Sir Tim says blogs are great

There is a delicious irony about the piece on Sir Tim Berners-Lee that appeared in the Guardian at the weekend under the headline Creator of Web Warns of Fraudsters and Cheats. There was also a helpful addendum under the sub-heads: Blogging one of the biggest perils, says innovator.

My immediate reaction was to post a comment decrying the Great Sir Tim, who, according to the Guardian's Bobbie Johnson, "singles out the rise of blogging as one of the most difficult areas for the continuing development of the web, because of the risks associated with inaccurate, defamatory and uncheckable information."

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I was too busy to hit the keyboard and vent my spleen. It's just as well I was otherwise engaged because Sir Tim, the inventor of the world wide web, didn't say that at all and was a victim of "the risks associated with inaccurate, defamatory and uncheckable information". To be fair to Bobbie Johnson he has held up his hand and admitted he got it wrong following a blog post by Sir Tim:

"In a recent interview with the Guardian, alas, my attempt to explain this was turned upside down into a "blogging is one of the biggest perils" message. Sigh. I think they took their lead from an unfortunate BBC article, which for some reason stressed concerns about the web rather than excitement, failure modes rather than opportunities. (This happens, because when you launch a Web Science Research Initiative, people ask what the opportunities are and what the dangers are for the future. And some editors are tempted to just edit out the opportunities and headline the fears to get the eyeballs, which is old and boring newspaper practice."

As a former journalist I can sympathise with Bobbie but what makes this whole debate interesting is the distinction between the professional journalist and the blogger, or citizen journalist, is becoming increasingly blurred. And their has been a healthy debate about this for some time. For instance is Wikipedia less authoritive than the Encyclopedia Britannicus? Well, according to a recent survey they are equally accurate. One journalist recently told me that bloggers were blogging to an audience of one - themselves.

Perhaps. And what's wrong with that? But quality will out and while there is a lot of crap on the internet, the way quality works on the web is through links.

It works because reputable writers make links to things they consider reputable sources. So readers, when they find something distasteful or unreliable, don't just hit the back button once, they hit it twice. They remember not to follow links again through the page which took them there.

Blogs provide a gently evolving network of signpost to sites of interest and information and that's very exciting.

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