Archive for February, 2011

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Rumors

February 11, 2011

Señor Leonid Arkaev, interesting points about creation, curation, and the crowd.  There was an article recently about the Huffington Post and its role as curator.  Here are two passages from the article:

“It wasn’t long before HuffPo started serving as its audience’s curator. Editors scoured the Web for the most scintillating content and then repackaged it on the site. Huffington also understood that on the Web, linking and being linked to is what makes traffic growth steroidal.”

“But by aggregating — or sponging, as some call it — other news providers’ content, sites like The Huffington Post, critics say, are poisoning the news revenue model and threatening the Fourth Estate along the way. The Huffington Post only has about 100 staffers, 90 percent fewer than the New York Times. But HuffPo benefits from all the journalists working for mainstream outfits by posting their content and running ads next to it. In other words, the HuffPo’s success hinges on monetizing content other publishers pay for.”

You asked me for Vyāsa desiderata for the wiki world.  I think that there should be more creators than curators and that those curators should be responsible enough to not spread rumors.  (Rumor propagation in networks is an interesting area of study that we should learn more about.)  If there is only one creator and that creator produces a falsehood, then there is no other source to temper that falsehood.  Irresponsible curators spread the falsehood, and it takes over societal consciousness.

Let us look at some recent happenings related to this.  Last month around the time of Makar Sankranti, a rumor quickly spread that everyone’s zodiac sign has changed because of a change in star alignment.  The original source was an interview in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that was misinterpreted.  Due to irresponsible curation, people all over the world began believing it.  If there had been responsibility, and a tiny bit of research on the differences between the tropical and sidereal horoscopes had been done by curators, this “kerfuffle” would not have happened.  Earlier this month, a post on a message board led to the widespread speculation of point shaving by Syracuse University basketball players.  Responsible curators such as Sean Keeley of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician did not spread the rumor and the rumor died down quickly.  One can trace the current protests and unrest in North Africa and the Arab world to the death of Mohamed Bouazizi.  In this case, news of this one self-immolation ignited feelings of uprising locally and then perhaps due to news reporting and social media coverage of it over the entire region, led to the conflagrations.  It is hard to say whether in this case the curation was of the irresponsible or responsible type.

With multiple creators and multiple sources, you get a diversity that is not possible otherwise.  Back in June, the DeepQA team working on Watson, taking advantage of the diversity of their colleagues, asked researchers at Watson to create some Jeopardy! clues.  I don’t think I was of much help, but I did submit five clues to help train the smartest machine on earth, all in a category I named TECHNOMYTHOLOGICAL.  Here were my five clues:

  • THIS FEMALE WARRIOR ALLOWS ONLINE PURCHASES WITH ONE-CLICK
  • THIS THREE-HEADED DOG PROTECTS AGAINST EAVESDROPPING BY AUTHENTICATION
  • THIS GOD OF THE AFTERLIFE IMAGED ASTEROID 2867 ŠTEINS IN SEPTEMBER 2008
  • THIS NORSE SHAPE-SHIFTER PORTED GAMES TO LINUX STARTING IN 1999
  • THIS AVATAR OF VISHNU CAN BE READ FROM AND WRITTEN TO IN ARBITRARY SEQUENCE

It’ll be interesting to see how Watson does next week.  An interesting tidbit: at the end of the day on the Thursday when a half practice round was filmed (which Watson won), before the later filming of the actual game, David Ferrucci was asked whether he would like to go out for some wine.  Ferrucci said no, but he might go for it after the actual game.  We’ll see whether this tidbit spreads, or whether curators deem it too insignificant.

Although there was no trip to Antarctica, I think year 1 of the Information Ashvins has been an interesting journey.  As you’re on board with it, we’ll definitely spice up year 2 with some interviews.

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