Read and Respond – Week 4

This week, we’ll be reading about the fundamental unit of online communication (the link), and the human component of connective journalism (the crowd). In chapter 3, Briggs is concerned with the latter. His three focuses are “crowdsourcing,” “open-source reporting,” and “pro-am journalism.” Crowdsourcing is the main one to understand. What’s meant by this? How does it inform the rest, and the world of communication you all are entering into?

The term “The wisdom of crowds” is most recently popularized by James Surowiecki – he even wrote a book – but it’s been around for a while. Sit back and enjoy this short (and catchy) tune on the subject from Nova:

While you’re not expected to eyeball the weight of oxen (at least, not for this class), there’s a useful idea here in what groups can know. On the other hand, others like Carnegie Mellon’s Vassilis Kostakos take issue with “the wisdom of crowds,” arguing that those online crowds are often a very small percentage of highly engaged users. How do these reconcile in your approach to connective journalism?

Next, move on to links and linking. The simple hyperlink is an obvious use of linking, but it’s not the only kind – social media applications employ linking in their own way. So let’s read about links:

  • David G. Post, in this 1997 essay (ancient history!!!), lays out some common questions and criticisms of the humble link that are still pertinent today.
  • Bill Thompson talks about links as the key component of “the semantic Web.” We may argue, as he puts it, “a link is just a link,” yet often there is more going on in the way the link is used.

What do you think about links? What is the nature of a link, and what are the ways in which we use them? What are the similarities and differences of hyperlinks and the social links involved in crowdsourcing? Finally, what kind of ethics and etiquette do you see as necessary for using either of these kinds of links in your journalistic and personal work?

Remember to respond to this post by noon on Monday, January 31. As always, responses should be around 200 words, and links to arguments or evidence on your own blog or elsewhere are strongly recommended.

23 Responses to Read and Respond – Week 4

  1. capnwinters says:

    Crowdsourcing is the process of leveraging groups of people to contribute to something in a way that results in a more accurate and accurately representative product than one perspective could provide. The theory behind this approach is that many people have different bits of information which, when combined, provide a far more accurate picture than a person or small group of people could realistically create. This could be something like the example given in the book, Wikipedia. Crowdsourcing really ties back into the whole idea of ‘Wisdom of the Crowds,’ that collective intelligence is often very effective.

    The way I see links, it’s just like giving directions. If a lady drives up to you when you’re walking around and asks you “Where’s the nearest Walmart?” you could easily tell her. What she does at that Walmart isn’t your responsibility. If she walks in and buys $1000 worth of stuff, should Walmart share some of that with you? Doubtful. If she walks in and shoots a cashier, are you going to be charged as accessory to murder? No.

    Given that directing people isn’t a crime, it doesn’t seem that companies should be squabbling about links all the time. All links do is provide directions to a web address, as physical directions give a physical address. Any legal measures which attempt to restrict linking are poisoning the very lifeblood of the Internet. As Post put it, “… the aggregate of millions of these individual hyperlinks creates a truly global interconnected web of information.” Briggs states plainly that “Links power the Web.” And having lived in the world of Web 2.0, I think it’s safe to say linking everything together is the very goal of the system.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Interesting analogy regarding linking. Your last paragraph leaves me a little curious about particulars. You state that links “power the Web,” and that their restriction would poison the well. In what ways might this happen?

  2. rdlwvufan says:

    Crowdsourcing is simply using a crowd as your source. Every publication has its own crowd, and by using them to help in reporting the news, the overall product can become better. Crowdsourcing helps inform the informers, when informing themselves (in part or whole) is not entirely practical. This shows that for journalism, and in our case blogging, using the audience can make you better at what you do, and it isn’t cheating to do so.

    One instance I thought of when reading this was the recent release of thousands of government cables by Wikileaks. Putting aside the ethics involved in this situation, the ability to take such a vast amount of information and give it to the public would help in finding real stories. Some of the cables have little intrigue or value, while others have important information, so sifting through them would be a nightmare for a news organization.

