Read & Respond – Week 5

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 (you read it last week, but remember we did some syllabus shuffling for the scavenger hunt in week 3), Briggs is concerned with the connective aspect of online communication. 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, February 6. As always, responses should be around 200 words, links to arguments or evidence on your own blog or elsewhere are strongly recommended … and don’t forget to integrate Briggs!

21 Responses to Read & Respond – Week 5

  1. I, like Briggs, have mixed feelings on “crowdsourcing.” I get that there are many people out there who feel that they should be sharing news, even when they don’t have all the facts and correct information. And that can be scary, because the wrong information isn’t always obvious; sometimes incorrect information seems (at least partially) accurate. But at the same time, I have experienced the power of getting a correct answer when pooling from a larger number of people. I was participated in Academic Quiz Bowl all thoughout middle and high school. We tried to sort ourselves into “categories”, in which we would focus our practice questions. For example, on my team, Nick was our History and Geography guy, Tyler was Math, Dustin was Science, David was politics, and I was Art, Literature, and Pop Culture. Although it was important that we were all on top of our designated topics, it was necessary for us to study the other categories as well, because it’s simply impossible for one person to know absolutely everything about a subject. This meant that if I couldn’t answer a question about one of Bosch’s tryptic paintings, there was a good chance that one of my teammates could. Likewise, during each match we had a round of ‘bonus’ questions, on which we could confer. We were able to hold a miniature discussion on the question before giving an answer; and it was rare that we got one wrong, because we were able to talk it out until we came to the answer we were all most satisfied with. When you add opinions to the pool, you’re more likely to reach the most accurate conclusion.
    That being said, I think it’s important to get as many viewpoints in as possible. Sure, some sites may get the majority of their information from one small sample of people, but that just means that it should be a little bit more work on the reader, who then needs to check multiple sources, until the general information from the various sites matches up, or comes to a consensus. This will keep connective journalism in check.
    As far as links go, I don’t think they’re necessary in every post. However, I do find them useful in some. If I’m reading about something of which I know nothing, it’s nice to have a quick link to a new page that maybe explains a word or concept that I was previously unfamiliar with. That way I can quickly get to the page on which I started. I feel as if links are just a way to connect the reader to more information and I fail to see the harm in that. So, I don’t see any cruel intentions behind using them. I therefore think it’s perfectly ethical to link someone else’s stuff on your page, even if it may harm advertising.

  2. Ali Young says:

    I like the idea that in crowdsourcing, everyone takes part in a discussion because there are too many valuable opinions to be left unheard. It is a better alternative than outsourcing because it’s not up to just one person or one company to make a connection. It seems that it is more beneficial for a large group of people to express their viewpoints because people vary in their strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, crowdsourcing is a quick way to obtain information. Granted, you will need to make sure the material is accurate, but if it’s a highly debated topic or holds the interests of a large majority, the facts should be readily attainable. The only disadvantage I see with crowdsourcing is the basis of confidentiality. If you’re posting business on the internet for everyone to see, you may want to leave out vivid details for the reader to see.

    On another note, I think links are very helpful. It’s an easy way to further what you’re talking about or add related information to stories at the end of your analyis or post. We use them to broaden the canvas of ideas we may have or just as a convenient way to discover new websites. The similarities of hyperlinks and social links involved in crowdsourcing is that they both involve interpretation and are a form of social networking. The difference between the two is that it doesn’t have to be a personal relationship. They can be people from all walks of life, not just a classmate or friend. It’s ethical to use links as long as you do it the right way. I had never blogged previous to this class, so I wasn’t necessarily giving credit where credit was due. If you state facts, you need to say where it came from so that person or company can be recognized for what they’re providing to us as users.

  3. bre7714 says:

    I’ve always been rather pessimistic about the crowd’s ability to collectively make a good decision. After all, as some comedians have pointed out, America elected George W. Bush. However, this is an intriguing concept and Briggs shows that there are significant advantages to using information from a collective rather than leaving things entirely up to a “higher source.”

    Just from looking at the Occupy Protests, you can see that people worldwide are bringing to light the issues originating from the fact that businesses and other wealthy individuals have too much power and influence. Maybe there are certain decisions that a crowd shouldn’t’ have direct control over, but it seems that in modern times, the balance is gone and the weight of decisions in America is highly tipped in the elite’s direction.

