diary of a mad
househusband

24 june 2000

 

 feedback and internet credibility

As a Recovering Journalist (a dozen years as a radio news reporter), I've had to grapple with credibility on the Internet from both sides: Absent the traditional cynical editor and tight-fisted publisher, whom do I believe, and how do I assure my own credibility?

When I began my Troubador Tech site four years ago, one of my main purposes was to share some unorthodox methods of using synthesizers. Some of them were outrageous enough to strain belief, and since I had worked them out myself, there weren't any other sources I could cite. I realized that I'd not only have to demonstrate with sound samples, but also (because sounds can be faked at least as easily as images) include sufficiently detailed procedural instructions that anyone who cared to could reproduce my results.

I didn't realize it at the time, but in essence I was submitting my work for peer review, as scientists do. And peer review turns out to be one of the cornerstones of credibility on the Internet. It's easily seen in the hundreds of PC enthusiast sites; certainly they're competitive, but they also link to each other, and everyone reads everyone else's work.

This doesn't prevent misinformation from being spread, but it does provide a nearly instantaneous method of correcting it. And that mechanism bears an eerie resemblance to electronic feedback circuits-- and to biological autoimmune systems.

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