Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
The Internet Software

User-Generated Content Vs. Experts 210

Jay points out a Newsweek piece which suggests that the era of user-generated content is going to change in favor of fact-checking and more rigorous standards. The author points to Google's Knol and the "people-powered" search engine Mahalo as examples of the demand for more accurate information sharing. Quoting: "User-generated sites like Wikipedia, for all the stuff they get right, still find themselves in frequent dust-ups over inaccuracies, while community-posting boards like Craigslist have never been able to keep out scammers and frauds. Beyond performance, a series of miniscandals has called the whole "bring your own content" ethic into question. Last summer researchers in Palo Alto, Calif., uncovered secret elitism at Wikipedia when they found that 1 percent of the reference site's users make more than 50 percent of its edits. Perhaps more notoriously, four years ago a computer glitch revealed that Amazon.com's customer-written book reviews are often written by the book's author or a shill for the publisher. 'The wisdom of the crowds has peaked,' says Calacanis. 'Web 3.0 is taking what we've built in Web 2.0--the wisdom of the crowds--and putting an editorial layer on it of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

User-Generated Content Vs. Experts

Comments Filter:
  • Ya (Score:5, Funny)

    by moogied ( 1175879 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:15AM (#22685268)
    Because experts are never wrong. Infact, did you know experts always completly agree?
    • Re:Ya (Score:5, Funny)

      by Alexx K ( 1167919 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:29AM (#22685312)

      OK, I'll bite.

      Although experts may disagree, and there is the occasional fraud or corperate shill in the science community, at least they are more likely to use the scientific method and choose facts over opinions.

      Imho, while user-generated content may, in some cases, be more accurate or up-to-date, it is all to easy to encounter this situation.

      Scientist: The Earth is round.
      DragonBallZFan: It looks flat to me.
      AnnCoulter: The Earth is flat, you godless, anti-American, terrorist-supporting liberals! And you know why? Science said it's not flat, and science is always wrong because it conflicts with the Bible!
      QB253X2: Get a year's supply of Viagra for just $14.95 at htttp://www.stealyouridentity.info

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Yoozer ( 1055188 )
        Mod parent up, this is so correct it hurts.
      • Re:Ya (Score:5, Insightful)

        by asuffield ( 111848 ) <asuffield@suffields.me.uk> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:32AM (#22685852)

        Although experts may disagree, and there is the occasional fraud or corperate shill in the science community, at least they are more likely to use the scientific method and choose facts over opinions.


        While there is some truth in that, the problem here is more subtle. Stated simply it is:

        How do we tell that this person is an expert? What actually distinguishes them from another user?

        This is a serious problem because there are a whole lot more people who claim to be experts than there are who have anything useful to contribute. The "wisdom of the crowds" never really existed - crowds are quite stupid - but Wikipedia 'solves' the problem of finding the experts by building a system where you don't need to bother, and (here's the important bit) nobody has ever come up with anything that works better. Nothing will change until/unless somebody does come up with a better solution.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TapeCutter ( 624760 )
          The only thing 'better' is peer-review, but scince WP is an encylopedia and not a journal, I don't see the point.
          • Re:Ya (Score:5, Insightful)

            by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:28AM (#22686580) Journal
            It's "peer-review" but we are all the peers.

            After all, what were "experts" before they became experts, except "users"?

            Or, to put it another way, an expert is a user who other users call "expert".
            • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:35PM (#22688132)
              It's simply a case of grouping people [wikipedia.org] by their own choices. You put all the flat earthers together and sell them flat earth compasses and pretty crystals.

              Those who actually go out and observe the real world will realise the truth, can if they wish, manufacture flat earth compasses and pretty crystals to sell to the flat earthers. Then head off for a cruise on their yacht knowing they aren't going to fall off the end of the world.

              You see, you don't have to worry about who the experts are. Everyone has their own experts.
               
          • Re:Ya (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @12:42PM (#22687268)
            Could you tell me the difference between peer review and the moderation system that we have in, say, /.? How is "this is accurate and scientific" in many cases different from "yeah, I agree with this theory"?

            Of course, 99.999% of all those theories that get discredited in the scientific circles are the usual esotheric FTL drives powered by some mystic cold-fusion-in-your-basement that's fueled by the next perpetual motion machine, that's a given. But basically that's what peer review comes down to: I agree with you.
            • Re:Ya (Score:5, Insightful)