    As for links and online crowds, even if engaged crowds make up a small percentage, it is still useful to see their collective. A “small percentage” could still be a lot of people! Links are a great device as well because they allow for engaged users to expand on the information they seek and see a number of perspectives. These also serve to expand arguments into something larger than they were before, which in turn expands the conversation. This is something I can incorporate into my own work.

  4. Getting to be in the journalism field for the few years that I’ve actually gotten to cover WVU athletics, I’ve gotten to know a little bit about crowdsourcing. It can be good at times, and at times it can be enfuriating.
    Especially in the world of sports journalism, people seem so eager to get information out to the public without backing it up with more sources that they don’t care if it’s right, all they want to do is get it out there so that IF it ends up being what really is happening, they can take credit and say they did it. I think that’s bull, honestly.
    For example, when this WVU coaching stuff was going on after Jeff Casteel left, one of the football recruits told me that he had been told former Houston defensive coordinator Brian Stewart was the next defensive coordinator at WVU.
    If I wanted to be irresponsible, I could have tweeted and written stories about it right then, but I was smart and talked to other people about it and they said to hold off. Even though other blogs were reporting that that was happening.
    Two days later, Stewart accepted the defensive coordinator position at MARYLAND.
    As far as links go, they’re extremely important. But, once again, only if the place you’re linking to is a place where you feel has a good reputation and wouldn’t report things that weren’t 100 percent true. They can be a great way for journalists to start conversation with people and share information with them all with the click of a mouse.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Good examples from the sports world. It’s an interesting idea, that the fallout from an incorrect claim is outweighed by the praise from one that turns out to be accurate. So how do Briggs and the above readings (hint, hint) inform this?

  5. Anan says:

    I think the crowdsourcing is a wonderful way of reporting. It saves journalists much time and money to reporting, just like using the links. The enthusiastic community who focus on a topic can have more values and opinions from more perspectives than the traditional news reporting ways. Everyone who knows anything can be a journalist, not only the experts. Like Wikipedia, everyone can revise it, and we can know almost everything from other cultures. I really like the quote of Briggs’ mother “many hands make light work.” I remember I did a media analysis of the Huffington Post— the online- only news website. The contents of its front page news are quite different from the traditional websites, and more comments and sources from readers are the most special features.

    The open-source reporting is more transparency and making journalists and readers closer to each other. Social media like Twitter and Facebook help journalists a lot in open-source reporting, that’s why journalism students must know how to use them as an approach to report.

    Links both provide easy access to source documents or previous coverage and keep readers staying on their website. As Jeff Jarvis says, “do what you do best and link to the rest.” When talking about the social links and the hyperlinks, they’re very alike to some extent. Social links can just be suitable for the readers who don’t read deeply, as the pictures and the websites posted on social media must be shortened to save space and be more attractive. On the other hand, hyperlinks suit the readers who want to know more background information and have more time.

  6. erinfitzi says:

    Crowdsourcing is kind of happening right now. Before writing this post, I first skimmed the chapter again, then came here and read the comments of my peers and got a much better understanding of crowdsourcing. It’s bringing people and ideas together. While the class blog is a great place for meshing ideas and discussing class topics, there are some things to watch for while crowdsourcing. This ties in with links – links and sources are essential. You can read blogs about people’s opinions all day, but without facts, there’s not much to call substantial and add to the discussion. This rolls into the open-sourcing discussion. Open-sourcing is good to bring readers and journalists closer. For example, I’ve noticed some newspapers with online parts are responding to comment posts with links or less frequently some explanation of editorial decisions. With blogs and social media, open sourcing is also providing more information (like a link) on the thing being reported on.
    I’ve grown to love links (not of the sausage variety), from when before they were possibly annoying. Everything we do on the Internet is a link, so integrating them into tweets, blog posts, Facebook statuses, comments – everything. They all almost seem incomplete without links. I think of english papers and “scholarly” sources. Nobody wants you to use websites – teachers all want books. Some websites are good, and the Internet is one place where websites and due credit is necessary and preferred.

