Saturday, February 12, 2011

Anonymity - Lost Art for the Masses

Spending time online, to be sure, is a great way of 'getting away' from the problems of the world. At the end of a long day, when there is a barrage of problems, there is nothing more southing than checking the deal sites, Google News, and Facebook.

Anonymity, separation between our on line and 'Real-Life' experience, can serve two real purposes identified in the articles. One purpose is being better than you are; a different person. MUDs give you the opportunity, according the 'Aspects of Self' reading, to build an identity, grow, and redefine yourself online. This can be for the benefit of the internet user. The other advantage is simply hiding from the corporations, the 'enormous integrated platform for retrieving identities' the article 'Being Online' talks about.

The drawback to anonymity, clearly, is the ability for Trolls to operate. I learned the about the real separation of computers in dealings with a client. He is always nice in person, but the moment you leave, he will yell and scream over email. It seems that he feels disconnected enough over email to act differently. When a separation is created, like the article 'Rape In Cyberspace' talks about, the real-world physics and etiquette don't apply.

How do we spend time in cyberspace without falling victim to a troll or generally be deceived. The answer comes from the Assurance Game. The businesses must cultivate and consumer embrace services that create an assurance game to prevent trolls and deception. If the websites make it beneficial for the person to be vetted before commented, like the articles talked about, the negative effects of trolling and problematic deception can be reduced.

As the article 'Aspects of Self' article puts it, we are trying to re-tribalize our time spent alone. In the end, for people that prefer to live primarily in the real world like myself, the connections make online are with people that we know. The issues that come up with the anonymity of the internet can be mitigated, without the worry of losing yourself online.

Online Trolling: Exploiting the Exploiters

Disclaimer: This may be my favorite topic of discussion in this class so far, because reading comments by "trolls" are very interesting and it makes you wonder why people act differently online than they would in person.

Before we begin, take a look at the comments on this YouTube video of President Obama speaking on the situation in Egypt.

In particular, view the highly radical and racist comments being shared back and forth, especially from a user named MercuryWahWah.

This person makes numerous comments on Obama calling him a "House Nigger" and insisting that he "moves over for a real leader."

Why would a person make such obnoxious comments about something totally different from the topic at hand? Would he address the president in this way if they were face-to-face? Does this person feel empowered stating his opinion online?

These are all questions regarding trolling, especially since it's common throughout the web.

Without a doubt, the Internet allows us to manipulate the way we present ourselves to others because of the freedom to input any kind of information that allows us to hide our true identity. By using aliases, pseudonyms, or other nicknames, a person can be completely anonymous to other users, giving this person the added benefit of stating their thoughts, whether easy-going or really harsh, in a relatively open way unless an authoring device on websites filters those comments.

According to Julie Zhuo in her article "Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt," - Psychological research has proven again and again that anonymity increases unethical behavior. Road rage bubbles up in the relative anonymity of one’s car. And in the online world, which can offer total anonymity, the effect is even more pronounced. People — even ordinary, good people — often change their behavior in radical ways.

I think that one obvious advantage of remaining anonymous online is that people have a feeling of being totally safe when it comes to posting offensive and harsh comments online. It's because they think they know that nothing can be done to them or no one can find them to retaliate. One disadvantage of remaining anonymous online is that the level of seriousness attributed to a troll is of low proportions, so a person hoping to make serious change through their comments isn't going to be taken literally and therefore, get placed by the wayside.

Zhuo says that this kind of social pressure works because, at the end of the day, most trolls wouldn’t have the gall to say to another person’s face half the things they anonymously post on the Internet.

I definitely agree with her statement because ever since the web produced the phenomenon of trolling, people feel so comfortable saying things online they likely wouldn't say in person because they feel empowered and protected by this empowerment.

Judging the content of online posts, I feel that analyzing someone's comments is one method to determine whether we're being deceived online. An honest and easy-going user will post thoughtful comments on subject matter that deals with that subject matter. They also will post open, engaging ideas that legitimately ask for opinions from similar and thoughtful users.

How do we combat the negative effects of some of these developments?

Zhuo says:

Many victims are turning to legislation. All 50 states now have stalking, bullying or harassment laws that explicitly include electronic forms of communication.

She also says content providers should stop allowing anonymous comments by:

-Moderatating comments and forums.

-Using comment services to improve the quality of engagement on site.

-Asking users to report trolls and call them out for polluting the conversation.

I agree with her proposals, though it may truly too difficult to handle because people can always create new e-mails or new hidden profiles and continue their trollish ways. It's definitely behavior that needs policing, but then would that be breaking freedom of speech?

The matter is controversial, but people need to realize that some sayings are better left unsaid.

Friday, February 11, 2011

More Confident Being Anonymous?

When I first read the blog assignment for this week, I kind of got excited! (Is this weird? haha) But in all honesty, I really think anonymity on the internet needs to be talked about and discussed because not only is it confusing, but it also entertaining. The Internet allows us to manipulate the way we represent ourselves online, which allows us to change the views and attitude towards someone or something. When I first think of anonymity and trolling online, I think of dating websites that allow so many people to "BEEF" up their online profiles. When I use the term beef up, I mean to add on extra things to their profile that allows them to look more "attractive" and "personable" online. Has anyone seen the movie Sex Drive? I watched this movie recently on my Netflix account and it had me laughing the whole time. The basic plot to the film is an 18 year old male lies to this girl saying that he plays football, works out, etc.... But when she asks him to meet up with her, he panics because he know he lied about most of his information in his profile. That is why people choose to remain anonymous online. They are ashamed of their lives, so they makeup some type of "avatar" for themselves. Have you guys heard the song "Online" by Brad Paisley? If you haven't heard it yet, you really should. The whole song talks about how this guy lies to all these women online making them think he is a stud but in reality, he lives in his parents basement. Here is the link to the song!

