Archive

Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Hypocratic Oath

December 31, 2017 Leave a comment

It is possible to use the internet to commit a crime. For example, one could use a Silk Road-like website to acquire a controlled substance it is illegal to possess in one’s geographical jurisdiction, or simply use the web’s myriad means of communication to coordinate a financial fraud.

It also is possible to commit an internet crime. The social and commercial interactions that occur within the internet itself are subject to a sort of moral code, and, for all of the flexibility and fluidity the web as a virtual space would seem to offer, one of the highest internet crimes arises out of inconsistency. For many in this realm, there is no greater offense than to be indicted for the offense of hypocrisy. And, indeed, indictment and conviction are nearly simultaneous in this medium, with sentencing following quite swiftly thereafter.

The internet remembers all, or sufficiently all, anyway, to retain record of those off-color tweets you sent years before you took a public stand against others who said similar things, and when someone else finds those old tweets, man are you going to look silly. One of the things at which human brains excel is detecting patterns, and when the alleged hypocrite expresses something apparently inconsistent with his or her prior positions, a little nugget of pleasure releases inside those brains upon the presentation of the irrefutable evidence from the historical record. Guilty on the spot.

The web-seductiveness of exposing apparent hypocrites is so alluring that it makes it easy to forget that hypocrisy, for all its attendant failings, is a sort of derivative or second-level offense, and our obsession with rooting it out can obscure or overwhelm what often is a serious substantive problem underlying the procedural default. In that way, for example, we frequently focus on an evaluation of the authenticity of an entertainment personality’s expressed opposition to the mistreatment of women when we subsequently find that she or he previously engaged in similar (or maybe even not that similar, but, hey, close enough) mistreatment in the past, rather than the actually bad problem itself. (This also touches on why otherwise uninvolved people “coming out as” anti-rape, anti-Nazi, etc., contributes very little to the general good.) Sexual harassment in the workplace and racism in public policy are two very real and significant issues that require real, meaningful effort to address, and yet we are so easily distracted from this work by the thrill of hypocrite hunting.

In the context of last month’s Senate election in Alabama, in which Doug Jones ultimately defeated Roy Moore by a margin the narrowness of which made many uncomfortable, Jonah Goldberg wrote for the Los Angeles Times about the dangers of our national distraction:

This obsession with hypocrisy leads to a repugnant immorality. In an effort to defend members of their team, partisans end up defending the underlying behavior itself. After all, you can only be a hypocrite if you violate some principle you preach. If you ditch the principle, you can dodge the hypocrisy charge. We’re seeing this happen in real time with some of Moore’s defenders, just as we saw it with Clinton’s in the 1990s.

Jonah Goldberg, Taking harassment seriously also requires making serious distinctions, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 21, 2017.

Or, as another thoughtful observer put it in sometimes cruder terms:

Wishing everyone a safe and happy new year filled with a renewed focus and energy for addressing some of our real problems in 2018.

In re Monster Mash

October 31, 2017 Leave a comment

In 2017’s internet-centric media world, the illusion of interactivity trumps truth, and the mind-altering pursuit of that illusory activity has little time for factual accuracy. Thus, it was with familiar disappointment that I encountered the below stitch of web content in the days preceding the instant holiday:

I do not know Lawrence Miles. There is a good chance I do not know any of the roughly sixty thousand internet people who interacted with Miles’ tweet. I do know “Monster Mash,” though.

“Monster Mash” is at least two things: 1) a song recorded and released by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers in 1962 and 2) a dance performed by the monsters referenced in the song.

Miles’ statement obviously is incorrect on its face. After all, Pickett’s song, which topped charts shortly after its release and remains a seasonal favorite more than sixty years later, has reached many ears.

Of course, that is not the sense at which Miles directed his tweet. The song may be called “Monster Mash,” but it obviously is about something called “the monster mash” as well, and that subject is Miles’ target. Miles may not be a careful listener, however, because the song clearly identifies and describes the monster mash as a dance, rather than a song:

I was working in the lab, late one night
When my eyes beheld an eerie sight
For my monster from his slab, began to rise
And suddenly to my surprise

He did the mash, he did the monster mash
The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
He did the mash, it caught on in a flash
He did the mash, he did the monster mash

From my laboratory in the castle east
To the master bedroom where the vampires feast
The ghouls all came from their humble abodes
To get a jolt from my electrodes

They did the mash, they did the monster mash
The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
They did the mash, it caught on in a flash
They did the mash, they did the monster mash

There is no ambiguity here. Whether it was the monster mash or the mashed potato, the narrator is describing a particular dance the monsters were doing, not a song they were playing. Miles reasonably might have contended that no one had ever seen the monster mash dance performed, but his statement, insofar as it contemplates the monster mash as a song, finds no support in the text itself.