              by mrbooze ( 49713 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:58PM (#22688560)
              I can moderate slashdot. I cannot participate in any peer-reviewed scientific journal that I am aware of, because I have no scientific credentials that would be accepted by any credible scientific journal.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )
                In that case, you might be a bit surprised by the kind of person who is responsible for peer review. I was asked to review a couple of papers in a field only tangentially related to my own work while I was studying for my PhD. Of course, I have the advantage of being omniscient (I do, after all, have excellent karma, and so my omniscience is endorsed by the groupthink) but other less-fortunate people (who don't read Slashdot at all) are almost certainly in the same position.
        • Re:Ya (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ptrourke ( 529610 ) * on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:18AM (#22686336) Homepage
          Sure someone came up with something better: his name was Aldus Manutius, and his invention is nowadays called a "publisher" - one guy whose reputation depends upon his ability to pick good editors who can themselves vet books for quality. (Technically, a lot of people contributed to the invention of the publisher, but Aldus is a good stand in for the group.) A publisher's reputation for quality directly affects the prices he's able to charge for his works, and thus his livelihood. The problem with Wikipedia and projects of its ilk is that, unlike open source software, there's no boundary of usability that instantly tells you whether or not it's crap (bad code doesn't work, and that's obvious to users, not just experts). You can't apply a "survival of the fittest" model to written works that are intended to represent reality accurately, because the only check on their growth is the reading and use of such works by often inexpert readers who judge the works on criteria other than accuracy (because most of them don't have the requisite knowledge to judge their accuracy). One possible check is reputation - nobody wants to have their name attached to a gross error, so folks are more likely to take care with their research and arguments if they are forced to take responsibility for what they write (see Areopagitica), lest someone who is an expert demonstrate their error for all to see. The problem with wikipedia isn't the fact that it's open to any contributor; it's the fact that there's no assignment of responsibility for entries to authors who have to maintain a consistent identity (if someone demonstrates your failure to check your facts, you can just switch to another sock puppet and nobody's the wiser) and the failure to vet editors (if say Alex Ross were to write an article on John Adams the composer, I could go in there and change it to say that he was an early Baroque composer for the harpsichord, and there'd be nothing to prevent me from camping on the entry to revert any corrections, because in the eyes of Wikipedia what I have to say about John Adams, as a musical novice, is as valid as what was written about him by a professional music critic. But if I say that John Adams died three hundred years ago and wrote harpsichord music, people who come across it will shrug; if Alex Ross does so, he'll lose his audience and Adams will call him and say "are you on crack?" The editors need to be people who have something at stake; and the authors need to be held responsible for their work...and ultimately, the publisher needs to be held accountable for the quality of the whole, or else you end with good articles only in the hard sciences where inaccuracies are obvious to all relevant readers and in narrow specialties where no one would bother writing entries except for those who are already heavily invested in them, and worthless articles on any subject in which a measurable fraction of the general public has an emotional investment, but no particular expertise.
          • Re:Ya (Score:5, Funny)

            by CopaceticOpus ( 965603 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:52AM (#22686704)
            The understudy of Aldus Manutius, a young editor named Herberg McParagy, came up with something better too: the sentence grouping. His invention is nowadays called a "paragraph" - a set of perhaps 3-4 logically connected sentences, set apart with the use of line breaks to prevent the reader from losing interest, or simply going mad and jamming a spoon in his eye.
          • Yeah right (Score:5, Insightful)

            by raddan ( 519638 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @12:19PM (#22687138)
            You're kidding, right? Apparently you've missed out on Margaret Jones [onpointradio.org], or James Frey [wikipedia.org], or the entire bogus memoir industry that produces crap like this [wikipedia.org] with the help of a ghost writer. I work for a publisher, and simply put, they rarely fact-check. Instead, what they do is send prerelease books to reviewers. The hope is that the reviewers will be smart enough to catch glaring errors. How knowledgeable the reviewers are depends somewhat on the audience of the book. College textbooks typically go to professors and grad students. Trade paperbacks can go to pretty much anybody, but usually quotable people or professional book critics.

            In any case, this is exactly the same mechanism that Wikipedia uses: throw it out there and see if anyone catches something. As a practical matter, publishers cannot fact-check. They do not have the resources. The only books I would depend on fact-checking for are the ones that claim to do so as a principle of their cognitive authority: dictionaries and encyclopedias. The imprint I work for publishes several hundred textbooks a year, and reprints darn near a thousand. We have a little over 200 employees. See what I'm getting at?

            Even scientific articles are "fact-checked" this way: throw it out there. Typically the reviewers are peers, and quite knowledgeable. This works better than with trade publishers because the reviewers have specific knowledge about that particular field. But does the publisher fact-check themselves? No! I should add that the pay scale for reviewers goes up depending on the relative reliability of the reviewers. Reviewers for scientific reviewers are often paid in the several hundreds range. Reviewers for college textbooks in the low hundreds (sometimes in trade for other goodies), and trade paperback reviewers, not much, if anything. Often it's for the privilege of seeing pre-release stuff.

            There's only one kind of publishing where fact-checking (aside from dictionaries, etc.) is done as a rule: journalism. But there have been many scandals there as well. There was a study mentioned in the book Trust Us, We're Experts [prwatch.org] that said that nearly half of the Wall Street Journal's article's were simply slightly modified press releases. And the Wall Street Journal is regarded as one of the more reliable papers! I think I only need to mention cable TV journalism for you to see where I'm going with this.

            The publishing industry is not reliable. They're in it for the money. Books like Frey's sell just as well, if not better, than the real ones. Just look at the demand for O.J. Simpson's book-- a book that never even claimed to tell the truth! People want something juicy, and the publishing industry is happy to give it to them. Sorry, ptrourke, your premise is false.
            • Review of science (Score:4, Informative)

              by Dire Bonobo ( 812883 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:14PM (#22688324)

              Even scientific articles are "fact-checked" this way: throw it out there. Typically the reviewers are peers, and quite knowledgeable. This works better than with trade publishers because the reviewers have specific knowledge about that particular field. But does the publisher fact-check themselves? No! I should add that the pay scale for reviewers goes up depending on the relative reliability of the reviewers. Reviewers for scientific reviewers are often paid in the several hundreds range.

              You clearly have no idea how reviews of actual science are done.

              I have, at this moment, four papers to review for the top conference in my field. I will get paid nothing, and neither will the reviewers of my paper. No reputable conference or journal that I'm familiar with pays reviewers; it's an expected part of being a scientist.

              The articles are also by no means "thrown out there"; they're given to a primary reviewer who's a recognized expert in that area, and he or she selects several additional reviewers who he knows to be sufficiently knowledgeable in that area that they'll be able to understand and effectively evaluate the work. This is, effectively, selection of experts by experts, and it's utterly crucial to the peer review process. Simply "throwing it out there" would be a mess.

