Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hurry Up, Trend!

I am always a bit suspicious of the little trend stories offered up by the news weeklies. But here's to wishful thinking and hoping Newsweek is right this time.

Revenge of the Experts
The individual user has been king on the Internet, but the pendulum seems to be swinging back toward edited information vetted by professionals.

By any name, the current incarnation of the Internet is known for giving power to the people. Sites like YouTube and Wikipedia collect the creations of unpaid amateurs while kicking pros to the curb—or at least deflating their stature to that of the ordinary Netizen. But now some of the same entrepreneurs that funded the user-generated revolution are paying professionals to edit and produce online content.

In short, the expert is back. The revival comes amid mounting demand for a more reliable, bankable Web. "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."

Which seems to be even more important given these kinds of allegations:

The toughest two weeks of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales's career just became a whole lot worse, with a former chief scientist at one of the world's biggest technology companies claiming Wales traded Wiki edits for donations.

Jeff Merkey, a former computer scientist at Novell, claims Wales told him in 2006 that in exchange for a substantial donation from Merkey, he would edit his uncomplimentary Wikipedia entry to make it more favourable.

Merkey made a $US5000 ($5455) donation in 2006 and the edit history for his Wikipedia entry showed that, around the same time, Wales personally made changes to the entry after wiping it out completely and ordering editors to start over.

Merkey's claims were published in a statement on a Wikipedia mailing list. On the same mailing list, Wales called the allegation "nonsense".

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