Re: The web is becoming a dictatorship of idiots – Part 2

After my first response to Donald Burleson’s article The web is becoming a dictatorship of idiots Donald responded. Here is his response followed by my response to him.

From: Donald Burleson

Here are my guidelines for finding credible information on the web, and advice on how-to weed-out crap, sound advice.

In my opinion (and in my own interest) I think everyone should be able to publish anything at anytime.

Me to. I’m all for free speech, but it’s the search engines problem that they cannot distinguish between good and bad information. I don’t like the “clutter” it’s causing for the search engines. It ruins my ability to find credible sources of technical information, and I have to wade through pages of total crap from anonymous “experts”. For example, scumbags are stealing credible people’s content and re-publishing it in their own names, with free abandon. Look at what has been stolen from Dr. Hall.

So the system can (and will eventually) balance itself.

I disagree, not until “anon” publications and copied crap is unindexed from the search engines.

If I’m using Google to find technical information I give zero credibility to anonymous sources, and it would be great to have a “credible” way to search the web for people, so they can find stuff from folks like us, who publish our credentials.

We’re in the information age and the flood gates have opened!

Flood is the right word. Some of the Oracle “experts” who publish today would never have been able to publish in-print, and for very good reason. There are many self-proclaimed “experts” all over the web, people without appropriate education or background who would never be published in traditional media. And just like “Essjay” on Wikipedia, many of them either fabricate of exaggerate their credentials. They carefully hide their credential (resume or CV), so nobody knows the truth.

I think it’s up to culture to catch up to technology

I disagree, it’s not “culture”, it’s a simple credibility issue. And what about Wikipedia? Any 9th-grade dropout crackhead can over-write the work of a Rhodes scholar. That’s not a culture issue, it’s about credibility.

It’s a dictatorship of idiots. One bossy Wikipedia editor tossed-about his credentials (“a tenured professor of religion at a private university” with “a PhD. in theology and a degree in canon law.”), when in reality he is a college dropout, a liar and a giant loser.

Wikipedia is the enemy of anyone who wants to find credible data on the web, and they are actively seeking to pollute the web with anon garbage. Read this for details.

It’s the balance between free speech and credibility. Just the raw link-to counts are deceiving. I hear that the #1 Oracle blogger got there only because he wrote a hugely successful blog template, totally unrelated to his Oracle content quality.

The solution is simple. Sooner or later, someone will come-up with a “verified credentials” service where netizens pay a free and an independent body verifies their college degrees, published research, job experience and other qualifications.

Until then, netizens must suffer the dictatorship of idiots, never sure if what they are reading is by someone who is qualified to pontificate on the subject. I do Oracle forensics, and the courts have very simple rules to determine of someone is qualified to testify as an expert, and there is no reason that these criteria cannot be applied on the web, assigning high rank to the qualified and obscurity to the dolts. Until then we must suffer weeding through page-after-page of questionable publications in our search results.

My response

it’s the search engines problem that they cannot distinguish between good and bad information. I don’t like the “clutter” it’s causing for the search engines.

There’s no doubt that web indexing and searching is an imperfect science but identifying the quality of resources is beyond its scope. Search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN should be considered tools to help find a site with information matching a term or pattern, not necessarily a good site.

scumbags are stealing credible people’s content and re-publishing it in their own names

Plagiarism is not a new problem and, as many have found, search engines can be instrumental in identifying plagiarism. The site Copyscape which you pointed out to me makes great use of Google’s API to do exactly that.

> So the system can (and will eventually) balance itself.

I disagree, not until “anon” publications and copied crap is unindexed from the search engines.

If I’m using Google to find technical information I give zero credibility to anonymous sources, and it would be great to have a “credible” way to search the web for people, so they can find stuff from folks like us, who publish our credentials.

And you should not give credibility to a source just because Google finds it. That’s not Google’s job. Google’s job is to find pages (every page if possible) that match the terms you’re entering. Popular sites are weighted to show up earlier in the results, but yes, only because they are popular.