Trolling was first discovered and defined in the late 1980s says Mattathias Schwartz from his article titled "The Trolls Among Us." Schwartz described troll as "to denote some who intentionally disrupts online communities." After I read this, I thought of certain websites that people go to on purpose just to disrupt someone's post or article. Right away I thought of the Detroit Free Press because there has been multiple times when I have been on their site reading an article, and the same person comments on everyone one of the author's articles say how bad they are and how stupid the author actually is. I think this affects the other comments of other people and it could harm the reputation of the writer for the article. Other sites I thought of was of course social networking sites like Facebook, but also Youtube. There are a lot of Youtube videos that receive TONS AND TONS of negative comments. You can go to any video with at least 20 comments and find at least one derogatory comment. Actually, I was on a sports nutrition site yesterday looking up reviews on a certain product and someone commented saying stuff that happened to them while on it but it didn't even relate to sports nutrition or the product. It was obvious that he was only doing this to cause pain towards the creators of the supplement. Here is the site that I found this from,

The video I picked on Youtube to analyze the comments was one of the hottest sports videos on the internet right now. The video is called Johnny Mac Trick Shot Quarterback. It consists of the starting quarterback for the Uconn Huskies performing different throwing trick shots. It is an incredible video because of all the time and practice they must of done to create this video. However when you go to the comments on the video, most of them consist of people denying that this video is real and are convinced that the video was massively edited. I truly believe that this video is real and that it took a lot of dedication and hard work to create it. Most of the usernames of the users who commented on the video are listed as something random and you can't tell who exactly commented on it. Most of the negative comments are, of course, anonymous. Here is the link to the incredible video and also the negative comments regarding the video.

The advantages of remaining anonymous online has to be the hidden identity like I stated before in this blog. It allows for someone to be a COMPLETELY different person online. They can control who they are and what their interests consist of. The disadvantages of remaining anonymous online is not showing your real identity and letting everyone know who you actually are. Good examples would be the negative comments. They are willing to post negative comments about someone or something, but they aren't willing to post their actual name or account. I believe people are so comfortable saying things online because it allows them to say something to someone without seeing their exact reaction to the statement. This can include facial expressions, vocal, or body expressions. This makes me think back to times before text messaging was so popular. Most people didn't talk when they were younger face to face. I personally did a lot of my conversations on AOL Instant Messenger. It is text messaging on the computer pretty much. This is what allowed me to be more social at a young age. However, if AIM or texting never existed, I feel like the social world would be a COMPLETELY different.

Fifth blog post: Anonymity, Deception, Trolling

Often hailed as the worst movie of all time.

First of all, I've got to say that I love all the images you're finding!

Now, for this week's post: consider the way the Internet allows us to manipulate the way we present ourselves to others (and how they present themselves to us). Also, choose almost any YouTube video with comments allowed and take a scroll through them. Or check out the comments on most local newspaper websites - those without comment moderation - and see what kinds of unfiltered thoughts pour through.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of remaining anonymous online? Why do think the web has produced the phenomenon of "trolling," and why do you think people feel so comfortable saying things online they likely wouldn't say in person? How do we determine whether we're being deceived online? And, bonus points: how do we combat the negative effects of some of these developments?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Online Collaboration

Collaboration is a process where people work together to achieve shared goals.  The Internet provides a tool in which collaboration is possible with anyone anywhere.  This opportunity allows for increased productivity, efficiency, and communication.  Today, businesses work 24/7, people communicate more easily, more collaborative projects exist, and academic research is moving at a stunning pace. This online collaboration has had a major positive world impact.

Rheingold assesses that cooperation and open source projects are ultimately about self-interest.  In my opinion, this statement is 100% true.  Open source projects usually don't offer monetary pay back, so why would a person contribute to a project if they did not have interest?  Jeff Howe states that crowd sourcing "gathers those who are most fit to perform tasks, solve complex problems, and contribute with the most relevant and fresh ideas."  Crowd sourcing enables people with interests in open source projects to contribute new knowledge and innovations.

However, these good results don't come without a price.  Given that more people are using online collaboration tools, more time is spent in the virtual world.  Existence in a virtual world restrains face to face meetings and has vast health effects.  By having meetings online, people-skills and writing skills can deteriorate.  Today, I find that many people misspell common words, use incorrect grammar, or have difficulty expressing themselves in words.  Another problem is the major health issue.  The human body evolved to fit biological demands and the body demands physical activity.  By using online tools, people are less physically active than ever before which causes major health risks.


Do you trust LOLcat?

             After reading Nicholas Carr’s blog about Web 2.0, it reminds me again of how much technology has changed our lives, and how many jobs are being lost because of computers and the internet. Machines have replaced people on the assembly lines and now amateurs with a netbook are replacing professionally trained writers who research for years to get all the [correct] details into an encyclopedia.
            Jeff Howe also explored the concept of crowdsourcing and how it affects professionals. His first example was that of photography, and how amateur photography has practically trumped professional photography, simply because you can find “quality” material online, either free, or for a very minimal price.
            The idea of crowdsourcing is scary for me personally. My dream job is to host a radio show – but with satellite radio becoming more popular, and podcasts available for free online, what am I going to be left to do? Traditional radio could disappear because some highschooler on his laptop records a weekly gossip show and posts it online for free.
            At the same time, this rapid gathering of information, posted by all sorts of people, could help me in my position (if it still exists). I can get multiple angles and get them quickly, and in turn broadcast them to my listeners. And the people I get the information from might not even be professionals…
            I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to trust who I get my information from, just like Carr. I want to know that the facts I have a correct the first time I relay them. I think that these “open source encyclopedias” will eventually hold us back, which is unfortunate, because they seem to be winning out over trusted, professional sources – and why? Just because they’re free.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


When I hear the word collaboration - I think partnership, team, working together, etc. I would not consider it to be a‘bad’ thing. But after reading these mixed reviews and opinions through our readings, I now see how collaboration can actually give a negative impact. Sometimes.

Online collaboration has many advantages. A very current and strong example of GOOD in collaboration is going on in Egypt right now. The whole Egypt banning Internet nonsense… Egypt used Twitter and Facebook to assemble people to rally in various areas. The tweets and facebook pages gave details about where to meet, how to bypass certain barriers, and other veryimportant information that was highly needed to gather the people of Cairo together.

