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Blogs and Authority October 5, 2006

Posted by Michael Sensiba in Authority, Blogging.
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A request came to me yesterday from our Provost via our Dean to describe how to search for blogs. One of the issues with searching for blogs is that many of the popular search tools don’t do a really good job of differentiating between blogs and more traditional information sources. This may be based in part on how the sources are structured (i.e., XML), but may also indicate that the lines between traditionally-published and participant -published content may be blurring. For example, is information on the Creative Commons, authored by Professor Lawrence Lessig in his blog, less authoritative than information on the Creative Commons authored by a staff writer for some newspaper, just because of the form in which it is distributed?

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1. AG - October 9, 2006

It’s an excellent question, especially when there’s insufficient information to assess bias (on the original-source side) and sourcing (on the reportage side). Comprehension’s also an issue on the reportage side, of course…

I’d actually suggest in that case above that the writer (that would be me, though I’m not on staff at USAT, just under contract) was deferring to Professor Lessig’s fuller discussion of Creative Commons. Within the boundaries of the post, linking to Lessig as a primary mover behind the Creative Commons effort was the responsible thing to do, since the point of the post was to compare two instances of response to usage violations. Now, if that post would have been built out into a full-on article, it would have been helpful to have found out what sort of copyright protection some of the featured art on You Thought We Wouldn’t Notice had, and to have asked how that was being pursued (or not)…

BTW, some very exciting stuff re metatagging was apparently in the mix at last week’s Online News Association conference. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if newspapers would develop a standard indicating how stories were sourced — eyewitness account, computer-assisted research, interview, press release, etc.? I wasn’t there and thus cannot say if such was under discussion, or that such would be practical, but were I thinking metatagging thoughts, that’s where I’d go…

2. Michael Sensiba - October 9, 2006

Thanks for the thoughtful commentary. I meant in no way to denigrate the authority of your article, but rather to point out that the medium alone should not determine the whole of the article’s authority. You correctly point out that there are many aspects contributing to the notion of authority. Historians, for example, have long distinguished between primary and secondary sources, while recognizing the value that each type of source provides.


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