I stuck my Rosa Parks thing up on my blog and got a great letter from a friend of mine about how I should have tagged or “screenshot” the page I referred to, so as to capture the moment and so that he could hit the link. At first I thought this was a netiquette thing – not that I have a problem with that, since I firmly believe they are excavating new levels of hell for spammers and ALL CAPS screamers – but, he brought me up to speed on the power of blogs to track Orwellian revisionism and how more imbedded links can sometimes equal more veracity. Oh hell, I’m just going to quote him;

  >> KM to me: “I believe you. It’s just that, having been tipped, I wanted to see what you were talking about, and one of the strengths of web-based reporting is that you, the reporter, can link to what you’re talking about so we can see for ourselves. Could be because we want more detail; could be because we don’t trust reporters’ ability to summarize what they’re told by people working on things the reporters have no background in (which is most things).

  Once you start spending time on blogs, you develop a habit of clicking through to see whatever it is the blogger is talking about, instead of just taking their summary. And once you’ve developed that habit, you start to wonder why you CAN’T do it on NYT and CNN stories.

  Especially stories about controversies triggered by blogs and community sites (DKos, Free Republic, Democratic Underground, etc.). Why don’t they have links in their online stories and URLs in their paper editions? When they’re reporting on documents and speeches, why are links to scans of the documents and transcripts of the speeches so rare? I think it’s just being slow to get with the times, but a cynic might wonder if it has anything to do with how often such scans /transcripts are the basis of debunking (Rather-Gate, canonically).

  Donald Rumsfeld (and Paul Wolfowitz, when he was at the Pentagon) makes his own recordings when he’s interviewed by the press, and the Pentagon posts the transcripts. Why don’t the reporters do the same?”
  So writes KM. Back to me again.

  Now, to some of you this is all very old news, but it REALLY got me to thinking. I don’t plan to use my blog as a reportage/investigative tool, but rather, as an archive. But his point about imbedding links as footnotes, or points of potential verification, and their use (or, lack of same) got me excited about the [forgive me] blogosphere, in a way that I really hadn’t been.

  I know others see most of this as backyard washerwoman gossiping, and sometimes I’m in that camp myself, but if one of my smartest friends is going to give this new information environment this kind of thought and then I really have to at least consider its potential value.

  The “follow-up” on the Parks thing was that just after I wrote that piece yesterday, Ms. Parks got bumped down from the national news [above the fold] section of the GOOGLE news page to the “people” section. Nothing sinister there, that’s just the news cycle, doing what it does. But the USA Today link took me to a photo gallery of 12 shots. The fingerprint shot, mug shot,

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/mugshots/rparksmug1.html

  I’m using this link only because the USA Today photo gallery section is not copy/pastable.

  and the ubiquitous “riding the bus” shot, but also, 9 color photos of her looking older – and happier.

  So, no particular apparent malice on the part of USA Today unless they assigned some sort of value algorithm to the gallery shots. For all I know, GOOGLE tracked me checking some other “perp-walk” link and said to its AM-like self, “Give Barney mug shots. He likes mug-shots.” Brrr.

 This also raises questions about just who and what these algorithms are pointed at. Are they pointed out at the viewer and what he or she is requesting? Are they pointed at the main acquisition page – GOOGLE’s home page in this instance? Or is it a very complicated dynamic give and take over all of these searches and questions? Who is watching the watchers, indeed.

  And if none of this process is fascinating to you, I’m sorry, but the idea of algorithms tracking and possibly altering our shared realities or personal realities sure is interesting to me.

  – Barney

 

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