In such a turmoil time, the Internet made things so much easier and quicker for these people in Egypt. I think that is absolutely amazing. In one of our articles “The Twitter Revolution Debate”, I believe those skeptics who claim that it is not a revolution, rather an old school method of people following people onto streets to rally, is wrong, but not completely wrong. Jeff Jarvis from CNN nailed it when he said if the Internet didn't matter the Egyptian government wouldn't have felt it necessary to shut it down…” and that is the blatant truth. But relating Jarvis’s quote to the other critics who disagree, I think that even if people followed other people onto the streets to rally, there is a good chance that those followers did it because whoever those leaders were that were already on the streets had the inside information, from the internet, to lead the uninformed ones to their destination.

As far as ‘crowdsourcing’ goes, I think people need to understand that term thoroughly. The article “The Myth of Crowdsourcing” explains things well. Like the fact that on Wikipedia, the vast majority are the product of a motivated individual. After articles are created, they are curated--corrected, improved and extended--by many different people.” directly quoted from Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. This basically means that either a professional, or a significant researcher, in the subject creates the page of whatever the subject is, then other interested well-informed folk add on to it. So technically, it is not necessarily all unauthorized information.

I do agree with Rheingold’s assessment about self-interest in cooperation. If I wasn’t interested in or benefited by an open source, then why would I bother putting my two cents in it? I wouldn’t. But I also agree with Narr’s claim that we overly celebrate amateur work, just because you can take a macro picture with your DSLR, doesn’t make you a professional photographer. Yes your efforts and work are appreciated and/or impressive, but what have you got to prove your professional self, other than a few macro shots of your burrito.

I believe that both Rheingold’s and Carr’s theories go together. A website like Flickr is an open source for anyone to upload pictures and show them off or just create ‘private’ albums online. On this website however, you will also find very astounding photography that even professionals may post because they simply want to share their skills, show off or to teach. You will notice that professionals, many times, put a watermark or copyright on their work though. Professional photographers limit their work and build a reputation for themselves that amateurs merely attempt to mock. Hence, agreeing with Carr’s claim that amateurs get recognized on Flickr because of their high interest (Rheingold) in photography, but professionals already have a name for themselves, which usually is not overlooked, rather looked at as inspiration. Did that make sense?

Opensourcing can be a wonderful thing, like Youtube or Twitter, but it can also be bad on other websites like Jigsaw because they sell your info, well i guess you permit it though...Point is opensourcing - Web 2.0 makes the world even smaller and easier to access information. We want free, we want accuracy, and we want it now. I want to hug opensourcing for allowing me to download and upload as i please, but i want to kick it for spamming my email with crap. You win some, and you lose some.

Crowds...or mobs?

It is common to address the positive achievements of collaboration on the internet.

I wonder: Can collaborating on the internet lead to a mob mentality?

There are obviously those who use the internet with malicious intent. What would happen if a group of these people collaborated with one another?

One such group comes to mind: Anonymous. The group is united through the internet by their anonymity, hence their name. The power of this group is actually frightening. Essentially, th
ey pick a target, and then using collaborative efforts, they attack their target. For example, they 'raided' Epilepsy Foundation of America's forums, covering it with seizure inducing animations.

A few fliers from other efforts.

Another unique feature of these groups is that a mob on the internet can easily become a mob in real life by ways of the internet. Because the internet allows people to contact each other instantaneously and spread information around quickly, these groups can organize 'flash mobs.' A collaborative effort that leaks from the internet out on the streets.

At the moment Anonymous and similar groups are more of annoyance than something to be taken seriously, but, I believe that groups like these shouldn't be overlooked. They have potential to cause some real damage. It's just harassment now, but more serious cyber-crime and cyber-warfare is not out of their reach.

This leads me to the conclusion, at the risk of sounding cliche
, that collaboration and crowd-sourcing on the internet seems to be a blade which can cut both ways.

Crowdsourcing = Collaboration...But Not Necessarily Smart Collaboration

I agree with Nicholas Carr's claim that we celebrate the amateur, instead of trusting the professional online. One of the greatest examples of this that comes to mind is Wikipedia, as Carr points out in his blog. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can contribute to.

I was a student assistant in high school and would sometimes have to proofread students' papers in class. One of my pet peeves is when students (or anyone, for that matter) quote Wikipedia in their papers. How do you know that the information you are quoting is accurate? Who is the
author of this information? Was this really the most reliable source of information you could find to use as the main reference in your paper? You can probably tell by my mini-rant that this used to bother me quite a bit.

If Wikipedia was a reliable and trusted source, and contained accurate information 100% of the time, I would argue that it is a great resource and tool for collaboration. However, because anyone can contribute to it (whether they possess the knowledge or credentials to post on the topic), it will never be a trusted source in my book.

Here is a link to an article from USA Today about a man whose biography listed in Wikipedia is inaccurate. He attempts to find out who posted the information and how to have it removed from the site. I found the article to be quite interesting, and I think it might make you think twice about using Wikipedia as a primary source of information.

In my opinion, crowdsourcing is just another tool for collaboration. I do not think you can argue that crowdsourcing is always good - because sometimes the information provided by crowdsourcing is purely inaccurate.

I believe that crowd sourcing and collaboration have both good and bad sides. In the case of open source projects I believe that it is a great thing. Though it may be thought that these projects are just one individual doing a majority of the work, I think that it comes down to a team that works together. While one person may have the initial idea and put in a lot of the work at first, afterwards others come along and help to finish the projects and make them what everyone sees in the end. A great example of this is the Android phone operating system. Although it is a Google project, their is a huge team of developers that work to create the system and then even more from all the different phone companies that make their changes to work with their devices. This goes along with Wikipedia too. One person may take the bulk of the information and put it together and make the original post but then others come along and edit and add to what is already there.

