...then ignore it. But I would value such a resource, as a means to optimize my life and be able to get other stuff posting overlong replies to blog entries. :-)
Tuesday, March 24, 2009 - 09:56 AM

Wow - can't believe I missed these comments till now. Sorry guys!

CJ - Disagreement is VERY healthy, IMHO. As for the professors dismissing it, I totally disagree with that mentality, but I can't say that I don't understand it. I think it requires a total mind shift.

RE: Wikipedia - yes, opinion is discouraged and is usually flagged after the fact, but I can see that it would keep you from trusting it 100% (which, BTW, I don't do, but it's "another" source I use). And I like the fact that it's easy to edit... If it were not, I think we'd lose a plethora of input from professionals.

Brent - sorry if I came across as sensitive. This has been an ongoing debate in my professional life as well. :)

1) Dictate - no, didn't mean to imply that.

2) Opt in SHOULD be the norm, but I'm afraid it wouldn't be, or at least it could be semi-forced. Buy anything online? Can you use Cash? No, you're forced to use Credit Cards - or PayPal if you want it faster. And no e-checks on PayPal - instant transfer or backed up with credit/debit only.

3) Verisign makes me run screaming, so yes I'm afraid. :) I think the community provides the stamp already, you just have to learn how to use it. To shortcut that could undermine freedom of use.

Bad analogy for me - I don't use or their rating system. I learned a long time ago FOR ME that the critics and I don't tend to agree. I even have a CW & DW friend that can't believe I enjoyed the latest Death Race movie. :) - okay, tangent here - just went to RT & they gave Death Race a 42% - again, I disagree. :)

4) No, I don't have that kind of time, but just denying me that access by "an authority" and not by "normal weeding out" is wrong, IMO.

5) Agreed. :)

On your last paragraph - to me Wikipedia IS the community's collected opinion. :) I'm not saying I wouldn't use a resource at all, but would possibly look at it first if it were condensed, then "look further" like I do now for more of the story (story includes facts, opinions, debate, etc.).

Again - sorry guys for the delayed response... It wasn't because I was mad. :)

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