Web 2.0: Is it time for adult supervision?

I’m sorry I missed Euroblog 2008 it looked like a great event with a great line-up. I have made a personal commitment to try and get out a bit more.

There’s no question that this new online communications stuff is important. It’s not just important for PR people it’s has pretty major societal implications.

I get that.

I do.

I believe there’s a transformation underway that will (has?) certainly impact how people find and share information, how they connect.

But hold on.

Sometimes traversing the Interweb I stumble upon commentary which really sticks in my brain and nags me.

I get the feeling that some people are really losing the run of themselves.

There’s so much excitement online, sometimes it’s easy to lose a sense of perspective, a sense of the difference between right and wrong, of the difference between the relevant and the irrelevant.

While I realize I might attract the ire of some, I think people need to get a grip and step outside the Internet bubble a little more.

Last night I was doing some browsing on the aforementioned Euroblog 2008.

I was reading some posts, comments and even watching some videos.



1 minute 40 seconds from the end this video from Euroblog, it moves to a panel session.  Now the video is edited so I apologize to Philippe Borremans in advance if I’m misrepresenting his comments, but in the video he states that (my transcript):

"I think wikis and Wikiepdia has been mentioned very often during these two days and I think we need to get off the idea of these cases where some things (that) are in Wikipedia are are not 100% correct, and what have you, I mean if you look at it… this is a global thing it’s a global encyclopedia. I don’t know how many edits and new (pieces of) information are added every second, but if you compare that to the amount of mistakes in there I think the positives much more important than the negative."

When I listened to that last night it really stuck in my head.

In fact it’s stayed with me all day today.

I’m sorry.

I fundamentally disagree with that sentiment Philippe.

I absolutely disagree.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer Wikipedia is considered the second most credible source of information for young people.

How can it be acceptable that we just shrug our shoulders and say "well it’s not accurate but it’s cool and loads of people add stuff to it"?

This isn’t an anti-Wikipedia rant per se.

Wikipedia is a phenomenon, an amazing achievement.

But that doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to its shortcomings because it’s a cool example of Web 2.0 collaboration.

I think people who share that view would change their opinion very quickly if they found some negative commentary on themselves or if something erroneous turned up on their client.

Let’s rememeber Wikpedia’s willingness or ability to address inaccurate information isn’t exactly stellar, this is well illustrated from this Sunday Times article:

But as the sum of what we all know and agree, the wisdom of crowds has no greater value than Trivial Pursuit. Wikipedia is full of mistakes, half truths and misunderstandings. What happens if you try to do something about it? William Connolley, a climate modeller at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge and an expert on global warming, disagreed with a Wikipedia editor over a particular entry on the site. After trying to correct inaccuracies Connolley was accused of trying to remove “any point of view which does not match his own”. Eventually he was limited to making just one edit a day.


[Disclaimer: the article is based on an interview with Andrew Keen who believes that Web 2.0 is killing our culture – not something I necessarily agree with..]

If Wikipedia is being held up as an encyclopedia, then it should be expected to meet the same criteria as any other respected encyclopedia. End of story.

I had another moment listening to episode 324 of the ever excellent For Immediate Release.

Regular contributor – and someone I have a lot of time for – David Phillips was talking about (5:28) YouTube’s announcement that it was going to introduce live video streaming making it a "platform for interactive citizen television" offering "an unlimited number of TV channels on your laptop" or other device.

That is without question my idea of hell.

Who is going to sit through all the garbage?

Who is going to do the shopping, bring in the wage? What about the poor dog?

There’s a quote I am very fond of:

“The stone age was marked by man’s clever use of crude tools.  The information age to date, has been marked by man’s crude use of clever tools.”

– anonymous

The delivery of video, the accumulation of user generated content, twits, blogs etc are only the beginning. The real shift (especially for communicators) will be the next generation of tools that enable people to manage and mine this information in a meaningful way that respects the fact that they are already suffering from information overload.

Don’t get me wrong.

These shiny new things are very interesting, in fact they are very important.

But please let’s not lose sight of their weaknesses and failings.

We all still live (most of the time) in the real world.

Reality is a good thing, let’s not lose sight of it.