The downside of collaboration is things along the lines of iStockPhoto. The website takes away the income and jobs of many professionals. I feel that it is a great site for small businesses that don't have a huge budget but for larger businesses that have the budget to spend, they should hire a professorial to get exactly what they are looking for.

Crowd sourcing can be a great thing and the internet has become a great place for people to come together and share their knowledge of different topics to work together and create a awesome resource for everyone to use.

To the People of the World: A Crowdsourcing Blog

I'm going to crowdsource this blog. Please write an article pertaining to crowdsourcing. Go, go, go! Now, to wait for my blog to explode with content.

Clipart Illustration of an Obsessed Computer Gamer With Spinning Eyeballs, Using A Computer

I can't help but notice my blog isn't completed yet! Well, maybe this actually isn't quite how crowdsourcing works. But what is crowdsourcing, then?

Crowdsourcing, a term first developed by Jeff Howe, is a term that refers to outsourcing some sort of project to a large, anonymous group of people. For example, an example of crowdsourcing would be a blog requesting that computer programmers of the internet band together to create a free virus protection software for the good of everybody who uses the internet. In an ideal case of crowdsourcing, people from all across the web would then band together and develop this software for others to use and benefit from.

The advantages of crowdsourcing are fairly plentiful. Nobody has to be paid, often times only people passionate about a given task will assist with it (resulting in high quality output), and if the crowdsourced task goes viral, the number of people willing to help will be endless. However, what are some of the negative consequences of crowdsourcing?

One issue with crowdsourcing is that, more or less, the majority rules. Marshall Poe's article on Wikipedia, "The Hive" (, mentions how his article about himself on Wikipedia had been flagged for deletion because it was not important enough. A moderator flagged it as "being considered for deletion", where I'm assuming other moderators looked at it and gave their input, and eventually deleted it. Of course after checking, I realized it was not (or at least is no longer) deleted, and in fact his Wiki page has more information on it, such as information about his article.

But what if all information was simply voted on to decide whether it was worthwhile or not? When Einstein developed his Theory of Relativity, there was a paper released called "100 Scientists Against Einstein", denouncing his theory. If Einstein's work was part of crowdsourcing, he would have been silenced and his work would have gone unnoticed. When hearing about this paper against his theory, Einstein cleverly responded, "Why 100 authors? If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!" This statement is directly correlated to the problem with crowdsourcing: just because the majority of the crowd support a given idea, for example, does not mean that idea is correct.

Dan Woods also hit on this topic in his article, "The Myth of Crowdsourcing" ( As he put it, "crowds don't innovate, people do." Again, this refers to mob mentality not being the best place to foster and grow new ideas. However, Woods does not argue the success of some crowdsourced projects, such as coding projects. Rather, he argues (quite persuasively) that it really wasn't crowdsourcing at all! In many cases, what appears to be a crowd is really one or two driven individuals, with possible minor input from outliers.

Crowdsourcing is growing along with the internet and it is nigh impossible to throw any blanket statements over the theory behind it and its results to date. However, it is clear that this method of work definitely has not only advantages, but disadvantages as well. I'm looking forward to see the development of future crowdsourcing projects and see just how far crowdsourcing can take us.

When a motivated or obsessed individual starts doing something and attracts a group of similarly minded people who are not as motivated, the results can be great. But is it crowdsourcing? To me it seems to just be collaboration.

I tend to agree with Dan Woods that crowdsourcing is more a few motivated individuals who attract a group of people to themselves. For websites like, it's about individual people with a camera capable of taking stock-quality photos selling those photos for a little extra money. Just because the website gets submissions from a lot of people doesn't mean it's a leader of crowdsourcing. Yes, it uses a large crowd to generate revenue, but that crowd is composed of individuals who are not interested in providing large numbers of cheap stock photos to people: they're interested in earning a few extra bucks to benefit themselves.

Crowdsourcing: All for one...and one for himself?

Crowd sourcing most definitely provides a lot of opportunities. Allowing multiple users to collaborate on a single work or project allows for new and unheard of ideas to be exchanged, and brings together differing perspectives and viewpoints to help create a more complete and polished final product. At the same time, however, while a number of users are genuinely concerned about the quality of the finished piece and want to make sure it's of quality, just as many people are only in it for selfish reasons. They want to show that their contribution is better than those of the other contributors, and if the collaboration shifts away from their vision or they're not given what they feel is significant credit for their work, they're just as likely to turn on the others, possibly taking measures that can damage the project as a whole.

To provide an example as seen in recent pop culture, a recent chapter in the comic series "Bakuman" featured an artist named Toru Nanamine submitting a manuscript for his comic called "Classroom of Truth" to a magazine for serialization. However, his initial draft, while praised, was passed up. However, Nanamine took unexpected measures by blogging that his manuscript had passed up, uploading scans of it as well, causing multiple angry calls and letters from online readers to the magazine. Furthermore, believing that comic readers knew better than the editorial department, Nanamine's ignored the notes given to him by the editors and instead chose 50 commenters at random and integrated their ideas and suggestions into a newer draft. He would later take this a step further and end up outsourcing much of the art to some of these fans as well.

It proved successful for a short time, but eventually, Nanamine's collaborators became incensed at the fact that he was receiving all the credit for their work, as well as the fact that he was making money off the comic while they didn't receive a cent. In turn, they began to destroy the series from the inside, with some purposefully ruining the art, others dropping the project entirely, a few leaking spoilers about upcoming storylines online, and some even going to the magazine directly and demanding compensation. The scandals and mass exodus of his group's members ultimately ruined "Classroom of Death", as Nanamine's talent alone wasn't enough to maintain the necessary level of quality, and the series was unceremoniously cancelled.

