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Re: E-M:/ Re: Great Lakes Wiki Web site

Enviro-Mich message from Gary Stock <gstock@net-link.net>

I tend to agree with Njb586's concerns, though perhaps for different
reasons.  Personally, I'm less concerned with MSU's reputation. 
However, the continued blurring of lines between authoritative
journalism and "all the other stuff" is troubling.  Especially on the
web, educators need to emphasize differentiating between "available
information" and "reliable information."  Students must demonstrate
_that_ sort of literacy, else the Rush Limbaughs of the world will
continue to control it. 

One might say that this all rides on whether you believe more in "the
wisdom of crowds," or in "the power of truth."

If MSU can attract quality contributors at the right scale -- which it
seems powerfully positioned to accomplish -- the wiki service may enjoy
credibility and provide a valuable resource.  

If MSU attracts pranksters and paid trolls, the project will tumble
under its own weight toward a well-deserved demise.

The upshot:  now and then, well-informed writers (that may be YOU) need
to contribute an informed article or insightful comment.  That effort
_can_ overcome the risks inherent in the structure of a wiki.  

Any who are intrigued by the wiki debate, read on.  Otherwise, this note
may seem "non-environmental" (though I see striking parallels with
"think globally, act locally" and other collective premises of the movement).

Over the years, I've discussed or designed editing and publishing
software with many technical professionals (including some involved in
early development of wiki concepts and similar software).  Like most
tools, wikis may be used for good or evil -- and you can't always tell
the difference.

Collectively, the geek contingent seems to accept the concept of wikis
as somewhat better than the alternative -- that is, no wikis.  Larry
Sanger, an originator of the concept, left the originating group over
disagreement about quality limitations, to launch:


   The project, started by a founder of Wikipedia, aims to 
   improve on the Wikipedia model by adding "gentle expert 
   oversight" and requiring contributors to use their real names.

Some analyses of the enormous body of Wiki-produced data suggests that a
few low-volume contributors provide most of the "quality" content, while
a larger number of really busy folks create most of the bulk (doesn't
that pretty well describe _every_ human endeavor?) and clutter:


All aspects of authoritativeness have been argued extensively:




Note that Slashdot created one of the most successful models for quality
control among anonymous hordes.  Individual comments are rated, and any
reader can control their display based upon their quality.  Frequent
users may be invited to perform minor moderating functions.  Over time,
editors develop "karma points," which give them more editing authority. 
(E-Bay's reputation management system draws on more data, but may not
provide more depth.) 

That Wikipedia itself contains some of the best organized critiques of
the WIKI concept should be encouraging.  Of course, other sections of
Wikipedia describe its self-correcting character and related benefits.

Some positions present a fascinating internal inconsistency!  This from
a page self-identified as "an official policy on the English Wikipedia."


   Articles should rely on reliable, third-party published 
   sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy.

-- and --

   Anyone can create a website or pay to have a book published, 
   then claim to be an expert in a certain field. For that reason,
   self-published books, personal websites, and blogs are largely
   not acceptable as sources.

...somewhat reminiscent of a politican condemning other politicians for
taking positions based on political considerations!

Overall, the pro-con-pro-con... potential of this thread is _endless_. 
As noted above, the wiki debate encapsulates the very notion of how
society informs itself and makes decisions.  We all have a vital
interest in improving both processes.


Njb586@aol.com wrote:
> I was astonished to read the posting about MSU's new Great
> Lakes Wiki Web site. I'm mystified at how the MSU School of Journalism
> can develop and promote a program that, as the article states, "allows
> contributors to post information and commentary without prior editing
> with regard to fairness or accuracy." Fairness can be debatable, but
> accuracy? Accuracy should be the gold standard of any journalism
> project associated with MSU or any other university.
> Worse yet is the pathetic excuse that this is somehow
> acceptable because "mainstream media outlets are not immune to
> mistakes or occasionally allowing bias to creep into news stories." I
> was not aware that MSU condones shoddy journalism and biased
> reporting. Are these not things we should be trying to fix rather than
> pass off as part and parcel of the trade? Do we accept "mistakes" that
> affect the environment or the potential for "mistakes"? No. We demand
> perfection. The same should be true for a so-called "information"
> network supported by a college journalism program.
> I'm all for free speech, information sharing and protecting the
> environment, but I worry the Journalism College has put its reputation
> at stake with this site. I urge the college to investigate other forms
> of reporting that do not go against the basic journalism creed of
> accuracy.

Gary Stock                                        gstock@unblinking.com
UnBlinking                                   http://www.unblinking.com/
Googlewhack                                 http://www.googlewhack.com/

     The best proof for a claim that terrorists are crazy or evil
     would be to acknowledge that the White House is full of them

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