Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Is the Expert Making a Comeback?

A recent article in Newsweek suggests that the days of user-generated content are fading:

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."

Perhaps there is a growing awareness that there is some need to pay attention to the credibility of sources. There are new software tools that sort on credibility and other factors, but I am not sure that we want software deciding what is credible.

The article goes on to suggest that the credibility of user-generated content has increasingly been criticized:

"The timing could be right for a new era in Silicon Valley, a Web 3.0. It comes, after all, during dark days for the ideal of a democratic Web. User-generated sites like Wikipedia, for all the stuff they get right, still find themselves in frequent dust-ups over inaccuracies...."

This section set the blogging world buzzing because there are plenty of examples of bloggers who have exposed inaccuracies in mainstream media and in the government and business, so it is not completely clear whose work is better. Bloggers and user-generated content proponents suggest that their work is open to review and correction where other work is less open and often less easily correctable. The real debate may be more about the openness of the process.

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