True crowdsourcing will never truly be 100% viable, as humans are selfish beings by nature; at our core, we all want our hard work to be noticed by others. For some, that means trying to outdo and overshadow everyone else so they can't help but look. For others, just getting their name out in the open and letting people know they exist is enough. And a few, of course, just like being disruptive, as negative attention is still attention. Unless everyone involved completely puts aside their own self-centered tendencies and truly believes int he project, focusing 100% on its improvement, there's no 100% guarantee of success with a crowdsourced project. However, that sort of "hivemind" thinking also means the unique perspective each person brings to the table would be held back, ultimately defying the very purpose of crowdsourcing, that being a blend of different views and interpretations to create something unique, and defeating the purpose entirely. As a result, crowdsourcing will likely never be a fully viable option, or at least not for the forseeable future.

Amateur Journalism: Modern Tool for Dissemination

Internet collaboration is a new tool for making more information available to users. At the same time, this collaboration, or as it is known "crowdsoucing", is content produced by individuals who are less than experts on what they write about. Yet, these crowsourcing sites are becoming more prevalent, rivaling major media companies. The seduction lies in the ability of crowsourcing sites to provide information not commonly offered by conventional outlets and/or cheaper or even free. Events not covered my major media outlets are easily found online by the public. While these reports many times can lack journalistic expertise or carry an agenda (which media doesn't), they serve to present information ignored by or misrepresented in major media outlets.

I completely disagree with Mr. Carr's statement that we overly celebrate amateurs over professionals. Amateurs are writing about things that the public is interested about and professionals many times neglect, not to mention that amateur writing is almost universally free. For instance, websites are created with the purpose of driving traffic to the information the writer(s) provide. They rely on internet search engine demand to identify the information people want to read or know about. If there wasn't demand, there wouldn't be good reason to develop a website loaded with time-consuming research and writing. The bottom line is...if they don't obtain traffic, they don't cash on the advertising they generate income from.

However, the information we are given is not "professional grade", for the most part. Yet, many bloggers and amateur journalists spent time and effort devising their articles. It is the consumer who must decide if they are satisfied with the information they are given. If you're an informed consumer, like me, you usually search other websites for accuracy or the "other" point of view. Moreover, you may even ask authors for a source or reference.

Nonetheless, the internet world has far-reaching advantages. Information can be easily accessed even while events are taking place. I'm sure many read my ranting twitter about getting more media coverage for a strike at a university in Puerto Rico. Well, "conventional" media in the island either ignores the events or presents it favoring the government's agenda when broadcasting "news." The internet has been the major vehicle for disseminating the repression and abuse suffered by the students. Sites such as, facebook, and twitter have served to share information about the "other" side of the strike's "perspective." Fortunately, after much searching and "news" posting we were able to get an international media outlet to cover the events and present information gathered by "amateurs." Accordant with Balkan's point, people are expressing themselves more easily through the use of these technological tools. In the case of the student strike, if it hadn't been for these amateur journalists we wouldn't have gained wide-spread support for the strike or we would've had a harder time doing so since major media outlets were ignoring or misrepresenting information.

Finally, it is our duty as informed consumers to read online information knowing that we must validate its accuracy. We have many options to obtain our information from and validate it. Amateur journalism provides a great tool by helping disseminate, otherwise, inaccessible information. This enables social movements and the like to gain momentum. They can keep us much more informed even if they provide partial coverage or do not offer "professional grade" reporting. In the end, we must always take everything with a grain of salt and find ways to validate what we read online.

Crowdsourcing: Fact or Fiction?

Up until this week, never heard of the term "crowdsourcing," though I have heard of the general concept, especially with reference to Wikipedia. As Dan Woods defines the word in his article in Forbes, it is "crowds creating solutions appeals to our desire to believe that working together we can do anything."

After reading the assigned articles, however, it seems that online collaboration is more of a dream. The reality seems to be that there is a single driving force behind any innovation. Woods went on to say that "in terms of innovation [the notion of crowdsourcing] is just ridiculous." On the reality of crowdsourcing, Woods believes that "What really happens in crowdsourcing as it is practiced in wide variety of contexts ... is that a problem is broadcast to a large number of people with varying forms of expertise. Then individuals motivated by obsession, competition, money or all three apply their individual talent to creating a solution." Those who point to Wikipedia as the ultimate form of crowdsourcing are rebuffed by Chris Wilson on Slate who states, "According to researchers in Palo Alto, 1 percent of Wikipedia users are responsible for about half of the site's edits."

So does that mean that crowdsourcing is a farce? Not necessarily. The popular definition of the term is misleading, creating an image of a powerful ecosystem of developers working on projects as a group to lead us into the world of tomorrow. By this definition, crowdsourcing is fiction. However, based on a literal definition, the concept of crowdsourcing can be good for fresh ideas and goals that individuals can work to accomplish. Input from others during the developmental stages can be implemented, but that does not constitute as "crowdsourcing" per se. As Woods believes, innovation is driven by an obsessed individual who truly wants to make a difference.

Crowdsourcing: Cost vs. Risk

The concept of online collaboration or crowd sourcing can certainly be a benefit to many businesses, both big and small. Particularly small businesses with limited research and development budgets that still want to have access to the latest technologies. If you are unsure what exactly crowd sourcing is, here's an example:

I own a small business and I would like some special software to track customer information, sales, and accounting. There are websites, like, where you can post your requirements and your budget and people from all over the world can contact you about the job you need done.

A few basic benefits are obvious, by contracting out a single job you don't need to worry about hiring a person long term, since it is a large public forum competing for business costs tend to be more competitive, and the business owner gets the advantage of having, in this case, something customized to fit their needs rather than just buying something generic out of a box.

The business owner also has go be cautious when crowd sourcing for a few reasons. Depending on the work being done are there any specific copywriting issues involved? Just because you may be writing the check, doesn't always mean you have full access or full rights to the job being done. If you contracted internationally, are you subject to another countries laws governing ownership and copyright of produced material? What about technical support? What happens when you take the day off and somebody in the office "crashes" the database? What then? Finally, dispute resolution. What happens when both parties, both in good faith, have a disagreement regarding the finished product? Other than the use of "feedback" which customers at times can wield unfairly against the producers, is there an objective dispute resolution process? Probably not, so beware.

As with any business decision, the choice to crowd source has to be researched thoroughly to determine no only the cost, but the risks involved which could escalate those costs.

