Shirky On Data

Relating to my last post, Clay Shirky follows up yesterday’s essay with one that concludes as such:

As Scott Bradner put it, the Internet means you don’t have to convince anyone else that something is a good idea before trying it. The upshot is that the internet’s output is data, but its product is freedom.

What Andrew Keen seems to be trying to argue through “The Cult Of The Amateur” is that the data is not the problem but that there is no one filtering it. There are no editors or publishers to ensure quality or even accuracy. And it is dangerous to assume the general public can judge this themselves. If all you get is unfiltered, flawed data, at what point can you craft a solid, well rounded, well founded opinion or even begin to get the actual truth or definition of something?

Data is subjective and selective. The audience needs to have a source of solid, certifiable information that presents something as close to the truth as possible or it will never learn.

Data is not bad. It is the lack of a filter that is dangerous.

Currently Reading: The Cult Of The Amateur

Andrew Keen discusses the dangers Web 2.0 and mob rule. While I’m only a little ways into the book, so far his talk so far on blogging and Wikipedia and what it can do at its worst is very interesting. I don’t agree with some of his statements in the introduction on matters such as declining music sales related to piracy but I’ll give the rest of the book to flesh that out.

Excerpt available here. Choice cut:

Out of this anarchy, it suddenly became clear that what was governing the infinite monkeys now inputting away on the Internet was the law of digital Darwinism, the survival of the loudest and most opinionated. Under these rules, the only way to intellectually prevail is by infinite filibustering.

I’ve spent the last two years observing the Web 2.0 revolution, and I’m dismayed by what I’ve seen.

I’ve seen the infinite monkeys, of course, typing away. And I’ve seen many other strange sights as well, including a video of marching penguins selling a lie, a supposedly infinite Long Tail, and dogs chatting to each other online. But what I’ve been watching is more like Hitchcock’s The Birds than Doctor Doolittle: a horror movie about the consequences of the digital revolution.

Because democratization, despite its lofty idealization, is undermining truth, souring civic discourse, and belittling expertise, experience, and talent. As I noted earlier, it is threatening the very future of our cultural institutions.

I call it the great seduction. The Web 2.0 revolution has peddled the promise of bringing more truth to more people—more depth of information, more global perspective, more unbiased opinion from dispassionate observers. But this is all a smokescreen. What the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment. The information business is being transformed by the Internet into the sheer noise of a hundred million bloggers all simultaneously talking about themselves.

Read the NYTimes review here.

Since contributors to Wikipedia and YouTube are frequently anonymous, it’s hard for users to be certain of their identity — or their agendas. Postings about political candidates, for instance, can be made by opponents disguising their motives; and propaganda can be passed off as news or information. For that matter, as Mr. Keen points out, the idea of objectivity is becoming increasingly passé in the relativistic realm of the Web, where bloggers cherry-pick information and promote speculation and spin as fact. Whereas historians and journalists traditionally strived to deliver the best available truth possible, many bloggers revel in their own subjectivity, and many Web 2.0 users simply use the Net, in Mr. Keen’s words, to confirm their “own partisan views and link to others with the same ideologies.” What’s more, as mutually agreed upon facts become more elusive, informed debate about important social and political issues of the day becomes more difficult as well.

Visit Andrew Keen’s site here.

The Ethical Blogging “Buzz”

F.T. Rea at SLANTBlog makes a good point about the use of the word “ethical” in the blogosphere these days:

[T]he way the terms “ethical blogger” and “blogging ethics” are being used by bloggers to attack other bloggers they simply don’t like is not only getting quite tiresome, it is stretching the meaning out of the words.

Moreover, from what I’ve seen, the bloggers who are using this buzzword approach in their posts the most are the very ones who must know that any serious discussion of obnoxious behavior in the blogosphere — mostly meaning deliberate dishonesty and incivility — will shine a bad light on them.

Without speculating on who Terry’s talking about (though it’s probably the same people I’m thinking about), I must say I agree with him. The term “ethical blogging” is something people like to toss around but provide absolutely no meat to.

The more and more this goes on, the more people hop on the “ethics” bandwagon merely to use it as a weapon against people who have wronged them, the more I really start to feel that perhaps a code would be worthwhile, some written guidelines that show that people are willing to take themselves and their blogging seriously. Something that broadly defines what ethics in blogging truly is. Something that just says “I pledge to be good and others will be good to me”.

But there’s more to ethical blogging than trying to create a code and folks signing onto said code and interpreting it as they’d like.

I think readers know ethical blogging when they see it. I know when a blog hits me the wrong way, I know when one hits me the right way. There is a tone, there is a content, there is something about a site that speaks volumes without my really being able to put my finger on what exactly it is. You can pick up on these things and I think most readers do.

So if you’re going to talk ethics, be serious about it, because you’re not going to like what comes of the conversation if you aren’t.