    The idea by Kostakos sounds similar to the concept of the vocal minority. I’m one of those people who never bothers to vote or review anything I buy online, so I can see the point he’s making. I think the way to bring these different approaches together is discretion on our end. One can’t just take a user submitted idea as the absolute truth, but common sense should hopefully win the day when it comes to filtering out good and bad crowdsourced ideas.

    As for links, they can be the best and worst things on the internet. They are great for relaying information quickly (“here, I’ll give you the link”), but they also can be distracting, like when I go to wikipedia, and I start clicking around on so many links that I forget what I went there for in the first place. For most people, a link is an electronic equivalent to a person writing down an address for you.
    “You should go here,” is the message being sent.

    Hyperlinks and crowdsourcing are similar because they both give direction to another person. The means are different, though, because a link (usually) takes you to another site that contains work done by another person, whereas crowdsourcing directs a person to look at the work done by the person doing the directing, as in the case of newspaper readers helping writers sift through mountains of information.

    The only ethical implication I really see with links (hyper or social) is giving credit. Sometimes, instead of linking, people will copy and paste an article without attributing it, and intentionally or not, make it seem like their work. With links, I think it’s best to acknowledge its origin when sending someone off, if for no other reason, so they can decide ahead of time whether they want to use their time to click it.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Does linking function as citation then? Further, can you explain that last bit a little more – do I correctly understand your argument to be that links should be accompanied by information about where the link will go? (for example, “This piece from the A.V. Club argues that Patton Oswalt and Sean Patton have a lot of similarities.”)

      • rdlwvufan says:

        I think with the time we live in, with no set standards yet for doing things online, that linking is currently the best and easiest way to cite things. And yes, I do feel that it’s a good idea to give people a description of where a link is heading when it is posted.

  3. deepafadnis says:

    Well this weeks readings were a little contradictory to last weeks activities and readings. While last week, we were encouraged to link as many blogs and websites that are relevant to our topic to the blog-roll, this weeks links kind of talk about linking responsibly. The way I look at it is, the World Wide Web is a mini universe in itself. Apart from the fact that it is a tiny component on this planet, today our entire life revolves around this man-made and ever evolving world of internet. And as we are adding new innovations, streamlining new processes, we are also making rules such that nobody feels violated. Piracy has always been an issue, but with the invention of the internet, piracy grew to a new level. And it does not end there.

    About an hour back, I was surfing the internet looking for relevant links to comment and to post on my blog, but now I wonder if doing this legal. Just posting a news story from Reuters or The Economist might not be the ideal thing to do. Then again, I think, posting a link on my blog would just increase traffic to these websites and which only adds to their popularity. What are they complaining about?

    Briggs in the 3rd chapter talks about the various way in which you can encourage people to actively participate on the web. Crowdsourcing among them is the most effective and has been tried and tested over centuries for different purposes. While I appreciate the value of open-sourcing journalism, I wonder if in the coming years we would be able to gauge the authenticity of every source on the internet. Yes, there are various ways to check if a news item is correct or not, but responsible journalism will soon shift to journalism driven by opinions. Although this is not a bad trend, it might lead to confusion. Well, all we’ve got right now to adapt quickly to the new changes and make mends on our way.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Thus far, linking is pretty much always legal, but your question seems to actually be when is it ethical? You ponder gauging “authenticity” of online sources – what might be the value of having such a standard?

  4. Jazz Clark says:

    This week’s themes remind me of a problem bothering me: google adsense. Namely, do I want it on my blog when I start to get traffic? On the one hand, getting a half-penny per hit could add up to serious pocket change. Yet, the repercussions are dangerous. For one, linking to a popular site would be a bigger problem with copyrighting. I would have to be much more careful posting another’s creative works, say a foxtrot comic strip. I could be putting the source in positive light, but still be accused of “electronic piracy” for stealing click-through revenue. A link is a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Our duty remains to accurately convey what is being linked to- no rickrolls.

    Now, the crowd becomes the jury, judge and executioner. Though one of the questions we have to ask is whether the wisdom of the crowds rings true, we cannot deny that utilized correctly the internet hoards can be used for great and powerful tasks. Whether good (charity) or evil (pirate bay), they deserve the transparency of information uncolored by bias or disrupting of the source.