Wikipedia is the enemy of anyone who wants to find credible data on the web, and they are actively seeking to pollute the web with anon garbage.

I think it’s unlikely that Wikipedia is actively trying to pollute the web. Wikipedia is fundamentally flawed for many of the reasons you mention but it remains accurate on many topics. There is no disguising of what it is and it has been largely condemned as an academic resource, but when I need a quick ‘starting point’ reference or the answer to some pop-culture trivia it’s still the place I go.

It’s the balance between free speech and credibility. Just the raw link-to counts are deceiving. I hear that the #1 Oracle blogger got there only because he wrote a hugely successful blog template, totally unrelated to his Oracle content quality.

Actually, I think you’ll find that the #1 Oracle blog you mention is actually the non-topical personal blog of an Oracle administrator. The point that he composed an attractive and well written WordPress theme is a testament to the quality of his work.

The solution is simple. Sooner or later, someone will come-up with a “verified credentials” service where netizens pay a free and an independent body verifies their college degrees, published research, job experience and other qualifications.

Verified credentials would only solve one small piece of the problem. Many people with verifiable credentials are still dead wrong and/or cannot communicate their ideas efficiently enough to be what I consider a good resource.

An even simpler solution already exists. Leading organizations like the Independent Oracle User’s Group could take it upon themselves to compile and publish lists of quality resources in their field. With some additional effort I bet these lists could be combined with Google’s search API to provide a web search which only searches a number of “verified” sites.

This type of compilation would not only provide a fantastic list of resources (especially for beginners) but would also shape search results by increasing the page ranking of sites which the organization identifies as good resources.

web2.0 web, internet, blog, wikipedia, free speach, net neutrality, online, anonymous

3 thoughts on “Re: The web is becoming a dictatorship of idiots – Part 2”

  1. One issue to throw into the pot is that even a credible source can produce information that, with the passage of time, becomes inaccurate or misleading.
    At a minimum all such information should be dated.
    It is better if there is a facility for errors/corrections to be incorporated into the information, either by attaching feedback directly to the information (as a simplified peer review mechanism) or by contacting the author to have corrections incorporated.
    The wikipedia model of anonymity plus overwriting (albeit recording history) was appropriate to encourage the initial volume of information. By now, moderation (at least in contentious categories) and named commentary would probably be better.
    As for the “verified credentials service”, check out:
    http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/security/investigator/archives/can-i-vouch-for-you-11919

  2. Burleson’s perspective on this seems like the last throws of a dying media pissed that they have more to compete with. Until Google, Wikipedia, and blogs you would have to buy a book or hire a consultant to find out how something works or how to accomplish a task. If what you want to do is at all obscure or bleeding edge, good luck finding someone to help for free outside of blogs and message boards.

    If you wanted reviews, you had to pay for these too. Maybe in a newspaper, magazine, or trade journal. Now blogs provide tons of reviews. Sifting through these things can be a challenge, but the concept of popularity helps greatly. If someone has consistently written insightful or useful content, they get ranked higher. Perfect. I’ll decide for myself if I agree…

    If instead we are talking about popular culture, Wikipedia beats all other resources hands down. Never before could you go to any site that was so well organized and generally accurate about so many potentially obscure topics. Comic books, actors, movies, books, music, etc.

    Finally, even for research topics, as you say, Wikipedia is a great starting point. Sure these aren’t refereed sources like you may find at your local library or university library, but at least the initial source is there and free.

  3. I think the internet has always been a matter of trust. “Do I trust this or that article?” “Do I trust this or that web page”. The most common example is the web page of the White House. There are several with http://www.whitehouse. but with a different ending.

    Which is right?

    Well, trust, more research on reliable sources. And self clean up in the communities. It IS really annoying to be copied on the internet, especially if there are people out here that are getting money for the information that is, in the beginning free.

    My belief, might be a naive but anyway, is that these people with reveal themselfs at the end of the day. No one will go to their site, user communities (that really meets IRL) can provide black lists of fraud oriented people.

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