              Unless by "scientific articles" and "review by peers" you're talking about pop-sci magazine articles or something. Calling a piece in Wired a "scientific article" is an enormous stretch, and an actual scientific article goes through a very, very different review process than the one you suggest. One which - not coincidentally - relies heavily on authenticated experts.

              Imagining that democracy can replace expertise fits the currently-trendy memes very well, but it's a fantasy. A million monkeys on a million typewriters might crank out Hamlet, but no number of monkeys is going to recognize and select Hamlet, or any other worthwhile piece of writing. Leveraging the work of non-expert crowds is very powerful, but it's not a magic bullet that can solve everything, and it's sheer populist fantasy to imagine that it is.
        • Re:Ya (Score:5, Insightful)

          by BeanThere ( 28381 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @10:29AM (#22686586)
          The summary seems to suggest that merely paying people will automatically elevate their content to a realm of professionalism and accuracy. That's silly. If anything paying people introduces potential conflicts of interest etc.

          This looks like the common mistake where people assume that something is worth more if they paid more for it. Or it may be a flimsy attempt to commercialise sites like Wikipedia, I'm sure many business types salivate at the prospects of "monetizing" such a huge site - well, it's huge *because it's good* - Wikipedia never even had to advertise, users flocked to it because it was useful, and that's testament to the fact that the system "works".

          Personally I don't think there is even a problem that needs to be solved. GP is exaggerating badly, as is the summary (I didn't RTA). On the whole, Wikipedia works incredibly well - really, it's 'nothing to see here, move along', focusing on the 0.0001% of problem areas and blowing it out of proportion to suggest an epidemic of problems suggests sensationalism or an ulterior motive to me.

          I don't see anything wrong with 1% making 50% of the edits at all, that is a natural distribution for projects of that nature, you see the same pattern in open source development, and it's not a bad thing at all. Actually I would've been surprised if the pattern had been anything else. We don't judge the content based on stats about the nature of the editing process, we judge the content on the content, and it's good, very good. Not perfect, but nothing is.
    • Re:Ya (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Brett Buck ( 811747 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:35AM (#22685326)
      >Because experts are never wrong. Infact, did you know experts
      >always completly agree

              That's not much of an argument. Of course experts disagree - but either side knows far more about a given topic than the average Joe 12-pack on the internet. Unfortunately, experts don't have nearly the free time of Joe 12-pack. Meaning in many cases the well-meaning but uniformed will engage in editing wars with the true experts and there's no way to prevent someone from reposting the same crap over and over.

                Brett
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by JustOK ( 667959 )

        >Because experts are never wrong. Infact, did you know experts
        >always completly agree

        That's A GREAT argument.

        There, fixed that for you

        there's no way to prevent someone from reposting the same crap over and over.

        You must be new here.
    • What? No. (Score:5, Funny)

      by raehl ( 609729 ) <raehl311@y a h o o . com> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:51AM (#22685370) Homepage
      Everyone knows that only 4 out of 5 experts agree!
    • by MikeFM ( 12491 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @05:11AM (#22685618) Homepage Journal
      Myself, I think I'll stick to letting everyone contribute. That way I can see all the expert views as well as all the interesting notes and crackpot additions that non-experts add. Since Wikipdia started limiting contributions I've found it a lot less useful and less enjoyable to use. If I wanted to read a smaller, more limited, more expert opinionated, source I would grab the encyclopedia off my shelf. What made Wikipedia great was it's huge amount of information with stuff you wouldn't find in the encyclopedia. It gave you one heck of a place to start with and then through your own research you could sort through the information provided to see what was from experts, what was interesting side material experts wouldn't tell you about, and what was just crap. Rather than censoring non-expert material it's better to highlight expert material while leaving everything available.
  • Good idea! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ncryptd ( 1172815 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:17AM (#22685272)
    Maybe someone will start a tech news site where users can submit stories, and editors pick the most accurate ones for posting... It can even feature user-run moderation for comments -- kinda like "digg up" and "digg down".

    Anyone wanna start such a site?
  • web 3.0? (Score:5, Funny)

    by a10_es ( 579819 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:24AM (#22685292)
    web 3.0? is the web 2.0 hype over already? Now that I was starting to get into the bandwagon and to enjoy it..........
  • Wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JohnFluxx ( 413620 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:25AM (#22685296)
    > Last summer researchers in Palo Alto, Calif., uncovered secret elitism at Wikipedia when they found that 1 percent of the reference site's users make more than 50 percent of its edits

    Wtf. Why is this 'secret elitism' ? IIRC, the story was something along the lines that what happened typicall was that a large 'plain text' commit tended to be submitted by an actual expert, and then hundreds of small commits were made by this 1% that was to wikify the text, format it nicely, add references etc.

    To me, that sounds more like a 'secret janitorial staff' than a secret elitism.
    • by WK2 ( 1072560 )
      I thought the 1%/50% comment was stupid, too. The majority of wikipedia users hardly edit anything. I've only edited a few pages myself. How is that elitism?
    • Re:Wtf (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:05AM (#22685420)
      That's the trouble with statistics, you can make any number mean anything.

      Actually, over the last few weeks I've been using wikipedia a lot, and I was struck by how often the pages I was reading had editorial comments/requests (for citations, discussion and the like). I took this as meaning the editorial bods take their work seriously. It also highlighted the articles which were less rigorous.

      To me, this means decent supervision, without wikipedia would be useless. To a statistician with an agenda, its the ugly claw of elitism exerting control over the 'open' encyclopedia.
    • Re:Wtf (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mrmeval ( 662166 ) <mrmeval@@@gmail...com> on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:32AM (#22685496) Journal
      The article wants overt elitism:

      "and putting an editorial layer on it of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined."