  7. Mary Power says:

    Crowd sourcing is an amazing development in journalism. While it threatens the institutions we’ve known our whole lives it also enables them to report in a way that was not possible ten years ago. The participation of communities within the news today is unprecedented; as individuals we demand and participated in the development of instant news and if “the wisdom of crowds” is to be believed we often get it right.
    In an era where getting the scoop is so important because we are instant communicators, open-source reporting is a good way for networks to be honest yet on the ball with stories. If they are transparent about where they are at with a story, viewers can participate in the gathering of information and the advancement of the story without the fear of redundancy. Look at the revolutions in Egypt- much of the news came from people who could skype with news channels from their hotel rooms in Egypt or from tweets sent by those staging protests. These were real people with real story’s about the revolution- not reporters gathering facts in a place they had to fly to after the news had begun.
    But, I agree that often it is just highly engaged individuals who come forth in this day and age. Take UrbanSpoon for example- of ten there are just negative comments about a restaurant. It may not be that the restaurant is a poor place to be, but the few who were dissatisfied had more to gain from being vocal about their unhappiness.
    I think that the issue with links is a lack of understanding. The nature of a link is to add content or assist in finding something- another article on the same subject, the Ticketmaster website you need to buy tickets to an event. It’s like talking about a news story and showing a friend the newspaper with the article in it. The newspaper might lose 50 cents by you allowing your friend to read your copy of the paper, but the long term effect will be that they have seen your product and return to it later when they want information about the news. I don’t see an ethical issue with links; they are another social tool and what allows quick fact checking on the web.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      “The few who were dissatisfied had more to gain from being vocal about their unhappiness.” This seems like it sums up a lot of online communication. We get so used to being able to find what we want online that it can be easy to forget that a greater proportion of people “speaking” there come from a more passionate place than the average communicator. How can you integrate the course readings into this perspective?

  8. I find the idea of linking to be a great way to join in on a bigger conversation. You can comment on a certain and subject and then use a link so readers can get more detailed information if they want it. Links can also be used to show the material you are talking about (be it video, audio, etc.) so readers can generally know what issue you have with the material. Links work as signs that seem to say ‘look here, this is what I’m talking about.’ Like crowdsourcing, linking uses a bunch of different voices to create one story. However, hyper-linking is a bit different. To me, crowdsourcing seems to be voluntarily done; the sources freely give their input. With hyper-linking, someone has to go out and find the sources, and often times the source may not even know they are being linked to.

    Because the sources don’t know they are being linked to, problems of etiquette can arise. David G. Post, in his ‘The Link to Liability,’ brings up an example of a site a mother put up as a memorial to her deceased daughter that was linked to be a site, ‘Babes on the Net.’ To me, this seems like a breach of etiquette. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear line of what should and shouldn’t be done with linking. Legally I think links should be able to be put anywhere someone wants to put them; but, just because you can link to things doesn’t mean you should. If posting a link seems to cross some moral line (like linking to a dead daughter’s site from ‘Babes on the Net) then I don’t think that link should be made. This is true for both journalistic and personal use. Though, for journalistic use, linking should probably be used to link to credible sources.

  9. I think that Sarah Perez of RWW is missing a small point about crowds: the key characteristic of a crowd is that something has unified that group of people. Sometimes a crowd is gathered for a protest. Sometimes a crowd is gathered for a concert. Sometimes a crowd is gathered for a movie.

    When people form a crowd, there is typically a unifying reason, some common characteristic between individuals. Whenever you have a crowd, you are likely to find opinion leaders within that crowd, and those opinion leaders–who post reviews or edit Wikipedia articles–are representatives for a particular crowd. Crowdsourcing does not have to mean that everyone in the crowd responds. If an opinion leader expresses an opinion that others in the crowd agree with, many users will likely opt not to comment (though they may upvote or like the comments that they agree with). However, and I think this part is key, if they disagree or have evidence that disproves another user’s comment or if a user misplaced a comma, other members of the crowd will chime in. The internet is a republic, not a true democracy.

    The skepticism of crowdsourcing is also well-founded. The “hive-mind” can sway people into believing something that may not be true. A user might see opinion leaders vocally supporting a viewpoint and many other users supporting that viewpoint through upvotes, swaying a user to adopt that viewpoint himself because of his desire to be a part of his chosen crowd. For example,, a social linking site that has a history of raising money for charitable causes through crowdsourced donations accused a college of student of faking a charitable cause. Skeptical Reddit users dug up her personal information, reported to the FBI and to Paypal, and threatened her. Though some Reddit users encouraged caution, the momentum of an angry hive-mind quickly drowned out the voices of reason. Here is the link:

    Links are just links, as Bill Thompson says. They are tools, and like any tool, their potential for good and potential for evil is entirely dependent on the person using the link. Connecting people to other people and connecting people to information can have a profoundly positive effect on the world, but if the individuals in a crowd do not act morally and ethically (even if they think they are acting morally and ethically), a link can have very real consequences.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      Great point: “the key characteristic of a crowd is that something has unified that group of people.” As you go on to point out, that “something” isn’t necessarily mobile – your Reddit example might be termed “mobsourcing,” and it’s a lot less starry-eyed.

