Information Wants to be Good


I have been saying loudly for years now that ultimately there would be a flight to quality on the web, at least where data is concerned. My reasoning is pretty simple: data you can't depend on is somewhere between useless and dangerous.

A few weeks back, I wrote about a personal peeve of mine: the number of sites that include the island nation of Palau in their drop down lists of U.S. states. How did this happen? Lots of programmers grabbing the first list of states they could find free somewhere online to save the data entry hassle. This example is mildly humorous, but what if the list being propagated was instead missing a few key states? Then you'd have upset users and possibly even lost sales.

A recent article in Newsweek magazine picks up on this theme, suggesting a trend (which - surprise - some are already labeling Web 3.0) of expert, vetted, trusted data coming back into fashion. Call it a flight to quality.

The article takes particular aim at the poor quality of much of user-generated content being generated, but also notes that information overload is putting a new premium on the short answer as opposed to the full answer. Charlotte Beal, a strategist at research firm Iconoculture, points to growing consumer "choice fatigue" and "fear of bad advice." She also notes sagely that "People are beginning to recognize that the world is too dangerous a place for faulty information." This sentiment is doubly true for data.

It's a fascinating change in the online Zeitgeist if Web 2.0, which celebrated clever feats of programming prowess has suddenly given way to Web 3.0, a celebration of the human editor. It's also great news for those of us who still have a human editor or two on the payroll, and as importantly, trusted brands to certify the quality of their work.

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