Posted September 15, 2008 10:36 am by with 20 comments

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If it weren’t for Sir Tim Berners-Lee, this blog post might have only existed on my computer, confined to an audience of one–two, if you count my wife.

While every web geek should be compelled to name their first-born “Tim,” Berners-Lee needs to understand that his role in the WWW is fulfilled–please don’t be that clingy parent, that can’t let go. What the heck am I talking about? This….

Talking to BBC News Sir Tim Berners-Lee said he was increasingly worried about the way the web has been used to spread disinformation…Sir Tim told BBC News that there needed to be new systems that would give websites a label for trustworthiness once they had been proved reliable sources.

Do I have to keep repeating myself on this stuff? Why does the web need labeling? And, who’s to say which site is authoritative and which is not? Why can’t the web simply exist, grow, and morph into what masses decide? What happened to the “wisdom of crowds” deciding what’s credible? And, let me point out, even credible web sites make huge mistakes–how would your proposal work in this instance? Or, this one?

To be fair, Berners-Lee isn’t even sure what the web needs:

“I’m not a fan of giving a website a simple number like an IQ rating because like people they can vary in all kinds of different ways,” he said. “So I’d be interested in different organisations labelling websites in different ways”.

I’m not a fan either, so why don’t we just let little “3dub” find his own way in the world? If you love it, set it free! 😉

  • Its important to remember that his major contribution was made during a time when the current magnitude of the internet was inconceivable. He is now looking at things with that perspective.

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  • Howard Keziah

    I happen to agree with Tim. And his role is fulfilled? What? He’s not allowed his opinion, or to further contribute? I have yet to see crowds invent anything.

  • “I have yet to see crowds invent anything.”

    @Howard are you blind????? Try doing some reading on open source or web 2.0 or hell just go and read a blog or forum….geez

    Joe Hall’s last blog post..Bloggers deserve real tips not stolen goods!

  • @Howard – he’s certainly allowed his opinion – I always respect opinions. I’ve just added my own. 🙂

  • Conceptually, he has good stances. It’s feasibility that’s another thing.

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  • Howard Keziah

    @Joe, pointing me to reading on open source or web 2.0 doesn’t tell me crowds invent anything. Sure they collaborate and expand but I still don’t know of an invention by “crowds”.

    And next time why not try contributing something in your response instead of an ad hominem response. I’m not blind and I read widely. Geez.

  • I’m in complete accord, Andy.

    I’ll admit to a bit of crowd angst myself, but eventually we learn to trust the web’s invisible hands. The road to hell is paved with knee-jerk reactions and that’s exactly what this system of trustworthiness labels sounds like.

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  • father_time

    The trouble with letting the masses decide is that when left to their own devices the masses choose junk food, TV and to re-elect George Bush.

    The masses can’t be trusted to make good choices as the majority of them are ill equipped to make informed decisions.

    I have thought for a long time that an ‘expert web’ would be an wonderful thing. Rather than relying on the rubbish that you get from wikipedia for 70% of your queries, wouldn’t it be great to be able to find the wisdom of true experts in their chosen field.

  • An answer to this is already being realised as we speak. Check out Rowdii www dot rowdii dot com. Rowdii allows the public to write comments about any website (and the company/service the website represents). Rowdii also allows people to create links from one site to another, thereby creating a network of valuable related resources. Check it out.

  • @Father_time – but if that is what the masses want, why should one person–or group–tell the masses otherwise? History is littered with individuals that wanted to tell the masses what is good for them.

  • maruschka

    @ father_time
    “The masses can’t be trusted to make good choices”
    Didn’t Hitler say that first?

  • “Didn’t Hitler say that first?”

    Doesn’t matter if he did, because the fact is that sometimes the general public is not educated enough to make the right decision. Ask the average Joe what a stem cell is and see what reaction you get. Can people that are not educated on topics really make good decisions about them?

  • @SIMB – we’re not talking about the wisdom of one–which is your example. Also, this is the “wisdom” of crowds, not the “scientific knowledge.” 😉

  • I want to apologize for calling Howard blind it is his right to his own opinion. I think essentially what this conversation has turned into is a debate about direct democracy versus representative democracy. I for one prefer representative democracy versus direct, for many of the reasons that SIMB pointed out. However, I also believe that the current representative democracy that we live with here in the US isn’t very representative at all.

    But I think its more important to get back on topic and talk about this whole idea of developing a system of “trustworthiness” that Lee is talking about. I personally think that the web is already doing that in many ways. take a look at sites like digg and sphinn where users vote on content, in a way they are creating systems where authenticity can be created. And then of course we can look at Google, where despite the fact that many might find hypocrisies in their business practices, they do a great job filtering most of the muck from their index, and they are getting much better at it. So, I would argue that the natural progression of the web will automatically create this system of “trustworthiness”, that Lee is referring to.

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  • maruschka

    @ SIMB
    “Doesn’t matter if he did, because the fact is that sometimes the general public is not educated enough to make the right decision.”

    That benevolent dictator, paternalistic attitude is an elitist view of “the general public” that I don’t subscribe to.

    But to get back to the topic Andy is discussing today, a rating system for websites to somehow rank their “trustworthiness” is a baby step away from censorship, in my opinion. How quickly would we move from saying that a site isn’t trustworthy to burying it or banning it? Who decides? What is the criteria?

    Andy’s examples of trusted sites that made big mistakes with information should give all of us pause. The opposite can also be true – a site with a questionable reputation may also have factual, provable true content.

    Caveat emptor.

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