Another insightful piece from John Schwartz at the New York Times
about unsubstantiated rumors that spread online after the tsunami (example: Halliburton must have been behind it all). Story examines how bloggers reacted quickly to debunk falsehoods as they emerged, a sort of inherently self-healing trait evident in many online communities. I was among those interviewed for the piece, but as usual, others had far more interesting things to say.
[James Surowiecki, the author of "The Wisdom of Crowds"] pointed out that there is nothing new about ill-informed rumor-mongering or other forms of oddness. "There were always cranks," he said. "Rumors have always been fundamental about the way people talk, or think, about politics or complicated issues." Instead of a corner bar or a Barcalounger, however, the location for today's speech is an online medium with a potential audience of millions.
But there is another, more important difference, Mr. Surowiecki and others say. Internet discourse can be self-correcting, with near-instant feedback from readers. What was lost in the sniping over the Democratic Underground posting was the fact that the follow-up comments were a sober discussion of what actually causes earthquakes. The first response to the posting asked, "Earthquakes have been happening since the beginning of time ... How would you explain them?"
Further comments explained the movement of tectonic plates and provided links to sites explaining earthquakes and tsunamis from the United States Geological Survey and other authoritative sources.
"Not to make fun, as I'm sure it's not a unique misconception ... but the reality is simple plate tectonics," one participant wrote. "The entire Pacific Ocean is slowly but surely closing in on itself. What happened is that the floor of the Indian Ocean slid over part of the Pacific Ocean, releasing massive tension in the Earth's crust.
"That's it. No mystic injury to the Gaia spirit or anything."
I know some folks have their digital knickers in a twist over the story's headline (Myths Run Wild in Blog Tsunami Debate
), but I don't see anti-blog bias here. On the contrary, strikes me as a reasoned piece that traces how bloggers collectively sought to correct the record within their sphere of discourse. I would, however, like to point out that Mr. Schwartz totally missed the fact that an alarming number of blogs are in fact penned from corner bars and barcaloungers, thanks to the wonders of WiFi. Blowhards, unite! Link