      They show their spots and their filled with pus.
    • Re:Wtf (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jasin Natael ( 14968 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:43AM (#22685536)

      I would also like to point out that this is a very common pattern of how things freaking actually work in the real world. You can find probably on the order of tens of millions of examples for this disparity in the real world. It's the Pareto Principle (aka, the 80/20 rule), and the concentration is basically fractal in nature. The smaller the sample you choose, the greater the disproportionality is likely to be.

      Some possible examples (this is a thought experiment. I don't know the actual stats, but all of these are believable, at least on the face of it):

      • Over 50% of all adultery is committed by less than 1% of the population
      • More than 50% of all food is grown by 1% of all agricultural companies
      • Over half of all charitable contributions are made by less than 1% of the people who took charitable deductions on their taxes
      • More than half of all hours logged on WoW are attributable to 1% of its user base
      • More than half of all Slashdot posts are submitted by less than 1% of its user base.

      This does not a scandal make. In fact, it would be a hell of a lot more surprising if something of Wikipedia's nature didn't follow this statistical pattern. To me, it only proves that Wikipedia is genuinely organic, instead of an artificial system of quotas and coercion that tries to force everyone to submit equally. Would we even want a Wikipedia where the apathetic masses are forced or paid to submit information?

      • by ral315 ( 741081 )
        Exactly. I'm also not sure where the "1%" comes from -- if that's "registered accounts", then the number's especially dubious. Many user accounts are never or rarely used -- either because they're blocked immediately for vandalism/impersonation, or, more often, because people tend to open accounts they rarely or never use. I couldn't count the number of user accounts I've registered for in various spots around the internet -- anything from computer help boards, to games I'll never play, etc. 50/1 seems
      • Re:Wtf (Score:5, Funny)

        by ksandom ( 718283 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:37AM (#22685860) Homepage

        Agreed. You forgot one though!

        • More than 50% of slashdot comments are created using less than 1% of their intellegence
        ;)
      • Pareto Principle (Score:4, Informative)

        by yuna49 ( 905461 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @11:23AM (#22686870)
        the Pareto Principle (aka, the 80/20 rule)

        Actually this is not the Pareto Principle. See the Wiki article on Pareto efficiency [wikipedia.org] for details. Pareto-optimality, as it's referred to in social choice and economic theorizing, concerns making comparisons between two "states of the world." If State A improves the lot of one person and leaves everyone else's situation unchanged, the the "strong" Pareto principle says that State A ought to be preferred by "society." (A weaker form requires only that state B not be chosen.) Another word for the Pareto principle is "unanimity," since Pareto improvements (I'm better off, no one else is worse off) should be acceptable to everyone in a society.

        In an abstract free market, transactions among perfectly informed buyers and sellers should reach a Pareto-optimal distribution of prices and quantities. Nevertheless Pareto tells us nothing about distributional issues. As the famous economist Amartya Sen once wrote, "the world can be Pareto optimal and still be perfectly disgusting." One of the most profound findings of social welfare theory [wikipedia.org] is that it's possible to select any Pareto-optimal distribution of prices and quantities, then choose a distribution of incomes that achieves the desired result.

    • by rhizome ( 115711 )
      Wtf. Why is this 'secret elitism' ?

      It isn't, it's just dumb. Answer this: what is the percentage of newspaper and encyclopedia users who make edits to those publications? I'm guessing it's not more than 1%, but maybe someone has some hard numbers.
    • Re:Wtf (Score:5, Informative)

      by Gromgull ( 209379 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:01AM (#22685768) Homepage
      Actually - the 1% are the users who hang around and correct grammar and punctation mistakes, they clearly make many edits because each edit is only a few chars. The majority of NEW content on the other hand is added by users who may make few other edits. Aaron writes more on this: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/whowriteswikipedia [aaronsw.com]
    • Re:Wtf (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Vexorian ( 959249 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @07:53AM (#22686044)
      It's the sort of crazy elitism that favors those wanting to edit article over those who don't want to.
  • Big media companies are finally starting to "get" the Internet and join the information age by finally making meaningful contributions online.

    Wisdom of crowds is far from dead though... and may I say let's not get in the habit of referencing "Web 3.0" PLEASE.
  • by TheMiddleRoad ( 1153113 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:36AM (#22685338)
    The article says, basically, that the experts are advertising supported. It will all fall apart as web advertising collapses again. Thank you, Adblock Plus!

    Besides, with all but the newest and pre-release products, I get much better information reading a spec-sheet and browsing user opinions than I do from an expert review.
  • by phantomcircuit ( 938963 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:40AM (#22685344) Homepage

    The wisdom of the crowds has peaked,' says Calacanis. 'Web 3.0 is taking what we've built in Web 2.0--the wisdom of the crowds--and putting an editorial layer on it of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.
    That sounds an awful lot like how it all worked before... maybe because it actually WORKED before.
    • Negative. (Score:3, Funny)

      by raehl ( 609729 )
      Back to Web 0.0.

      Time to dust off ye ole World Book!
    • by epine ( 68316 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:04AM (#22685784)
      What evidence do you have that the previous approach WORKED? Seems like a circular definition to me, where "works" is defined as an absence of viable alternatives.

      I grew up with a 14th edition Britannica from the mid-sixties in the house. The junior version was worthless. I gave up on that when I was nine. I used the big edition a lot, but half the articles I looked up had a giant stick up their butt: scholarship as a functional impediment to information flow. A lousy way to sate a fleeting curiosity. What's the population of Iraq? Oh, bother, I've already got the I volume open to a different page. I was an impatient child. No bookmarks for me. Maybe I'd rather solve another polynomial.

