Linking And Proper Citations Not Only A Publisher’s Responsibility: Must Audiences Participate?

David Weinberger, author, philosopher and thinker, brings back for discussion the idea of “linking” in today’s Internet driven economy and why some sites are reluctant to follow the conventions many of us find correct. He questions Wall Street Journal’s ethic of very few links resulting from, “WSJ believes its value — as well as its self-esteem — comes from being the place you go for news. It covers the stories worth covering, and the stories tell you what you need to know. It is thus a stopping point in the ecology of information.”

Dave has always had a polite way with words, but the conversation came about when he, and, the more outspoken, Matt Ingram, launched an angry post about how the WSJ article (which we are not linking to here, in deference to MG Siegler), covered an article by an even less subtle, MG Siegler, general partner at CrunchFund and columnist for TechCrunch, without proper citation. Ingram also zipped off this feelings on the topic, “The only possible reason — apart from simply forgetting to do so — is that the paper would rather try to pretend that it was the first to know this information (and it also apparently has a policy of not linking if a WSJ reporter can independently confirm the news).”

Siegler wasted no time in posting a much angrier, and rightfully so, and much needed, rant against the jewel-in-the-crown of the Murdoch media group: “But if you read The Wall Street Journal, you’d never know. Why’s that? Because they’re fuckheads who don’t credit actual sources of information.” Ingram’s still pushing tweets that continue to decimate the mogul empire of the failed Australian’s desperate attempt to gain the monopolistic control he feels he needs.

I’m guessing that is what Dave Weinberger referred to when he used “self-esteem” as a cause for Murdoch’s archaic world view. Ingram and others bring up the issue of trust and Matt also claims that WSJ sees itself perhaps as the scoop leader, but Matt doesn’t see scoops as important as they may have been in the past. I may be wrong, but I infer that he feels the community of new journalists that follow the new conventions of proper citation, elevates the news, and the medium, and I couldn’t agree more with that. We all have adapted to a consensus approach and look for it in almost every volatile topic. The question I want to raise is this, is Twitter the only vehicle and weapon we have to correct the situation?

Yet I can’t help but think that there is another step, perhaps a taboo, on this subject. That is, what do we about it, as the folks who want to change the old guard world view? In another old-guard, living fossil, Newsweek, writer Daniel Lyons, in an essay, provocatively titled, A Decade of Destruction. The first decade of the new millennium saw the rise of a supremely disruptive technological force: the Internet” that provides a more accurate appraisal of the situation and expands the need to fix bigger issues: “You wouldn’t think that in an information age the biggest victim would be purveyors of information. But there you go. Newspapers are getting wiped out in part because they didn’t realize they were in the information business—they thought their business was about putting ink onto paper and then physically distributing those stacks of paper with fleets of trucks and delivery people.”

In the piece, Lyons recites what many of us have documented, that the news industry tried to ignore the internet, hoping it “would just go away,” and then lists a few of the industries who succumbed to the power of critical mass when everyone moved online and brands piled up on the heap of yesterday’s news. He lists the music, and entertainment, groups who followed the same path as Murdoch and notes that Microsoft too, it should be reiterated, failed to understand the new platform and continues today to fail, in spite of their resources. “Microsoft’s business model was based around waiting for others to innovate, then making cheap knockoffs of what others were selling. Microsoft copied Apple to make Windows.”

And he notes, which has been well documented, that their approach to bullying and intimidation is no longer winning them any prizes. They continue to spend on innovations that are no longer innovations, and they continue to sit on a pile of acquisitions they haven’t a clue how to grow. Today we see the exact same thinking and problem coming from companies like Oracle who though finally recognizing the Cloud as the newest threat to their business, not having a clue how to adapt.

But the main question is, what do we do about the officious path many old media companies use, and the same for titans of industry, which will eventually lose, but hang on by destroying the landscape the Internet has leveled? As readers, do you see the difference and does the new path build trust for you, or do you even care about where news comes from and if it is properly cited? Should the new guard ostracize the old and refrain from thinking about new ways to compete?
The Cloud represents a sea change for Web 2.0 and it’s time it was recognized as such by the audience and user as much as the companies that adapt to it. If authors and companies who want to play fair don’t get their audience on board and educated about the choices they are making, we are squandering the chance to leap into the new era and may lose our traction.

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