The Myth of the Heroic Inventor

I was surprised to read in Dan Wood's article, "The Myth of Crowdsourcing", his biggest objection to the use of the world "crowd" is that it is a "blow to the image of the heroic inventor". I found this particularly surprising in that Dan, according to his bio, is a technology guy.

Technology scholars have dismissed the concept of the Heroic Inventor. Historically, the identification of a specific Heroic Inventor was an easy way to publicly announce and geographically identify the emergences of new technologies often for bragging rights. We all learned in our history books that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, Samuel Morse invented the telegraph, and even that Henry Ford invented to automobile.

The rejection of the concept of the Heroic Inventor is not to take away the remarkable contributions that they were at the helm of, but to put it in a more realistic perspective, the perspective of the group. These major technological milestones were a combination of their directed efforts, the efforts of some of their contemporaries, the efforts of their employees, and the efforts of others that had come before them.

These discoveries were not so much discrete entities discovered by a single individual, but the final outcome of a process that included layers of individual, institutional, and group directed efforts.

Edison wasn't the first to tinker with the light bulb, technology predating Morse's could be traced back 70 years to England, and the first patent for an automobile in this country was in Maryland in 1787. They were and still are all great men, but the concept of them alone in their workshops independent of any prior knowledge or even help is an incorrect one.

Give credit where credit is due. Give credit to the great men whose shoulders they stoop upon, and to the contribution of the crowd, now rendered historically anonymous, due to the decades of hero worship bestowed upon these inventors.


All through time, working in groups, such as crowdsourcing, has had its great deal of benefits as well as drawbacks on us. Crowdsourcing may seem great, but is it really? For example, having a big project due with lots of work can be overwhelming for just one individual. By adding other individuals to help get the work done, it makes the job easier, faster and more efficient. The workload can be split up and lest time consuming. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Sometimes crowdsourcing can be a great issue. It can cause many problems within the group such as making more things difficult, more stressful and can even be a less efficient way of getting the job done. Quality could suffer significantly. This can also be easily said for online collaboration.

In the first article, “The Myth of Crowdsourcing”, really gave me an understanding of the term and its effects on us. The author, Dan Woods, supported his position with many examples and facts of the ‘issue’ of crowdsourcing. Woods explained that “crowdsourcing has created an illusion that there is a crowd that solves problems better than individuals.” This is one drawback of crowdsourcing. He also states that “the notion of crowds creating solutions appeals to our desire to believe that working together we can do anything, but in terms of innovation it is just ridiculous.” I am indifferent about his statement. I do agree that there are things that I believe that I do better at without the help of a group or crowd, but there is indeed times where working together has been more efficient and successful as opposed to just individual work.

Companies use crowdsourcing all the time in their work for the same reasons that we do. I believe that it can be helpful to emerge new forms of knowledge to emerge because it brings unique minds together to create something bigger. Diversity in collaboration can have huge effects for companies because in certain situations it will be able to reach the demands of people in all types of aspects and have a wider range in exploring new ideas to help better the companies and individuals as well. Crowdsourcing I believe is a good tool for collaboration, and is natural in our nature, but it can have serious side effects if we solely depend on it.

Recently collaboration has had a significant effect in Egypt. In the article, “What has been remarkable about the recent events in Egypt is that ordinary people, without direct leadership or guidance from oppositional parties, have self-organized, acted, engaged and participated in a series of protests and demonstrations in order to bring about change… They have shown a remarkable degree of self-organization using the new technologies. They have also demanded their rights while also accepting their responsibilities. They have used Twitter and Facebook in ways that were unimaginable to their respective founders and shown these and other social networking tools in a light contrary to their portrayal as time-wasting sink holes for narcissistic teens and adults who should know better.” These acts in Egypt are great examples of how people, not even in organizations have used collaboration as a positive reinforcement.-- (give or take)

Collaboration: Helping Others to Help Yourself

"When you help others, You can't help helping yourself!"  -The Money Song from Broadway's Avenue Q

Howard Rheingold, in his lecture on Collaboration and Crowdsourcing, noted that the concept of human cooperation has been around since the beginning of our species.  Our ancestors quickly learned that they could hunt larger animals, gather more nuts and berries and in turn sustain themselves longer, with the help of others.  It makes sense from an economic perspective  that if you can make yourself better off by trading goods, resources and services with others, then you should do so.  I believe that while many of us consider ourselves to be generous in nature and completely unselfish when it comes to helping others, we all are reaping some kind of personal benefit or self gratification from the process of collaboration.  Whether we are trying to get someone to like us, trying to earn money, or just trying to make ourselves feel good for doing something for a friend or neighbor, we are all gaining some sort of "reward" for our behavior.  I don't consider this a bad thing, in fact I consider it a part of our human nature and we should embrace it. 

Rheingold goes on to mention that the advent of new technologies, "enables new forms of collective action" and that "cooperative arrangements have moved from a peripheral role to a more a central role in (our) biology," as well as within a society.  Throughout our history technological advancements have allowed for greater numbers of people to expand their knowledge and intelligence by being exposed to new information that would otherwise have been unavailable to them.  The Internet has proved to be no different in this respect.

Jeff Howe, in his article from Wired Magazine, The Rise of Crowdsourcing, notes that Eli Lily's open initiative crowdsourcing site InnoCentive has successfully used the collaborative efforts of thousands of Internet users to help develop drugs and quickly get them into the consumer market.  This a perfect example of what Rheingold called "enriching others and enriching themselves...a certain kind of sharing is in our self interest."  Those who help to solve problems on InnoCentive's site are compensated for their work.  At the same time, Lily profits from the invention of new medicines that were made possible, at least in part, by the knowledge of InnoCentive's users.  And the public benefits from the release of new drugs that can combat a wide variety of ailments.  Howe quoted Karim Lakhani from MIT saying that, " the strength of a network like InnoCentive is exactly the diversity of intellectual background."  Using this example, it's easy to see that while cooperative actions among many people help the overall population, the individual is still profiting in some way and that is likely a part of the reason for collaborating in the first place.

