# Friday, May 16, 2003

There's been a great deal of hullabaloo in the last week or so about blogging “ruining the Internet for everyone” and Google segregating hits from blogs into their own section (good or bad?). I realize that since I'm posting this to a blog, this sounds a bit self-serving, but here's my two cents worth:

While it's true that blogging has lowered the bar in terms of access to web publishing, the simple fact is that ever since there was an Internet, anyone who wanted two and had access to a keyboard could post whatever drivel they wanted to the web. All the blogging really adds to the mix is the fact that now you don't even have to have rudimentary knowledge of HTML (or how to save your Word doc as HTML) in order to publish yourself. While that means more volume, it doesn't really change the nature of data on the web.

The real “problem” as far as Google is concerned is that the self-referential nature of blogging upsets their ranking algorithm. This has apparently led people (like Larry Lessig) to conclude that blogging is ruining the nature of content on the web.

I would argue that there's nothing about blogging that changes the need for critical thinking when looking for information on the web. That's always been true, since there's fundamentally no concrete way to verify the validity of anything you read on any site without thinking critically about the nature of the source, how you came across it, and what references it makes to other works. If you apply that kind of filter, then the self-referencial or “incestuous” nature of blogs can be used to advantage.

For example, if I'm looking for interesting information about SOAP, XML Web Services, or how either or both relate to .NET I'd assume that Don Box (for example) is a reliable source, given that I've read his books, articles and speeches in other contexts. If he mentions something in his blog that someone else said about .NET on their blog, I would assume a high degree of certainty that the reference is relevant and useful. Then, when I follow that link, I'll find more links to other blogs that contain relevant and useful information. The tendency is for all those cross links to start repeating themselves, and to establish a COMMUNITY wherein one can assume a high degree of relevant information. All that's needed to validate the COMMUNITY as a whole is a few references from sources that are externally trusted.

In the long run, I think that kind of “incestuousness” can be used to validate, rather than discount large bodies of interesting, useful, and otherwise unattainable information that we wouldn't have access to otherwise.

That's a fairly lengthy rant for me, but I had to get that off my chest. I hate to see pundits discounting a body of information just because it's posted casually and not in academic journals.

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