Thursday, December 17, 2009

Good ideas gone horribly wrong

Time and time again, I've tried to drive home the point that the Web is not a turnkey operation. Yes, parts of it can be automated, sort of. But it's a dynamic thing that really does need tending and, to use the term of art of the moment, curating.

So why, as we approach 2010, is USA Today throwing out gibberish in the "historical figures" part of its site? (And how one gets on that list remains a mystery to me, too, eclectic as it is, from L. Frank Baum, Michael Manly and Jacob Javits (you really have to be a native New Yawker to get that one) to Atilla the Hun and Hannibal. But I digress ...

So how do I know this is gibberish? Because one of my blog entries showed up today under the "Abraham Lincoln" entry:

Why would that happen? Most likely because I have a quote from Lincoln in my blog header. That's it. Does that mean I will be on there every time I post. (Will this post be on there leading to a hall of mirrors effect?)

Someone probably thought they'd be doing something cool by throwing a filter up and sifting through all this information and tossing up anything with the relevant name. Probably just a little digital backwater, but people might find something useful. And it would be "cooooool" and show how we can take all this mass of info and filter it and ...

But it isn't cool. In fact, it's more like a spam blog. And I still can't understand why editors and publishers can't get into the idea that that sort of thing detracts. Yes, less is more, if you do the less correctly. Maybe someday we will have better intelligent filtering. Until then ...

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