A potential problem for the analysis presented in this post appears in the chorus following the third verse, however, which uses slightly different phrasing:

The Zombies were having fun, the party had just begun
The guests included Wolfman, Dracula, and his son

The scene was rockin’, all were digging the sounds
Igor on chains, backed by his baying hounds
The coffin-bangers were about to arrive
With their vocal group, ‘The Crypt-Kicker Five’

They played the mash, they played the monster mash
The monster mash, it was a graveyard smash
They played the mash, it caught on in a flash
They played the mash, they played the monster mash

A band appears and, for the first time, this chorus introduces the notion that the monster mash is something that could be “played” as well as done, lending apparent support to the implied premise of Miles’ assertion (i.e., that the monster mash is a song). At this juncture, the best we can do is meet Miles part way. The monster mash plainly is a dance, but it might also be a song. If so, however, the question remains: have we heard the monster mash song?

With an assist from Dracula, the monsters answer this question in the affirmative. Immediately after the foregoing chorus, the narrator tells us:

Out from the coffin, Drac’s voice did ring
Seems he was troubled by just one thing
He opened the lid and shook his fist and said
“Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?”

It’s now the mash, it’s now the monster mash
The monster mash, it was graveyard smash
It’s now the mash, it caught on in a flash
It’s now the mash, it’s now the monster mash

Importantly, Dracula has been in his closed coffin this entire time (“Out from the coffin . . . He opened the lid . . .”), so he had not seen the monster mash dance but he had heard the monster mash song. Thus, when he asked about the “Transylvania Twist,” now rebranded as “The Monster Mash,” he was referring to a song and not a dance. And, contrary to Miles’ claim, we have heard “Transylvania Twist,” a rollicking barrel-house instrumental that would sound right at home in Eastern Kentucky:

No matter which way you slice it, Miles was wrong: the monster mash is a dance, and, to the extent it also is a song, it is a song we have heard.

(While the preparation of this post brought me no pleasure, I was glad to learn in the course of my research that the late Leon Russell was a Crypt-Kicker whose keyboard mashing appeared one one of the tracks on The Original Monster Mash, “Monster Mash Party,” which was the b-side to “Monster Mash.”)

Wishing everyone an honest Halloween.

Categories: Current, Internet, Listening, Music

Is This My Favorite New York Times Article?

September 30, 2016 2 comments

Nominally, anyway, this website is supposed to be about asking questions. Here is one: did the New York Times publish my favorite New York Times article earlier this month? I have been asking myself that question since September 8, when the paper ran an article entitled, “‘What Is Aleppo?’ Gary Johnson Asks, in an Interview Stumble.”

Before September 8, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s 2016 presidential candidate, had been having a difficult time attracting national, mainstream media attention. By third-party standards, he was polling well, though, and, in early September, he was making a big push to force the hand of the Commission on Presidential Debates to include him in the then-upcoming first presidential debate.

Part of that push included an appearance on an MSNBC morning talk show that day. During the appearance, one of the hosts asked him, “What would you do, if you were elected, about Aleppo?” Johnson responded by attempting to clarify the question: “About?” The host: “Aleppo.” Johnson: “What is Aleppo?”

The internet exploded. A candidate the primary-party adherents previously refused to acknowledge existed rapidly was called out for widespread rebuke, deemed an unserious candidate, and declared unworthy of the presidency (one politically attentive friend wrote that this made Johnson less fit to occupy the White House than Donald Trump). The unstated assumption, of course, was that everybody knows what Aleppo is, and if Johnson is ignorant of such a basic thing (“What is Philadelphia?”), he must be a fool indeed.