      I've never been thrilled with honesty or quality of information web 1.0 or its dark-age antecedent.

      I had such great information available to me. Paul Ehrlich's 1968 "The Population Bomb". Ah, yes, the experts of yesteryear. No bias here, we're responsible scientists. Erich von Däniken's 1968 "Chariots of the Gods?" "The Guinness Book of World Records", various editions. "Your Erroneous Zones" 1976 Wayne Dyer. "Roots: The Saga of an American Family" 1976 Alex Haley. "In and Out of the Garbage Pail" 1981 Frederick S. Perls

      This is the typical crap people had on their bookshelves prior to the invention of the PC. And the worst of it was, so far as I could tell as a child, none of the adults around me could much tell the difference. If you had taken a vote at my local church, I suspect "Chariots of the Gods?" would have been voted the most credible, or maybe the "Guinness Book of World Records".

      By the standards of what the average person finds credible, the Wikipedia leaves little to be desired. I just read a nice line associated with the age of the universe thread:

      The age of the Universe is 13.73 billion years, plus or minus 120 million years. Some people might say it doesn't look a day over 6000 years. They're wrong."
      Most people have tree sap for brains. But nevertheless, they "demand" information pure as the driven snow, piled high to the sky. Because these are serious cash-hording Minnesotans, they demand "bankability":

      The revival comes amid mounting demand for a more reliable, bankable Web.
      Vague "mounting demand" from where, exactly? You couldn't write such meaningless drivel in the Wikipedia without having it removed, and rather briskly if the article has any importance. One man's "mounting demand" is another man's elitist grumbling.

      The homage to reliability continues to drivel vaguely:

      "People are beginning to recognize that the world is too dangerous a place for faulty information," says Charlotte Beal, a consumer strategist for the Minneapolis-based research firm Iconoculture. Beal adds that choice fatigue and fear of bad advice are creating a "perfect storm of demand for expert information."
      That's as bad as any article I've edited at Wikipedia. "Perfect storm"? How about "the mother of all vacuous cliches"? Taking a more literalist view, I would depict the situation leading up to the current Iraq war as the "perfect storm of demand for expert information." Turns out, experts can be beaten. Squeeze long enough, eventually they'll say what the government most wishes to hear.

      There were also a lot of people back in the 1970s who were having trouble accepting that tobacco smoke is harmful to human health. You can't really blame them: there were more white coats lined up on the side of the argument that "health effects from tobacco remain unproven".

      What golden era of WORKS are you referring to, exactly?

      The only reliable information I can recall from my childhood were the books written by Kurt Vonnegut or Mark Twain. Since Kurt has passed on, I'll pass along a hint in his spirit for how to best approach the Wikipedia: if you plucked a piece of gum from the underside of your desk, would you put it in your mouth? Read the Wikipedia accordingly. You'll be fine.
  • 3.0? hardly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by in4mer ( 181985 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:49AM (#22685366)
    This is going to be a case of "Your betters know better", which simply will not fly. I will take wikipedia with its inaccuracy any day, over a closed publication model with a range of possible slants to its subtle editorializing and crafty omissions, all created by funding requirements.

    No, thank you. I'll pass.
    • by Mex ( 191941 )
      Yeah. Sounds like an argument from an old-school media to keep itself relevant.

      "Seriously, guys, you need US to editorialize your un-filtered information! We know what's good!"
      • Re:3.0? hardly (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:10AM (#22685430)
        Probably. The biggest 'problem' with wikipedia and it's ilk is that it takes readership away from the monetised publishers who previously held sway on the provision of information.

        Yes, sometimes it sucks. But sometimes books do too, and the edition on your shelf won't magically correct its errors and ommisions if you wait a few days. For that you need to buy a new edition, and hope the problems are gone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrbluze ( 1034940 )

      This is going to be a case of "Your betters know better", which simply will not fly.

      It's too expensive for one thing. Take for example the medical field. How much of the body of knowledge is "Level 1 Evidence"? You'll find that only a small proportion of what is in a medical textbook meets this standard, because it requires a formal review panel of experts systematically analyzing properly undertaken studies with blinding and so forth, and even then you have to take it with a grain of salt most of the time. It's just so terribly labour intensive that the job has to be restricted to narro

      • by ponos ( 122721 )

        It's too expensive for one thing. Take for example the medical field. How much of the body of knowledge is "Level 1 Evidence"? You'll find that only a small proportion of what is in a medical textbook meets this standard, because it requires a formal review panel of experts systematically analyzing properly undertaken studies with blinding and so forth, and even then you have to take it with a grain of salt most of the time. It's just so terribly labour intensive that the job has to be restricted to narrowl

  • by Heshler ( 1191623 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @03:58AM (#22685394)
    ...math and physics articles will forever be incomprehensible to mere enthusiasts.
  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:02AM (#22685408)

    'Web 3.0 is taking what we've built in Web 2.0--the wisdom of the crowds--and putting an editorial layer on it of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.'
    Hmm, so this is basically get rid of the blogs/wikis etc and replace it with... let's call these "compensated people" writers, and require 'fact checking', then we'll have these people called "Editors" make sure the subject is on topic and appropriate for the given medium.

    Damn, if these "Periodicals" come out daily, we'll call them newspapers; and weekly ones we'll call magazines. Heck even some of the highly technical ones we'll call Journals.

