Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tim Berners-Lee and the "dangers" of blogging

I regularly read Mark Evans' blog through an RSS feed. Yesterday, as I was reading one of his entries, I was intrigued to see two full sentences near the end of a paragraph crossed out. Evidently, Mark had read a Guardian article in which Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, was quoted as decrying the danger to democracy and truth caused by the world of blogging.

According to the Guardian, Berners-Lee is most concerned with "the risks associated with inaccurate, defamatory and uncheckable information." Those who read blogs take what they read on trust, too much trust.

Immediately following the two crossed out sentences, Mark has a mea culpa section in which he apologizes for taking the Guardian article at face value. Berners-Lee's orginal blog post had a far more positive spin on the world of blogging than what the Guardian and the BBC reports.

Berners-Lee actually finds blogs very useful, primarily because of their "gently evolving network of pointers of interest." In fact, the blogosphere might even provide a model for a trust infrastructure, something of possible interest to his proposed Web Science Research Initiative.

I searched Technorati to see if Mark's mistake had been repeated. In fact, many of the blog entries on the subject repeated the same mistake. But what I found most ironic was that it wasn't the BBC or the Guardian or any other print media that corrected the problem. It was other bloggers (here's just one example from a former journalist turned blogger), including Mark Evans.

What do I think? Yes, blogging has the potential of propagating misinformation quickly. Yes, bloggers often fail miserably in providing appropriate links to support their claims. But, the point still remains that the speed with which misinformation spreads is equally matched by the speed with which it is corrected. Unlike print media, where corrections are almost impossible to find and usually far too late to have any impact, blogging's internal corrective mechanism is similar to the Wikipedia model.

It is important to remember that mistakes will be made. What is critical is how those mistakes are corrected and the speed with which the correction occurs.

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