The Internet has enabled people from all over the world, from all sorts of socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures to work together to help make the world a better place, or at least share some knowledge.  Vannevar Bush stated that "man profits by his inheritance of acquired knowledge" and I think that the Internet has allowed us to profit in ways we never thought possible. 

As a side note, humans are not the only ones who exhibit this kind of self gratifying collaborative behavior.  In this month's issue of Smithsonian magazine, a blurb about the forked tailed Drongos, a bird found in the Kalahari Desert, explains how they will scan for predators and make an "all clear call so other birds can spend more time looking for food."  Nice right? Well it turns out that they also produce "false alarm" calls so they can take advantage of any food that was left by other birds.  Sure they help out when predators are around but they also gain some reward (food) when birds flee the area in fear for their safety.  Interesting. 




The statement "If the Internet didn't matter the Egyptian government wouldn't have felt it necessary to shut it down." It's because they felt threaten that the people would use the internet to spread the word on the issues and assist to get more people out there to demonstrate. Which they did in a matter of days, a large number of people learn how to bypass checkpoints, cross borders, and get places were they wanted to demonstrate.

Without this not as many people would have know or have been able to voice their option.


The question how would you fell if within the USA, the government wanted to shut down our internet access? I believe there would be a lot of folks, that would not now what to do. Would you still find away to get your message out there on twitter/Facebook? "As stated in the article Despite Social Media Block, 'Egypt" Surges on Twitter"


Like in Iraq; "The move illustrates the growing influence of online social-networking services as a communications media." It's well established that Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are radical technologies by them. As noted collaboration through social media played a large part of both the above events, people working and coming together to make changes as well as making events happen.


The crowd: art versus construction

An estimation of the size of Wikipedia as a printed volume, compared to a human. (source)

Howard Rheingold refers to our new form of mass-scale online collaboration as "self-interest that adds up to more." I believe that most people act out of self-interest, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. The trick is to direct self-interest so that it becomes an interest in the general good. Luckily, people are interested in contributing to Wikipedia, and it is a general good. Like all other tools, we should recognize what Wikipedia is good and bad for, and use it judiciously, but it certainly has its positive uses. At the very least, it's an enormous achievement in sheer size alone.

I'd argue that online collaboration can be incredibly powerful, as stated above, but has yet to prove its worth for certain tasks. Wikipedia is a staggeringly big catalog of knowledge. Despite its inaccuracies, it's incredibly useful, and will likely continue to improve. It's a marvel of modern group work. And as Eric Raymond caught onto, the power of a many-eyed crowd to correct errors and bolster knowledge with its diversity is huge. But most of the contributions to Wikipedia have been an act of blunt force, of keyboard-crunching. Translating knowledge into straightforward language and typing it into a webpage doesn't take much. Wikipedia isn't known for its creative writing. It's an utterly utilitarian piece of work. It's great to be able to look up almost any topic, no matter how obscure, and find a straightforward road map to learning more about that topic. But Wikipedia isn't a staggering work of art. In fact, I'd argue that very few great creative works have come out of online mass collaborative efforts. Consider a film like Star Wars Uncut. It's pretty impressive. And hey, it won an Emmy! But from what I've seen, the finished product doesn't feel like a cohesive, flowing work. It's often disorienting to watch. Art is a deeply personal thing, and it's incredibly difficult to convey creative ideas and feelings. Isn't that what we use art itself for? While there are some incredibly interesting works growing out of online collaboration, there seems to me to be a deficiency in profound, cohesive pieces of art made by a massive scale of individuals. Crowdsourcing may be great for making VH1 home movie shows, but not for art with a singular vision. Videogames and film are often made by large groups of people, but the "crowd" is self-selected, and they are still coordinated and directed by very small groups of people. This is much more difficult to do online with an innumerable, faceless crowd. We face the problem of making the internal process of creativity an external one. I'm not saying crowdsourcing is useless for creative endeavors; just that it's unproven. Perhaps we need to learn to appreciate new, emergent forms of beauty that will evolve from this artistic method, but the medium still seems young.

To me, nothing embodies both the advantages and disadvantages of internet collaboration more than online dating. The concept seems brilliantly effective: give people a more optimal chance to find their perfect match by removing the physical barrier and opening up an enormous selection, where automated pairings can even be generated. On the downside, it turns dating into a numbers game. Everything is now coldly statistical: is this potential partner just the right age? Do they have the right income? How closely matched are their interests? For evidence, consider all of the data skewing that occurs on these sites. It's undoubtedly a successful approach for some people, but others feel it saps the mystery out of courtship. At the very least, it drastically changes the terrain of the dating world.

As the situation in Egypt has demonstrated, online collaboration can be useful for mobilization and conveying information on a large and rapid scale. It's great for rote tasks like categorizing information and creating a giant encyclopedia. And sites like Amazon Mechanical Turk are catching on to its ability to harness grunt work on a large and convenient scale. But for tasks like finding a relationship or producing a creatively unified work of art, it still has hurdles to overcome. As Rheingold says, this is the beginning of a new project. I eagerly await to see mass online collaboration fulfill its promise, but I am skeptical of its ability to do everything.

To Believe or Not to Believe: The Truth About Crowdsourcing

Before reading the articles, I had no idea of what crowdsourcing was. defines it as "to outsource work to an unspecified group of people, typically by making an appeal to the general public on the internet."

In my opinion, when it comes to online collaboration and crowdsourcing, I feel that many people take the information they read on the Internet for granted and perhaps think everything they read is true. It's especially easier to do this when someone feels the information they are reading is legitimate since content can be presented in a way that appears scholarly and totally valid.

Many of the week's readings made a reference to Wikipedia as being a top platform where millions of users can input information and even edit others' information as well. While this online freedom calls into matters of subjectivity and objectivity, people seem to ignore these ideals and digest whatever information is put in front of them. How much of this information is true? And exactly to what level can we trust it? These are a few questions that pop into my mind when I think about crowdsourcing and serves as one disadvantage to the idea of it.

