Thursday, August 6, 2009

Internet responsibility

I have been doing a little on-line writing lately, which requires learning about new things and researching issues of which I have very little or no knowledge. I love learning new things. I treat learning as almost a hobby. But it is vital to be able to trust what I know.

I am troubled by some things I have discovered.

The Internet often mirrors real life -- the good and the bad. My personal and professional experiences over the last 25 years have shown me that if a lie is told often enough, it is often taken as fact. That has certainly been a hallmark in the State of Illinois' quest to build the Peotone Airport, my personal poster child for things amiss.

The internet was begun by a bunch of geeks and scholars. Today, all people have embraced it.

There is an influx of on-line writing, citizen journalism, blogging, new website, and a general on-line presence. On-line writing sites encourage everybody to try their hand at writing. They advertise that you can earn money by writing what you know. That is great!

But in doing so, individuals get caught up in a competition with other writers to write more, and even earn more. The result is often more quantity than quality. Those stories written by wannabe journalists are placed on the internet for the world to see, for young students to use as research projects, or for other writers.

Some writers simply regurgitate Wikipedia articles, put their name to it and go on to the next project. They give little thought to the reality that wikipedia is a work in progress. Often times, wiki writers get their information the same way, from something that has been posted to the internet. They think it is fact, but it may not be.

New articles may not be 100% accuracy. Then along come an eager new writer anxious to score another article. They are more intent on satisfying their google page rank and parroting incorrect information than doing more digging to verify what they are writing. And like the old game of telephone, on and on it goes until nothing can be trusted for accuracy. I don't want to see that happen.

I love the Internet. It has been one of my favorite developments in the 20th century. It offers scads of information to teach new things, or in my case, replenish some of what I've forgotten. It offers new opportunities, potential for earnings, introduced new careers, and countless other things. I would hate to see it become tainted by too much bad information.

So, in the same context as real life, we must take responsibility for everything we write. If internet users are going to act like journalists, we must behave like journalists - dig, dig, dig for the truth.

The same goes true for users of social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and others. Know that what you write, could last forever. Make sure it is what you really want to say. Use good common sense, do your research, be responsible, and think before you write. If that is done by all users of the internet, this medium will continue to be the wonder that it is.