The Blogosphere: An Open Source Information Clearing House

An article in today's NY Times by Tom Zeller Jr seems to back its way into a good point: that the ability of anyone to start publishing on the web allows rapid dissemination of both true and false information, but that reality quickly weeds out fallacies. It describes how rumors of voter fraud spread quickly through the blogosphere based on the postings of a single blogger named Kathy Dopp who analyzed the Florida election numbers. Her findings even reached Democratic Congressmen within a day. Just as quickly though, anti-rumor information made its own way through the blogosphere to neutralize the false analysis. Networks effects both amplified the false rumors and their antidotes. In the end, the correct information appears to have prevailed.

Since the early infancy of the blogosphere, the MSM have been disparaging the fact that the masses are on a level playing field with them. Many object to the fact that anyone can write anything while sitting at home in their pajamas, even biting ankles if they so desire. They portray the low barrier to media entry as a danger to the lofty ideals of high journalism. Yet, as the power of article linked above shows, decentralized fact-checking is a valuable asset. Bad data can pyramid up the network very quickly, but the same properties of networks allow good data to replace it just as fast. And most important of all, the greater the number of dispersed nodes that check information fidelity, the greater the chance that good data survives over bad data.

The current state of affairs is certainly preferable to the days when we got all our news once in the morning from the metropolitan broadsheets and once at night from Peter Jennings. I place greater trust in the nearly instantaneous dissemination, evalutation, filtering, and redistribution of the blogosphere than in the hallowed halls of MSM. For the purposes of information clearing, dynamic, decentralized systems are preferable to slow-reacting, hierarchical, centralized systems.

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