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James Drown

The problem is with what many/most people believe this word "opinion" means in terms of their responsibility. The question stated before was framed as, "Of course, everyone is entitled to voice their own opinion and contribute online, if they have access. But is it really the case that we no longer need professional expertise? And are all opinions equally valid – or are some opinions simply more valid than others?"

If your opinion is nothing more than knee-jerk reaction or is founded upon looking at a self-limited data set through myopic eyes, then probably your opinion is not worth very much. If we look instead at opinion as the end result of considered investigation and reflection, an answer we have reached by approaching wide-ranging data from disparate (but reputable) sources with a mind we have tried to detach from most preconceived biases, then we may find that user generated content is useful. It appears that experts are as likely as the rest of us to form ideas around limited views of the world, and probably need to be shaken-up a but periodically. Thoughtful user-generated content is a reasonable way to do this. Unfortunately most user-generated content is neither well-researched or well-considered, thus leading us to the conclusion that all content is not created equal. Luckily, as readers, we can also consider the worth of what we take-in. In the long run, it is probably better that the ball is in the reader's court, than exclusively that of "authority."

What that means for us, is that we need to become not only more critical producers of content, but also more critical consumers of content. As for the validity of grass-roots driven content, look at the origins of the Oxford English Dictionary. The most authoritative dictionary of the English language arose from the efforts of a wide-ranging group of people that included many of "amateur" status.

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Hi James:
Thanks for the thoughtful and insightful comment. If more people provided as much depth as you do in your well-written response, then I doubt we would be having this debate. If you read my other post on the matter, which I link to in this post, you would see I'm quite enamored with the idea of everyone having a voice and contributing to the conversation, but there is also a part of me that thinks in some instances at least, a gatekeeper wouldn't hurt. As I say, it's something we need to think about as the internet evolves and more people get involved.

Thanks again. Great comment.

RM

tish grier

Hi Ron....I think Teresa's making something of a leap in her discussion as she goes from efforts by big media to harvest user-generated content and Wikipedia. The efforts of big media aren't motivated by any sort of atruism, and I believe will eventually be shown to be a kind of outsourcing or wal-marting of journalism. In the case of big media, it's not that they think the public can do it better, but that they can flatter the public, not pay them, and get a fairly decent yet cheap product...

Wikipedia, on the other hand, functions more like a community, where there is no hoopla, no stroking of egos, to get people to contribute. Wikipedia doesn't ask people for their opinions--it asks people to contribute if they feel they have an unknown tid-bit or fact that can add to an entry. Sometimes what's done there isn't perfect, but it eventually gets policed. The model more resembles forum-types of communities than it does open-source software development (although the idea of o/s dev. is easier for some folks to grasp.)

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Thanks for the comment.

I think you are spot on regarding the motivation of big media when it comes to inviting users to contribute, but I think the open source model is applicable to the user-generated content model in that both rely on a community of users who contribute, check and police the content of that community.

In open source software, however, as the author pointed out, if there is a security hole, it is what it is and needs to be fixed. In content, if there is a disagreement over fine philosophical differences as in our exchange here, there is no such clear arbiter. Either one of us could be right (or wrong).

On the other hand, as two people who follow this particular issue, it may not be the fairest example. When you bring people in people who know nothing about a given subject, sure they can have an opinion, but it could be completely bone-headed (or insightful or a combination), but whatever it is, there is no clear right and wrong as there is in open source software. But as "experts" (for lack of a better word), if you or I call the person on it and say, that's just not how it works, the writer can just call us elitist jerks.

I think at some point, at least in some instances, somewhere, the truth is really out there and it's helpful to have some people who know what they are talking about at least guide the discussion.

That's not to say, I don't welcome an open forum because I do, but I don't completely disagree with her that editorial judgment can be useful, and as I said, finding the balance between the two extremes (total editorial control and complete unfiltered freedom) is the challenge we face moving forward.

RM

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