    I for one love link journalism, and using the competition as a springboard or ideas has been how the game was played in print journalism for years- now, we simply have to admit it.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      “Using the competition as a springboard” is a useful way to put it. Your observation that advertising risks attracting attention has merit – but should we be posting things that wouldn’t withstand scrutiny in the first place?

      There’s no copyright danger in linking to another site so long as credit is given, but posting that Foxtrot cartoon on your site is potential trouble. You should be covered under Fair Use – I’d guess both the commentary and education exceptions would apply here – but using a link instead might show a little more discretion.

  5. tonicekada says:

    Crowdsourcing is when the community comes together to provide information about, well, anything in particular. It’s a way for the public to provide their own feedback and information. I think Briggs used great examples to help clarify exactly what kind of website this may be, like wikipedia or innocentive. Information is obviously VERY important to us journalists, and so crowdsourcing can be a great tool, but as briggs says, it’s important to know the proper techniques for using it. Yes, it’s great to use the public as a source, and welcome individulals “tid bits” of information, but it doesnt always work. Briggs explains why it doesnt always work by using the example of counting gumballs. Yes, you would want help from everybody in the room, but if the topic was braid surgeory, you would want help with everyone in the room would you? Of course not. It’s important for journalists to be able to recognize what kind of information is needed, and thuis what kind of source best applies.
    As for links, David Post described them best by calling them “jump links.” Essentially, hyperlinks are the means of conecting the web, and isn’t that what the web was intended for? It is to my belief that the web was created world wide to be able to connect everyone. So then why are court cases appearing about hyperlinks? In my opinion, there should not be. A link is nothing more than direction towards information, which is permissable. Post made a good point by saying that “the real world is full of hyperlinks.” He is right.
    Crowdsourcing and links are the same because they both offer up information to anyone, yet they are differnt because crowdsourcing does not direct you to another site.
    In my opinion, links are not unethical. They are instead a part of the world wide web. If you think about it, they are more on the ethical side because they direct people to where you got your information. so essentially they enable us bloggers to credit our information sources.

  6. Crowdsourcing takes the public and putting everyone on an open forum where everyone can give information on anything. Whether or not that information is completely accurate is a whole other topic. (Talk to any teacher and they can tell you how Wikipedia is NOT a valid source because anyone can go on this free public site and enter any kind of information they want.)

    In the case of the oxen and it’s weight, sure not one person had the correct guess, but yes combined it was the correct weight. So, the crowd put together was the perfect source. My issue with this is, if I want to know a serious piece of information and I search all over the web and every site that I come to has different responses and all are incorrect, it is not always possible to average everyone’s ideas to get the correct answer. Yes, I know I probably did not take the example given to us in the way I should have. I should say…YES! the more people out there and talking, the more of a possibility I have to get the right answer! IT’S BRILLIANT!!!…I apologize.

    More than likely, the more sources you have the better. But be aware that just because it is an internet site, the source of the crowd may not be very accurate. They may just be stating an opinion, a guess or pulling it out of thin air.

    Links are a way to make your source look reliable. If you write something and say “here is an article which totally backs what I have to say up.” I am accurate and a wonderful source who is always right. I am a person who has been scarred with links. For me, following a link to watch a video on a fat, toothless shitless guy singing “I’m too sexy” is not what I like to see or waste my time on. For a while, those were the only links I would see and I started completely ignoring them altogether. Now, it’s weird for me in this class to actually force myself to force open those links and read the scholarly articles and make them myself! strange…But I am starting to understand and accept the link.

    So, as a promise to myself and to voice my opinion…I will keep my links professional on my blog (that I want to be taken seriously or remotely)and leave my “do the creep” links on my fun facebook for people to enjoy at their leisure. There is a place for everything.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Good points. “The wisdom of crowds” is a fairly clear concept when we’re dealing with numbers, but what about ideas? How, as you ask, can we identify an average of these? It’s a little like Mill’s concept of the Marketplace of Ideas, which holds that the truth will win out in a fair fight – but just how fair is it?

