networks: August 2004 Archives

Better to be ignored?

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Opened up Bloglines to find that "Syracuse" is showing up across many a radar today. Unfortunately, it's for the wrong reason. Turns out that Al Fasoldt, a staff writer for the Syracuse Post-Standard, has written an article criticizing Wikipedia. Turns out that he had pseudonymously endorsed Wikipedia in another article, and a local librarian called him on it, so he retracted the "column published a few weeks ago by my companion Dr. Gizmo."

There's a lot of buzz, needless to say, so forgive me if I miss a link. I first caught wind of it at Alex's site, where he also details an experiment designed to test the collaborative editing process. Ross Mayfield describes the WeMedia project at Many-to-Many, which will "apply a formal fact checking process to a sample of [Wikipedia] articles to gain a baseline measure of factual accuracy and explore issues of reputation." Mike at TechDirt, Joi Ito, and Shelley at Burningbird take Fasoldt to task for his arguments (and the comments sections are all worth reading as well. Ross also has a better synthesis of the discussion on M2M than I'm offering here.

It's hard for me to imagine that someone who cites 21 years of experience writing about technology wouldn't have heard of wikis, but that's apparently what's happened in this case. Leaving that aside, I was more intrigued by the pathos in Fasoldt's annotation to his article. On his own site, he prints the article, along with a couple of retorts:

Am I just being old fashioned? Or does trustworthiness still matter?

After this column was published, the author received dozens of letters, most of them deploring his stand. Apparently, many people believe an "encyclopedia" that is untrustworthy -- one in which any visitor can alter any page -- is acceptable. Is it? Am I just being old fashioned? Is trustworthy information still important? Maybe it's time we thought about issues such as these before our children get any further along in school. We might be teaching them the wrong thing. -- Al Fasoldt

As someone who teaches research, and specifically online research, it strikes me that the problem here is the false binary that Fasoldt offers. We are indeed teaching our students, in most cases, the wrong thing. Here it is:

Authority/trustworthiness/reputation/credibility is something that pre-exists the research.

Believe me when I say that I've looked, and I have yet to see the writing handbook that doesn't assume that the only valuable information on the Internet is that which mirrors the "real world." Credibility (in this model) is to be validated, through reference to a "real world" identity, rather than tested or explored via multiple sources. There are a gazillion sites for verifying the credibility of web sites, very few of which offer the simple insight that dates back to Aristotle at least: credibility is something you earn and develop, not something you simply have. When we ask our students to do research and to prepare the results in written form, we are teaching them to earn credibility through breadth and depth of research. You don't earn credibility by citing an "authoritative source," whatever that means. You earn it by testing your sources against one another, understanding what the reasons are for differences of opinion, and figuring out how to resolve them or to choose among positions, etc. In other words, authority should be something that each of us assigns to our sources, not the other way around. It is the result of research, not a prerequisite.

The advantage of sites like Wikipedia is that much of this back-and-forth (as Liz explains at Joi's site) is visible and public, and in that sense, Wikipedia offers students a chance to watch credibility-in-action. "Trustworthy information" is indeed important, but perhaps more important is that we offer students a chance to see how trustworthiness is developed, to see the conversations that may ultimately result in Encyclopedia Britannica articles. Rather than asking students to plug "authoritative quotes" into 5-paragraph containers, why not ask them to take a topic on Wikipedia, and research its validity? And if they find that there are pieces missing, why not encourage them to contribute? You telling me that stringing together blockquotes from authorities is going to teach them more about research than participating in a wiki might?

If nothing else, the hue and cry over this piece, I hope, will serve to demonstrate to Fasoldt that the "time we thought about issues such as these" has already been happening. At the close of his article, Fasoldt writes, "If you know of other supposedly authoritative Web sites that are untrustworthy, send a note to and let me know about them." I must admit that it's taken all the restraint I can muster not to send him the url of the Post-Standard.

Copy This GoMeme From This Line to The End of This Article, and paste into your blog. Then follow the instructions below to fill it out for your site.

Steal this!!!! This is a Gomeme -- a new way to spread an idea along social networks. By adding this GoMeme to your Weblog you can get higher Google rankings for your site, and help your friends get higher Google rankings too. You will also be participating in an experiment to generate a distributed Blog survey and test how memes spread through social networks.

By following the instructions below, your blog will be linked from every other blog that discovers this GoMeme downstream from your blog (from your readers, their readers, and so on). And that will raise your Google rankings in proportion to the number of downstream bloggers that get this GoMeme from you and post it to their blogs.

The dataset from this experiment is public, open and decentralized -- every blog that participates hosts their own data about their own blog. Anyone can then get the whole dataset by just searching Google for this unique string: 98818912959q This code is the "global unique identifier," or GUID for this GoMeme -- it marks every web page that participates in this GoMeme so that it can later be found with all the others. (Note it may take a week or longer before Google indexes your blog, so be patient).

To find out what a GoMeme is, and how this experiment works, or just to see how this GoMeme is growing and discuss it with others, visit the Root Posting and FAQ for this GoMeme at .


This is purely an experiment and is just for fun. We are really just curious to see what will happen and this is not a commercial project. Participation is voluntary. We don't mean to annoy anyone. However, if you don't have much curiosity, or at least a sense of humor, you may find this experiment to be upsetting. In that case, you might try drinking a good strong cup of coffee. If after that you are still unhappy with us, just don't read any further and have a great day! (If you don't want your blog to get better Google rankings, that's purely your choice!) On the other hand, if you are interested in exploring new technologies and pushing the envelope, then keep reading and we look forward to your participation in this experiment. We also request that participants in this experiment refrain from spamming anyone with this GoMeme. To spread it, just put it on your blog; that should be enough.


