Friday, February 16, 2007

Too Much Information For InfoWorld: Ephriam Schwartz Roams The Foothills of User-Generated Content

Elitism has its place, and there are services which user-generated content just won't provide what centralized expertise can. That said, however, a recent InfoWorld article Troy Worman's Orbit Now pointed to recently is just embarassing.

The end reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Barcelona:

Ted: Maybe you'd like an analogy. Well, take... take these ants. In the U.S. view, a small group, or cadre, of fierce red ants have taken power and are oppressing the black ant majority. Now the stated U.S. policy is to aid those black ants opposing the red ants in hopes of restoring democracy, and to impede the red ants from assisting their red ant comrades in neighboring ant colonies.
Ramon: That is clearly the most disgusting description of U.S. policy I have ever heard. The Third World is just a lot of ants to you.
Jurgen: Those are people dying, not ants!
Ted: No, I... I don't think you understand. I was reducing everything to ant scale, the... the U.S. included. An ant White House, an ant CIA, an ant Congress, an ant Pentagon...
Ramon: Secret ant landing strips, illegally established on foreign soil.
Fred: Where are the red ants?
Ted: [pointing to an ant hill] There.
[Fred crushes the ants]

What Ephraim Schwartz is missing here is that users visiting such sites like Helium may show up to be heard, but they stay to discuss. Is the value of that act to those individuals really up for debate? Talk about the Ugly American. How does John Udell put up with this man?

Many of the privileges which uniquely positioned the reporter - access to specialized information, topical knowledge, independence from the subjects of their review - have been eroded away by new technologies for the past thirty years. The Internet blew the lid off it, and the Web 2.0 sealed the deal. The question is not whether any control over content should be handed over to users; it's how to hand it over in the context of a toolset that users can use to develop great information resources. Helium probably isn't it. But Swivel, Yahoo Pipes, Coghead, and other companies are rolling out new ideas for how to harness the power - even the intelligence, Mr. Schwartz! - of the ants at the picnic. To say this is the end of expertise is to attack a straw man and call it a battle royale. Even the hordes on Helium can manage that. The challenge developers are tackling right now is to form social media that produces resources of lasting value. Resources that evolve with ongoing contributions rather than simply ranking existing content. Helium is a gesture in that direction, if not a very potent one.

Of course, this is coming from a site which features ads that do this when you accidentally mouse over the wrong part of the page:

So Schwartz can be excused for being just a single link in a chain of disrespect. If a publication doesn't respect its writers, how could its writers possibly respect its readers?

1 comment:

Troy Worman said...

Thanks for the link. And thanks for the additional context. And validation. Blog on...