  7. lindsaycobb says:

    Crowdsourcing makes a lot of sense- of course if you ask a ton of people a question you’re more likely to get the correct answer than if you asked only one person. With social media, essentially everyone is the “crowd”. The more blogs, posts, and tweets out there the more information there is and the more likely it is that we can find the correct answer. I do agree with Kostakos though. I think crowdsourcing can occur in social media and the right answer is sure to be present, but when you have a system of blogs that are run by people who all think alike the result will be the same as that from just one of those like-minded people. I think we can crowdsource today, but I think we need to be careful how we do it. We should always be aware that social media has potential to be biased, for instance, a blog about the environment written by environmentalists is not going to encompass the ideas of the population as a whole.

    I think links are suggested arrows on the confusing forest path that is the internet. Sites can add a link that, if you choose to click on it, will send you in the direction of that topic. If you don’t want to go that way, but rather continue on to your original destination then you’re more than free to do so.

    People can use links in crowdsourcing as a way to give information out to everyone else… spread the knowledge of the crowd. Hyperlinks can teach people about related topics by simply sending them to the source that is the expert, not the crowd.

    Ethically, I think you can link pretty much anything without stepping out of the moral boundaries of journalism. I think there is some warrant to the argument that links on pages can potentially take away advertisements from the destination site, but there are ways to prevent that from happening. If sites protect themselves form having ads covered up, when other sites link to them they will get that much more publicity. The more publicity they have, the more people see their ads, and I don’t see anything ethically or morally wrong with that.

  8. shaymaunz says:

    I have a confession to make: as I read the material for this week, and even as I type this now, I’m downloading things with BitTorrent, things that I found using Pirate Bay (I know, I know – don’t lecture me please). But this helped me realize just how powerful links really are. Pirate Bay is an entire site based pretty much entirely on links. Like the BBC article says, it’s not like these sites wouldn’t still be there without the Pirate Bay, it’s not even necessarily that we couldn’t find them, but accessing them through an aggregator like that offers so much more convenience, and even an air of authority to tell us that we are, in fact, headed in the right direction. Maybe it’s a litte like half the news we read on Gawker or the Huffington Post. We could find all of these sites, or studies, or blog entries without their help, but how (and why) would we?

    Aside from its content, it was worth reading the 1997 “Link to Liability” article just because it felt so dated – not because of the content necessarily, but because of the way it was presented. Not a single link on the page. And didn’t it kind of feel like it was lacking attribution or something? Agreement from the rest of the Internet? Evidence that this information is part of a larger conversation?

    Maybe links in material we read help us to be aware of the “Wisdom of the Crowds”, the idea that because whatever this blogger is spewing is part of a larger conversation, there must be some good, logical conclusion coming from the incessant rambling of all these different voices that are always present online.

  9. aarongeiger says:

    Since there has already been a lot of great posting regarding the pros of crowdsourcing, including why it is important, perhaps I can offer a bit of my own perspective as to why crowdsourcing is potentially NOT good.

    I watched Julian Assange’s interview on 60 Minutes last night, and the entire “double-length” segment pretty much confirmed a few things to me: 1) Good, hard reporting is dead, 2) Assange is mighty proud of himself, 3) Assange believes in corporate and government transparency, but not on an individual level (hello, hypocrisy), and 4) crowdsourcing can cause a lot of damage.

    WikiLeaks wants the reader to interpret the news for the rest of the world. Their whistleblowing site is modeled off of crowdsourcing (as they announced in one of their previous title pages). However, Assange has said repeatedly that he and much of his staff are journalists–until they get into trouble, then suddenly they are only publishers. They claim to be a “wiki” model, which, by definition, is an open-ended socially rewritable model, like Wikipedia. But WikiLeaks is nothing of the sort. It uses the power of crowdsourcing to shunt the blame onto the masses.

    It is important to have a cadre of responsible journalists that are qualified to verify sources by due integrity, transparency, and with credibility. If left to the crowdsourcing masses, an anonymous source could cause great harm by uploading information to be judged. It is quite possible to have a “seeded” argument placed for judgement.

    I understand that this is the way journalism is going, but I strongly believe we are going to see that this same type of power struggle among the masses has happened long before the age of information(i.e., town hall meetings, public demonstrations, etc), and that we’ll see a reform in the future that brings power back to the informed, professional leagues of journalists.