    Shit, then people can go to school to become writers/authors or even Journalists. I bet a whole industry can sprout up from this. If the content is good enough, I'll even pay for it. I wonder if they can deliver it to my doorstep every morning by 7am, so I can read it with my morning coffee.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TFer_Atvar ( 857303 )
      That's the exact argument I have when people bring up blogging as the future of journalism. A successful blogger, by definition, becomes a journalist when he/she manages to make a living off his/her blog. Sure, many of the blogs out there are written more by "columnists" than actual journalists, but that works just fine.
  • by ralphthemagician ( 1096045 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:11AM (#22685436) Homepage
    ...but I'm sort of getting tired of user generated content and user powered free-for-alls. Everyone likes to hail Web 2.0 as a revolution in democracy, but it really isn't. It's who screams loudest, and who can afford the opportunity cost of sitting around all day reverting edits, creating their own Digg army, or spamming links all over the place. And everyone is doing it now, so the time it takes to find something worth reading, watching or listening too isn't worth it even when the price is free. It's one of the reasons I find myself coming to Slashdot to actually find articles, instead of Digg/Reddit/etc. And on a larger scale, I actually find myself going back to "old media." Picking up a newpaper (or at least reading something with an editor online, like the NYT), listening to NPR, getting a subscription to Wired, buying CDs and box sets of old shows, and so on and so forth.
    • by Rei ( 128717 )
      I actually find myself going back to "old media." Picking up a newpaper (or at least reading something with an editor online, like the NYT), listening to NPR, getting a subscription to Wired, buying CDs and box sets of old shows, and so on and so forth.

      I don't know... I've actually grown fond of user-generated entertainment. Just last weekend, some friends got me to watch things like Kiwi! [youtube.com] and Jesus Christ Supercop [channel102.net]. User generated, low budget, and well worth it.
    • well slashdot is also user generated content.

      what i tend to do is look out for certain authors and read their stuff.
  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:15AM (#22685446)
    mob justice maybe, but certainly not wisdom. this nonsense has turned the internet into one big soap box with very little meaningful content.
  • by sneakyimp ( 1161443 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:19AM (#22685456)
    'Web 3.0 is taking what we've built in Web 2.0--the wisdom of the crowds--and putting an editorial layer on it of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.'

    Truly talented, *compensated* people. Thank god that capitalism is finally in charge. They had take the elections but I just new it had to be media too.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Truly talented, *compensated* people. Thank god that capitalism is finally in charge. They had take the elections but I just new it had to be media too.
      Ha ha ha! Awww! So cute! You wacky kids and your dreams of moneyless utopias. So precious. :-)
  • by 1 a bee ( 817783 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:19AM (#22685460)
    The fact that 1% of users do 50% of the edits at wikipedia should not surprise anyone. There are 2 things that a "user" can do at a wiki: read or write. Reading is much easier and faster than writing (duh). So you'll expect a lot more reading to go on, than writing. The "surprise", apparently, is that this writing is not distributed evenly among users who both read and write. In fact, this one data point suggests a power law may be at work here, e.g. 1% of users do 50% of edits, 2% of users do 75% of edits, 4% of users do 87.5% of edits, ... Now what would be so surprising about finding a power law in an organic, social phenomenon like a wiki?

    Actually, I find this 1/50 statistic for wikipedia quite impressive. I would have thought--mod me down, I don't care--that there would be even fewer industrious wiki-heads doing even more of the editing. (And hey, don't forget, a lot of this editing *is* simply tedious work that most of us cannot bother with.)

    --
    Statistics? Sure, just tell me what you want me to prove..
  • by RichPowers ( 998637 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:21AM (#22685472)
    Buzzwords discovered during a quick reading:

    Netizen
    choice fatigue
    Web 3.0
    wisdom of the crowds


    What the hell is "choice fatigue" anyway? Are users overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data aggregated by Google and the like? Is the author implying that we're too lazy/tired/inept to handle more than one or two obvious sources of information? A combination of both? These trend stories only hold weight when constructed with ambiguous phrases, hurried research, and lack of in-depth explanations. He damns Amazon, Wikipedia, and craigslist in a matter of four sentences using flimsy support at best. Dark days for the internet heavyweights indeed.

    Also: when will the "Web x.0" label finally die? This is a serious question. At the current buzzword usage rate, we'll arrive at Web 10.0 by 2015. So the tech trend story authors will either have to qualify the phrase using several paragraphs, assume readers understand all 10 evolutions of the web, or stop using it altogether. If it's the latter -- oh god please let it be the latter -- then at what number will it stop: 4.0, 5.0, 6.0? Anyone want to take bets?
  • Nobody has even agreed on what they mean by "Web 2.0", or for that matter whether it even exists! So let's not even start talking this crap, please.

    (FYI, I am a Web Developer and Software Engineer for a corporation with a big online presence, so please don't try to tell me that I don't know what I am talking about. You will be wasting everybody's bandwidth.)

    But with all that aside, this is still a bunch of garbage.

    Quote: "User-generated sites like Wikipedia, for all the stuff they get right, still
    • OK. Time to waste everybody's bandwidth.

      Nobody has even agreed on what they mean by "Web 2.0", or for that matter whether it even exists!

      I think you meant to say not everybody agrees. MANY people agree, but apparently you don't.

      Web 2.0 is a "concept" or a "categorization", made up of real sites. Much like "Social Networks" is a concept. Or the business district in your city is a concept. Most cities don't start with nothing, and then say "let's build a business district over here". In fact, if yo

  • by dsmatthews ( 866278 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:45AM (#22685542) Homepage Journal
    This story and others like it are part of a move by publishers and the traditional media to undermine a phenomena that they are terrified of because it makes them less relevant to many people. While Wikipedia is imperfect it is still no worse that the traditional media, which has always been vulnerable to corrupt editorial manipulation, marketing scams and shoddy journalism.
  • by ed__ ( 23481 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:51AM (#22685556) Journal
    and i make sure never to submit information from my expertise to those filthy websites with user-generated content. Otherwise,
    they might become expert-generated content sites and that would be wrong.