  10. greerhughes says:

    I often use links as a way to site my source. I feel like it’s a way of giving credit to another author’s work. It’s another way to spread information and keep the “conversation” going. It’s hard to believe that companies like CNN were willing to file lawsuits in the late 90’s for advertising dollars. In my eyes, linking is like free advertising. In my blog post about how to take good iPhone photos (, I link to three different authors. Granted, my blog doesn’t get a lot of traffic at the moment, but if it did I would be promoting those websites to a large audience for free.

    Crowdsourcing and linking are similar in that they are both ways to have a “conversation” online. While it seems like crowdsourcing may still be a work in progress, it still does a good thing if done the right way. Briggs explains that the Huffington Post used crowdsourcing to cover the stimulus bill in 2009. They were able to “harness the power of the crowd” and catch fraud, misuse of funds, and conflicts of interest that are typically involved when there is so much money at hand. It’s a good example of how great it can work if it’s employed in the right way.

  11. mwlfrd says:

    I feel that crowdsourcing has it’s pros and cons. It can come in handy when you want to get information from people that are passionate about your topic and want some public thoughts and opinions, but at the same time, it can be bad for your topic if the people you source are not correct in the information they give you. This is bad because if the information is posted and then believed to be true by the masses, then you have a majority with misinformation and this could lead to backlash to you, the one who created the situation.

    Links are essential in my opinion; they keep a group in a “conversation” and give those that want to learn more about a topic the option to read outside sources or other related sources that they can gain knowledge of the group. Most blogs/websites across the Internet use outside sources as links in their works as a way of giving credit to those that helped their post or story with more information and will also give the reader the option to continue their study of the topic at hand. If all works well, this will create a growing network of people with the same intent or opinion that has become more unified.

  12. Every time I think of “crowd-sourced” I think of the Faces of the Mine project where they solicit community information to create a memorial for those affected by the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

    From their website:
    “With the 29 fallen miners in mind, Faces of the Mine will act as a public forum for those who wish to remember while sharing their own thoughts, feelings and ideas about the UBB disaster. Community-contributed material including writings, videos and photos will make up the majority of the site’s content, keeping the focus on those who were affected and how their lives have changed. Faces of the Mine will also be a source for information about the disaster, with the back story and the latest news updates all coming together on one page.” (

    I think it’s a great idea to get information from a community that you may not have been able to get otherwise. I think having the community involved makes people more interested, and that’s more traffic to the website, so I think it’s a win-win for everybody involved.

    Links are one way to help import information from all over the web to one location. For example, many news sites were hesitant to link to other news sites for fear that the person would leave their site and not come back. But studies have shown that people like to go to one place that will give them information from everywhere. And, like Briggs said, Google has made a business out of sending people away from their site constantly.

    I do think that it’s important to be careful about how you use links. It’s very easy to plagiarize if you think simply adding a link will clear you of that. On the contrary, you can’t steal someone’s work and mention them. Instead, state that that piece is directly from the website – similar to what I did with the Faces of the Mine block quote. But, in general, links are a great wealth of information because you have the ability to send people to other sites where they can get more information and probably in a better form than you could state it yourself. Let the experts do what they can, and your argument becomes stronger.

    Both crowdsourcing and linking can work together to great a conversation via the web.

  13. KLSloane says:

    A major problem with the Internet is that anyone can post anything that they want. On the other hand, this is one of the Internet’s greatest assets because it enables us to speak freely and express ourselves’. The problem that we face with this free forum is that not everything that you see, or read, online is accurate. I believe that it is up to the reader to use numerous resources to check facts and not believe just one viewpoint. I love that I can read what other people’s opinions are on various tactics. Even though I do not agree with all of them, it gives me more information and different points of view.
    In terms of links- I love them! If I don’t understand a word or topic its meaning is just one click away! They also can create a connection between people and introduce us to networking possibilities.

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