  10. K.Wish. says:

    Crowdsourcing & Wisdom in Numbers

    The video you posted gives a topical definition of what crowdsourcing represents. The power of numbers and opinions can greatly impact projects of innovation and information. Crowdsourcing almost employs people to contribute to a central question or mission by providing their own information and skills to that subject.

    As Aaron pointed out, this does remind us of WikiLeaks in some ways. For “wisdom in numbers” to work (or not), depends on the topic, as well as the outlet. For example, blogs weren’t mentioned in Kostakos’s study. I wonder if you collectively looked at the blog posts, and comments, on a particular subject, such as the State of the Union Address, would the thoughts and opinions reflect the majority of America or just these extreme thinkers? It’s always been true that there are some extremist commenters out there on the Internet. For example, on, you can find some nasty comments on a product or really positive ones. You have to take it all with a grain of salt though.


    Today, links are an essential part of the Internet. If we suddenly could no longer add a link on Facebook or our blog posts to share something we thought was interesting, it would change the whole nature of Internet communication. Web sites like Digg, Mashable and Twitter would probably stop working and existing. We use links to share, validate, confront, and engage.

    As for the history of links, there are many aspects of these articles that I have never even considered. Now, I may be a bit naïve, but it never occurred to me that linking would become an ethical (or legal) issue. Another point is that it’s almost comical how much the Internet today revolves around linking, sharing, and aggregating all your information through one source. That IS the Internet today.

    There are some intrinsic similarities between link and crowdsourcing, such as the art of sharing, creating, validating, and combining information into something new. In addition, they both share similar ethical questions and considerations. For example, the integrity of a link or of the crowdsourcing contributors and information can greatly affect the integrity of what you are writing as a journalist or organization.

  11. The idea of crowdsourcing, or having large groups of undefined people contributing their perspective to a website, seems to have been around since the early days of the Internet. The concept, I believe has its vital use in politics as well, especially considering what the article from Read, Write, Web said – a small minority posts the most on websites. The idea that the passionate minority overrules the apathetic majority is not something new, it’s only new to the Internet.

    The legalities of using a BitTorrent is extremely complicated, but Thompson said, the convienence is no question. People can upload and share files, hassle free. He brings up a great point that the idea and act of linking does not make someone innocent. It may be hard to get the message of plagerism across to the a younger generation when more and more easier ways of linking, stealing music, videos and other things is so accessible.

    To me, what is the most sad about our readings, is that I found it hard to get through “The Link to Liability.” Was the information accurate, though dated from 1997? Definitely. But the way it was presented, via the Internet, was dull and boring. There weren’t any links; the entire post was straightforward text. That’s where our society is heading. We like to read things that invigorate us mentally and visually. While at this point in time, news sources and other various Internet websites are used to hyperlinking, the question about advertising through it and other ways still holds up. With such a decline in newspapers, and so much information available on the Internet, why should advertisers go through a medium such as a news organization? (Note the comment at the top of the article “You may freely redistribute this column; please retain author and publication attribution”).

  12. coreypreece says:

    Crowdsourcing – The idea of crowdsourcing is more or less tied to the rise of electronic technology in the latter half of the 20th century. However, the underpinnings of crowdsourcing rests in just about any innovation or innovation lineage throughout history. From the invention of the automobile to the varying industrial revolutions, there has always been an idea or product created by a singular person or group that was then redefined or reinvented and upgraded by another person or groups. However, the difference in crowdsourcing in terms of the technological revolution, is that the common man, the public, is more involved in the progression of commercialized products and materials than ever before.

    I think crowdsourcing is an excellent form of innovation that really enables anyone with a good idea and the means of executing it an opportunity to have their ideas heard and most cases used. More so than links (which I will get at in a moment) I believe crowdsourcing is the foundation of the world-wide-web and more importantly, the internet. Last week we looked at the history of the internet, and at nearly every junction where technology was advanced, the advancement and changes weren’t created by one group of people over and over again. Rather, a group of scientists in California would upgrade a particular program, while a university in Europe would take that new program, make some varying changes, and then release the “program 2.0” back to the public for yet another round of innovation and upgrade. Thus, as this line of progress continued and continues to this day, we are constantly rewarded with new and exciting products and technological advancements that may or may not have been created by a paid group of techies or a vast, inter-connected amateur community working towards a single goal. And that is the beauty of the internet.