    When i graduated from school i made a pledge: A pledge that i would only use my knowledge and skills for my own monetary benefit and the benefit of those who employee me. Sometimes, it's hard because i enjoy using my skills and contributing, but i manage. Otherwise, information could be gotten without paying anyone, and who would that benefit? The information would be worthless and therefore useless!

  • by DigitalisAkujin ( 846133 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @05:06AM (#22685594) Homepage
    He's implying that because of the failure of some web communities in keeping out "drama" that the web will revert to a centralized editorial authority.
    The problem is..... it's gonna happen the opposite way.

    Wikipedia's next step is to make a functioning and bug free GUI for it's editor to increase the amount of people that edit.

    This would increase the size of the governing pool of moderators. You could then do votes on the edits themselves and automate the process. Moderators would get slightly more weight then normal users cause there's a lot less of them. Then get the organizations of the various topics to become moderators on that topic or category. I'm sure if they actually reached out to scientific communities to help with cataloging things it would help on the site with fact checking. And to avoid floods from normal users (the 'wikiality' scenario made prudently clear by Colbert) you could simply look at ratio's of edits. If the ratio is way above other articles you know the normal users are flooding. Moderators aren't likely to flood something with 100,000 votes....

    So basically the Internet is gonna see an evolution by more processing and calculating web applications that arise from Solid State Hard-drives, ridiculous amounts of memory, and multi core CPUs. Web applications that work on media are especially thriving from the hard drive market right now. Once SSD comes on the scene with cheaper drives and they replace normal disk hard drives the database intensive area of the code will suddenly have a lot more write capacity as read gets memcached and write has more time but is able to achieve an even faster write. Essentially this would allow anywhere from 5 to 10 times more writes at capacity then compared to today's "reasonable" setup for a 3k server. This would make it cheap for startups with ideas to actually experiment and create competition.

    Back to the article though... "Revenge of the Experts". I guess being able to skip over a topic in a general format while sounding like you're explaining the most difficult thing in the world falls into the category of being an "expert". How can you expect people to explain the finer details of what and why in between commercials.
  • 'Web 3.0 is taking what we've built in Web 2.0--the wisdom of the crowds--and putting an editorial layer on it of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.'"

    What I want to know is: Where are they going to get the money to compensate these experts?

    The university I work at expenses academics' time at £50 ($100) per hour to include expenses. Wikipedia is very large, which is one of its key virtues. Hiring people just to read and yes/no each article at $100 an hour would be extremely expensive, to say nothing of actually validating facts. You'd need a lot of Google AdWords clicks.

    I would wager part of Wikipedia's success is due to it's charitable design. I t

  • Newsweek piece which suggests that...
    ...Old Media is starting it's death throes with articles like this.
  • Doomed to fail (Score:2, Insightful)

    'Web 3.0 is taking what we've built in Web 2.0--the wisdom of the crowds--and putting an editorial layer on it of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.'

    If that's really what Web 3.0 is going to be, it will fail. Adding an editorial layer DOES NOT SCALE.

    It's hard to imagine that we'd give up all the truly valuable contributions from the wisdom of the crowds, of which there is actually quite a bit, in order to filter it through an editorial layer which by it's very definition would result in a much, much smaller pool of knowledge. That idea is essentially nonsense.

  • 'Web 3.0 is taking what we've built in Web 2.0--the wisdom of the crowds--and putting an editorial layer on it of truly talented, compensated people to make the product more trusted and refined.'

    You, as in old media like Newsweek, have built nothing; Newsweek is just yearning for the good old days where people just believed whatever shit you published.

    Sure, there will be "expert" content on the web, but people will use it as just another data source; "the pendulum" isn't going to swing back. A Stanford pro
  • The primary issue the author of the article has with Wikipedia and the like is that there is no authoritative voice checking the edits. I think there's a simple solution here. A large part of Wikipedia's content is something taught in colleges. Why doesn't Wikipedia ask professors who specialize in the area in which an article is to review the article periodically. I think many professors would not have a serious issue doing this. To insure impartiality, there could either be multiple professors checking on
  • gimme a break. this whole web 2.0 thing was a meaningless buzzword. Someone wake me up when we reach web 10.0.
    Its still using browsers to talk over port 80 with IPv4. we are still web 1.0.
    Bloody marketers.
  • for all the achievements mankind have accomplished, it is still not able to weed out murderers, fraudsters, criminals.

    but, there is no alternative to it. you havent been able to create a civilization out of 'experts'.

    same goes for user generated content. it will always have its flaws, it will always improve itself. but in the end, what user generated content accomplishes will be bigger and deeper than expert generated content, at any given time.
  • by MichaelCrawford ( 610140 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:45AM (#22685874) Homepage Journal
    I have published a great deal of writing on my own and various other websites, mainly on software engineering [goingware.com] and mental illness [geometricvisions.com], not just that of others but my own: I have schizoaffective disorder [geometricvisions.com]. It's just like being manic depressive and schizophrenic at the same time.

    While I would very much like to publish dead-tree books, I provide all my material online, free at least as-in-beer, so more readers can benefit from it than would be the case if I charged money for it. Another reason is that most traditional publishers would require that I assign them the copyrights to my books, something that I'm loathe to do.

    But a fellow Kuro5hin member named lonelyhobo said [kuro5hin.org]:

    You tried to say crawford would be (and is) well known for "living with schizoaffective disorder," which is something so plainly ridiculous I wonder if you've received any sharp blows to the head recently. You tried to cite your own absolutely unknown works on the internet to bolster your argument. You honestly think that a little piece of shit software or writing on the internet will get you known for any length of time or in any depth?...