Chris Wilson brought up an more interesting idea, saying that people aren't really the ones in control when it comes to the handling of online content submitted by Internet users:

"Social-media sites like Wikipedia and Digg are celebrated as shining examples of Web democracy, places built by millions of Web users who all act as writers, editors, and voters. In reality, a small number of people are running the show. According to researchers in Palo Alto, 1 percent of Wikipedia users are responsible for about half of the site's edits. The site also deploys bots—supervised by a special caste of devoted users—that help standardize format, prevent vandalism, and root out folks who flood the site with obscenities. This is not the wisdom of the crowd. This is the wisdom of the chaperones." - Wilson.

While cooperating and open-source initiatives are indeed about self-interest in a way, I agree with Nicholas Carr's claim that we overly celebrate the amateur, instead of trusting the professional, because it's easy to believe information if people want to quickly receive an answer without doing serious research. For example, scholarly journals are a perfect means by finding answers or results to particular reseach studies, but I doubt that many people's first initiative is to seek out these journals in order to find information. With up and running, the ability to obtain information rather quickly is more convenient than researching in the minds of a lot of people.

All in all, I think crowdsourcing is just another tool for collaboration, as humans have always done. As with forms of propanda, crowdsourcing allows for people to publish content that they think is highly representative of what their discussing. As long as the information is legitimate, I don't see a problem with the sharing of knowledge between people on a platform like Wikipedia. I think problems will only arise when users try to publish completely false information about people or other things.
As long as these websites can get their bots out and monitor it, then everything should be fine.
What you think?

Library? For Research? Who does that?

When was the last time any of us actually went to the library to research information for a project? I can't remember the last time I went and searched through books to find out information. Most students use google and the Internet to find out information for projects.

"I wouldn't depend on it (Wikipedia) as a source, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to a student writing a research paper." - Nicholas Carr. As students, we need to be smart when researching for projects. So much information is posted all over the Internet, and as students we need to recognize which is truthful and which isn't. Wikipedia is a great source for information, but anyone can add their thoughts and comments to this website, so how accurate is it really?

According to this article, Wikipedia is equally accurate to other encyclopedias. I guess that's up to you, and your judgement. I am going to agree with with Nicholas Carr, and I won't be using Wikipedia for researching information regarding my school work.

With the web, information is traveled to us so quickly, but it is up to us to choose what to believe or not to believe. There have been tons of tweets and Facebook statuses about the tragic events that have been happening in Egypt. I am sure that the majority of them have been true, but I am sure that some of them have delivered us false information. We choose to use the Internet to get our information because we can receive it so quickly, so we take the information and run with it, instead of taking the time to look at a reliable source, and learning from them.

The Unsung Heroes

What really struck me when considering the ideas and potentials of crowd sourcing was Nicholas Carr's article on the amorality of the web. Specifically was the notion that with the rise of Wikipedia, blogging, and the accessibility of crowdsourcing, we have begun to move away from the "professional" and "experts", and begun to celebrate the amateurs out there. The real question then, is whether our newfound capabilities and masses of people are going to bring forth the emergence of new art, ideas, and innovations, or are we merely taking advantage of tools like humans have always do?

Personally, I don't think that anything special will evolve out of our adoption of crowd sourced projects. In reality, everything human civilization has accomplished was done as part of some sort of collective or group. Great physicists discover new formulae for the mysteries of the universe, yet they have always been part of a larger academic circle that reads, studies, and mediates one another. They just all happen to be experts in their field. Do great things come from their collaboration- Of course they do, just as great things like Wikipedia provide us with quick access to massive amounts of information, or how the blogging world has given mainstream media a reason to sweat through providing instant, personal reactions and reviews on everything that goes on in the world. The only thing missing with any of these is whether it is completely revolutionary, or are just collective realization of the capabilities of our tools and how to use them effectively. I would argue the latter. Just because more people can publish and have the capability to be "heard", doesn't mean those before them haven't had the same thoughts, feelings, and shortcomings.

Collaboration & Egypt

    “In theory, Wikipedia is a beautiful thing - it has to be a beautiful thing if the Web is leading us to a higher consciousness. In reality, though, Wikipedia isn't very good at all. Certainly, it's useful - I regularly consult it to get a quick gloss on a subject. But at a factual level it's unreliable, and the writing is often appalling. I wouldn't depend on it as a source, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to a student writing a research paper.”-Nicholas Carr
     As students, how many times have we heard, “do not use Wikipedia as a source.”  I touched on this sense of “old school” research methods in my previous blog.  What happened to the days of Encyclopedia Britannica?  I completely agree with Carr in that Wikipedia is a dangerous form of collaboration.  It is not written or maintained by scholars, and is surely not a reliable source.  Sure it’s progression from Web 1.0, but collaboration is not always the best means.  The only way I would trust internet collaboration involving research is through scholarly materials.  I do not celebrate the amateur, but embrace the professional.  I am from the belief, that if you want something done right, do it yourself.  That, or avoid collaboration at all costs.  Scholars and professionals are out of work because anyone with basic knowledge of a topic can present information.   It is truly unfortunate.
     Years ago, in order to organize there were only grass root forms of communication such as; word of mouth, land line phones, and paper flyers.  Now, a demonstration in Egypt can be organized through social networks, cell phones, email, and text messages.  For example, a Facebook status update stating “meeting in Tahrir Square,” can go viral in a matter of minutes.  The process of information moves a lot faster with the available technology.  From the aspect of media this is a slippery slope.  With cell phones, video cameras Twitter (and the list goes on) the common citizen becomes the next Walker Cronkite.  This is great in that we do not have to wait for updates or breaking news, but it puts the fate of media in jeopardy.  We are not moving toward the extinction of network news.  Why would I watch CNN, when videos, blogs, and tweets are updated every 30 seconds?  This relates back to Carr’s statement in that we celebrate the amateur instead of trusting the professional.