    As far as links are concerned, I found it interesting that many of the companies that filed lawsuits for unapproved hyperlinking are some of today’s most successful corporations. More importantly, CNN, Time and Ticketmaster have elevated their respective companies through the power of technology and the global reach of the internet. Of course Time would go on to buy AOL, forever linking it’s name with the internet and online technology. CNN has several different news sites for multiple communities and focuses more on web-based journalism and user-created content than ever before. And Ticketmaster has become the predominant entertainment ticket vendor through it’s online partnership with LiveNation. Do you think any of these companies would reject to a blogger or webpage linking to their products or services today? Not a chance.

    While the article was a little dated (1997…I was still typing “A/S/L in online chat rooms at that time) the piece did bring up one interesting idea that links (no pun intended) well with BBC article. And that is, can and should the notion of lost advertising dollars through outside linking be viewed in the same light as illegally downloading movies and music through hyperlinks? Essentially, are websites and entities that do not deal in copyrighted material having their profits infringed upon by links from an outside page?

  13. bostonkid124 says:

    Links are one of the key pieces to the puzzle that make the internet, the internet. Without links and hyperlinks we wouldn’t be able to expand our horizons. Through my personal experiences reading blogs, hyperlinks are very common. They enable the creator to show similar plays or anything that the author feels is relevant. (To make this a little more clear)
    In chapter three Briggs talks about the using digital tools to “knock down barriers.” There was one point that I disagreed with in this chapter. Briggs said that resources for journalism is shrinking. As a journalist I really beg to differ. I understand that print journalism is no longer where it used to be and will probably continue to move online, but that’s where our resources are now. Instead of going through media guides to find a teams all time record, you can Google it and find your answer within seconds. You can find people that know “certain bits of information” that will help you complete your idea. I think if anything our resources are expanding.
    Crowdsourcing is where communities form and provide information for a certain website or topic. These people congregate and with a little bit of knowledge from each person can according to Briggs, “outperform a small group of experienced (and paid) professionals.
    Personally links are one of the best features of the internet, allowing us to connect to something else at any given time. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with it ethically because I feel like it helps out the other sites by giving them more views or readers.

  14. ewadd986 says:

    I think the links about links were very informative and made several strong points and raised even bigger questions. At some point it is obvious that we are going to have to redefine altogether just what a link really is. Dealing with copyright laws online will soon become worse than ever. With so many p2p sharing sites and third party url’s to download music and movies, the government is going to have to step in at some point just like they did initially many years ago with Napster and other illegal mp3 downloading software. The music industry is already at an all time low and if we see that spill into movies as I suspect it already has, than the entertainment industry will take a huge loss. I don’t think it is right for people to illegally share those kinds of files but the World Wide Web is such a big space of interlinking content that it is something that our government might not ever be able to control. I have to think that the internet will continue to increase and as we have talked about in class, once something is on the internet it never really gets taken off. On the journalistic side we have to maintain the same ethic that we would when crediting any story or research done in a regular news article. I know for a fact that the internet has created journalist to become lazy and steal from each other without proper sourcing and I think this also needs to be looked at and taught in the j-school.

  15. Shannon Teets says:

    I think that links are essential to the prosperity of the internet as a reliable and efficient media tool. The nature of a link is to be a useful little blue underlined word that can take you to a specific spot on a web page or send you to relevant information on an entirely new web page. When surfing the web, we use links to gain and navigate through the hoards of information available to us online. Links can also allow us to further develop our thoughts and ideas by connecting us to areas we might have otherwise left undiscovered. When writing our blogs or presenting information on the web (even on our facebook pages and through twitter accounts) links serve as a way to validate our statements and connect our posts and thoughts to the bigger picture. I do agree that links are definitely a fundamental unit to online communication, however need to be wary of how I personally implement them into my blog. For example, instead of saying this is neat, here’s the link, I need to try to develop more post based off of my opinions and thoughts of certain findings and provide links to these things allowing others to view them and express their opinions as well. Links are a great way to gather information but can also foster online discussions and communications and should be used to do so.

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