    Let's boil it down to something very simple (and very contrary to your personal outlook too, I'm sure): PUTTING SHIT ON THE INTERNET IS NOT AN ACCOMPLISHMENT. Not yours or mine or crawford's. The reason I can and do post the garbage I do on the internet is that I know it's completely meaningless.

    I find his position perplexing. The only difference, in terms of accomplishment, between what I do now and traditional publication, is that a publisher's editor might stamp his seal of approval on my essays, and bookstore patrons might pay money for what they now can get for free.

    But is that what it really means for writing to be notable? I claim that it's not. For one thing, there are many, many books published every year, that even manage to earn their publishers and authors some good money, but that are in no way notable or memorable. At best they're a pleasant way to pass the time.

    In my writing, I aim to make a positive difference in the lives of others, whether they are fellow software engineers or fellow mentally ill people. And I have plenty of reason to believe that I have accomplished just that, and many times over.

    A little while ago someone attempted to write up a Wikipedia article about me. Of course my many troll friends from Kuro5hin jumped all over it, vandalizing it - it seems I attended "the Batman school of junk touching" - and recommending it for deletion. In the deletion discussion the case was made that I wasn't notable, because not many publications written by others could be found in which my writing was discussed.

    I mostly stayed out of the debate, but I did jump in a couple times to point out how hard I work to educate the public about mental illness. I have receved literally thousands of grateful email messages as a result - but for reasons that must be obvious, I couldn't post them.

    The consensus of the debaters is that, because few others have discussed my work, I must not be notable enough to merit a Wikipedia article. Considering the difference I know my essays and articles have made in the lives of others, I assert that that is just plain wrong.

  • Truth is the internet collaboration much more effective and rewarding then the ivory tower luddites.

    I think this has way more to do with social status, power and hierarchy then 'accuracy' especially when it comes to biographies, politics, etc, how could you ever be certain you're getting the 'truth' from an 'expert' who's economic livelihood, etc, can be easily threatened.
  • by elvum ( 9344 ) *
    Surely 1% of users making 50% of the edits is exactly the kind of long-tailed distribution one would expect from a site like Wikipedia? How is that evidence of "secret elitism"?
    • by argent ( 18001 )
      Yah, I would be surprised if even 5% of the users made *any* edits.

      And 1% of Wikipedia users is still a huge number of people.
  • Many school text books find themselves in frequent dust-ups over inaccuracies, while eBay has never been able to keep out scammers and frauds.

    User-generated sites like Wikipedia, for all the stuff they get right, still find themselves in frequent dust-ups over inaccuracies, while community-posting boards like Craigslist have never been able to keep out scammers and frauds.
    And the moral of the storie is, " we will favor better content"? What a leap that is.
  • ...won't you have the same thing as what is being proposed?

    Oh wait, the wikipedia policies need to change to make legally responsible such editing.
  • I think I've added one short entry, made <10 edits throughout my history. I'm not interested in contributing, but if find something a) blatantly wrong or b) missing completely, I make minor edits. I guess that makes me part of those 99%, and I don't think that distribution is strange at all.
  • Why "Vs." (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @09:35AM (#22686376) Homepage Journal
    Why is it users vs. experts? Couldn't some of the users also be experts? It is my understanding that this is generally how things like Slashdot and Wikipedia work. There are a large number of users using these sites, each of which have their own area of expertise (or none). When you come across something you know to be incorrect, you amend it. On Slashdot, by posting a reply. On Wikipedia, by editing the text.

    I think the users _vs._ experts is based on a false dichotomy. There isn't a group of experts that is distinct from the group of users. The users are potentially all people, including the experts. If anything, a system that uses a select number of "experts" is _limiting_ the total expertise they have, compared to an open-to-all system. And I think it shows. I find Wikipedia a lot more informative than any traditional encyclopedia I remember using, and Slashdot to give much more accurate information than, say, computer magazines sold in stores here.

    Sure, Slashdot gives you a lot of misguided and downright wrong posts, but at least you get many people's input on the issue, and, often, a correct post, as well. By contrast, something written by a single "expert" is, in my experience, just as often wrong or misguided, but you don't get the benefit of seeing other people's input, let alone corrections. It annoys me no end when I read ignorant or factually false statements in computer magazines or news papers. These folks are misinforming the masses, under the guise of being experts!

    In the end, of course, it depends on how good your "experts" and your "users" are. But it is certainly not a given that "experts" will do better than "users". In fact, many user-driven sites are built in such a way that wrong statements can be pointed out and corrected, which, in my experience, makes them do _better_ than a system where you trust the experts.
  • by robla ( 4860 ) * on Saturday March 08, 2008 @04:36PM (#22688432) Homepage Journal
    It seems the publishing industry has a much better grip on reliability than user-contributed content. From a story on Marketplace about how publishers fact check [publicradio.org]:

    The memoir "Love and Consequences," about a woman's life in South Central Los Angeles, has been uncovered as a hoax. It's the latest of several fictionalized memoirs that have slipped through the publishing industry.[...] So why don't publishers just hire fact-checkers? Publisher James Atlas says fact-checkers have never been part of the $24 billion book business. The job is just too big and expensive, and the industry is shrinking. That leaves fact-checking to editors. Problem is, publishing companies often pressure them to churn out a certain number of books every year.


    See? That's the way you do it!

If you push the "extra ice" button on the soft drink vending machine, you won't get any ice. If you push the "no ice" button, you'll get ice, but no cup.

Working...