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Friday, January 2, 2009

Big doesn't necessarily mean authoritative

A couple of interesting points in Jeff Jarvis's post about what gives reporters, bloggers etc authority. He was writing in reference to a conversation about how to filter for authoritative voices on Twitter - more specifically, whether number of followers is useful in determining someone's authority, or relevance.

The problem... is the same one that plagues analysis of online discussion using media metrics. In mass media, of course, big was better because you had to be big to own the press: Mass mattered. We still measure and value things online according to that scale, even though it is mostly outmoded. Indeed, we now complain about things getting too big - when, as Clay Shirky says, what we’re really complaining about is filter failure.

The press came to believe its own PR and it conflated size with authority: We are big, therefore we have authority; our authority comes from our bigness.

But the press, of all parties, should have seen that this didn’t give them authority, for the press was supposed to be in the business of going out to find the real authorities and reporting back to what they said. This is why I always cringe when reporters call themselves experts. No, reporters are expert only at finding experts.
Rest of the post is here.

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