Step 1 First, to add your site to this experiment, copy the GoMeme to your site from the "Copy This GoMeme From Here" heading above to the End of this article. Please copy this whole article and try not to alter the text so that it is authentic for the people who get it from your blog.

Step 2: Now, fill in your answers to these Required Survey Fields (Note: Replace the answers below with your own answers). These will later be automatically data-mined by bots to compile the survey results.

(1) I found this GoMeme at URL:
(2) I found this GoMeme on date (day/month/year):03 August 2004
(3) I found this GoMeme at time (in GMT format): 06:00:00 (UTC-5)
(4) I foundit via "Newsreader Software" or "Browsing the Web" or "Searching the Web" or "An E-Mail Message": Newsreader Software
(5) I posted this GoMeme at my URL (use a hyperlink):
(6) I posted this on date (day/month/year): 3 August 2004
(7) I posted this at time (in GMT format): 07:00:00
(8) My posting location is (city, state, country): Syracuse, New York, USA

Step 3: If you're feeling very altruistic today, also fill in these optional survery fields (Replace the answers below with your own answers):

(9) My Weblog is hosted by: myself (personal installation on university server)
(10) My age is: 35
(11) My gender is: male
(12) My occupation is: university professor, writer, rhetorician
(13) I use the following RSS/Atom reader software: Bloglines, Shrook
(14) I use the following software to post to my blog: Movable Type, Ecto
(15) I have been blogging since (day, month, year): 13 August 2003
(16) My web browser is: Safari
(17) My operating system is: Mac OS X (10.3.4)

Step 4:Now add an entry for your site after the last entry in the PATH LIST below:
Your entry should be of the form: line number, URL, hyperlink, optional personal GUID for your blog.

(Note: If you would like to track all postings of the Meme that result from your posting of it, once Google has indexed them, you may add your own optional GUID after your hyperlink on your line of the Path List -- just make sure it is short, unique, and doesn't return any results on Google -- for example "mysitename137a2r28". Also note, if the path list gets too long, you should still try to include the whole path in your blog -- even if you have to put the list on a continuation page rather than the excerpt for your posting -- and make sure others copy the whole GoMeme along with your Path List when they get the GoMeme from you -- If they don't copy it, your blog and your upstream blogs won't be linked from their blogs).


1., Minding The Planet, mindingtheplanet14798
2., Collin vs. Blog, cgbvb6733k

The End

You did it! Now spread it! If all goes well and others find this GoMeme from your blog, you should see some interesting results. Please comment back on the original post and tell us how you're doing or what you observe, if anything noteworthy happens.

This posting is a community experiment that tests how a meme, represented by this blog posting, spreads across blogspace, physical space and time. It will help to show how ideas travel across blogs in space and time and how blogs are connected. It may also help to show which blogs are most influential in the propagation of memes. The dataset from this experiment will be public, and can be located via Google (or Technorati) by doing a search for the GUID for this meme (below).

The original posting for this experiment is located at: Minding the Planet (Permalink: – results and commentary will appear there in the future.

Please join the test by adding your blog (see instructions, below) and inviting your friends to participate — the more the better. The data from this test will be public and open; others may use it to visualize and study the connectedness of blogspace and the propagation of memes across blogs.

The GUID for this experiment is: as098398298250swg9e98929872525389t9987898tq98wteqtgaq62010920352598gawst (this GUID enables anyone to easily search Google (or Technorati) for all blogs that participate in this experiment). Anyone is free to analyze the data of this experiment. Please publicize your analysis of the data, and/or any comments by adding comments onto the original post (see URL above). (Note: it would be interesting to see a geographic map or a temporal animation, as well as a social network map of the propagation of this meme.)


To add your blog to this experiment, copy this entire posting to your blog, and then answer the questions below, substituting your own information, below, where appropriate. Other than answering the questions below, please do not alter the information, layout or format of this post in order to preserve the integrity of the data in this experiment (this will make it easier for searchers and automated bots to find and analyze the results later).

REQUIRED FIELDS (Note: Replace the answers below with your own answers)

* (1) I found this experiment at URL:
* (2) I found it via “Newsreader Software” or “Browsing the Web” or “Searching the Web” or “An E-Mail Message": Newsreader Software
* (3) I posted this experiment at URL:
* (4) I posted this on date (day, month, year): 03 August 2004
* (5) I posted this at time (24 hour time): 07:00:00 (UTC-5)
* (6) My posting location is (city, state, country): Syracuse, New York, USA

OPTIONAL SURVEY FIELDS (Replace the answers below with your own answers):

* (7) My blog is hosted by: myself (personal MT installation on university server)
* (8) My age is: 35
* (9) My gender is: Male
* (10) My occupation is: university professor, writer
* (11) I use the following RSS/Atom reader software: Bloglines, Shrook
* (12) I use the following software to post to my blog: Moveable Type, Ecto
* (13) I have been blogging since (day, month, year): 13 August 2003
* (14) My web browser is: Safari
* (15) My operating system is: Mac OS X (10.3.4)



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This page is a archive of entries in the networks category from August 2004.

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