News websites rushed to capitalize on the sudden spike in critical attention to the Johnson campaign, and the New York Times, by way of the above-linked article, was no exception. It soon became clear, however, that Johnson was not the only purported policy expert asking “What is Aleppo?” By the end of the day, two corrections appeared at the bottom of the Times’ viral content piece, which they published in their Politics section as part of their Election 2016 coverage:

nytleppocrop

In this political age of internet journalism, that is the definition of perfection, and I have little more to add than to answer my question above in the affirmative.

(Regarding the coverage of the moment more generally, it almost certainly goes without saying that it ended with the “What is Aleppo?” question and ignored Johnson’s recovery and substantive answer when he realized he was being asked about Syria.)

This presidential campaign has been relatively gaffe-free, at least by conventional (e.g., Joe Biden) standards. Many regard Trump’s entire campaign as one long-running gaffe, or worse, though, and it likely has warped our understanding of what it is for a presidential candidate to “gaffe” during a campaign.

As Trump’s campaign gained steam, writers took aim, laboring to describe just how terrible and unpresidential they believed Trump was. In one sense, the task was easy. Trump provided– and is continuing to provide– plenty of examples, any one of which seemingly would have been enough to sink a candidate’s chances in previous elections. (Maybe part of the reason people have been so quick to pounce on Johnson after his Aleppo gaffe, as well as the more recent one (details; response), is because it allows them to slide back into normal campaign territory. Johnson is more of a conventional presidential candidate than Trump, and, as such, he has made some seemingly typical candidate blunders.)

In another sense, though, the task of describing and contextualizing Candidate Trump has proven increasingly difficult, because, even before Trump emerged as a viable politician, we were doing a poor job of allocating our extreme adjective resources. The danger of describing everything as “incredible” is that, when something actually incredible (unbelievable, terrible, etc.) happens, the dilution of the word’s meaning makes it difficult to contextualize just how extreme the occurrence was. Maybe Trump really is an unimaginably extreme candidate; more likely, I think, he is exactly as extreme a candidate as we used to consider our politicians (“war criminal!” “savior!”).

Johnson’s gaffes may facilitate the termination of any practical viability present in his campaign. They probably could not have come at a worse time for him. They also offer a lens through which to view the campaigns of the primary parties’ candidates, as well as the media’s coverage of the campaign as a whole.

More than anything, though, I keep coming back to that New York Times article, which, if little else, serves as a needed lesson in humility and a (perfect, humorous) reminder that we all might not be the experts we think we are.

Categories: Current, Internet, Politics

The Value of Anonymity

September 30, 2014 Leave a comment

Two of the results of the widespread availability of the virtual printing press that is the internet are an increase in published criticism and, in reaction to that increase in criticism, an increased demand for people to publish their material, and particularly their critical material, under their own names. Part of this second result is borne out of a demand for authenticity: we want to know that the things we see and read online are real. Another comes from a voiced desire of the criticized to know their critics. The foundational concept is a belief that people are unlikely to publish false, baseless, or mean-spirited commentary under their own name, because they likely would suffer adverse consequences. In essence, anonymity is harmful to public discourse because it allows people to participate in public discourse without consequences.

Anonymity is not all bad, however. As evidenced by the success of increasingly openly partisan cable news networks, people prefer to receive information and discuss issues with others they already know they agree with. It seems likely that people decide what they think about an article, or even whether they are going to read it at all, simply by referencing source identification material. Republicans disregard MSNBC and the New York Times, to which Democrats flock while disregarding Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, to which Republicans flock. The point is not that these are necessarily insightful, intelligent, or worthwhile information sources, but that context matters in deciding how– or whether– people approach offered ideas, content, information, or potential conversations.

Anonymity can make discourse more robust because it necessarily emphasizes content over source-information context. Readers and listeners must engage with the idea or ideas presented because there is nothing else. Without preconceived expectations, people are more likely to consider an opinion they otherwise would ignore or find a new way of understanding an idea with which they already generally agreed, all of which can lead to more meaningful exchanges of ideas and reassessments of one’s own views.

The Internet’s Thin Veil

June 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Setting aside the net neutrality policy debate, the internet’s level publishing platform does not seem to have allowed for a multitude of dislocated voices so much as a partial reorganization of collective publishing entities in a way that is not so different from the newspapers and magazines that controlled periodical publication during the wholly print era. For those writers coming of age today, the internet’s vastness actually may make it even more difficult to catch the eye of those in control of the most well-attended publishing outlets.

What may be different today, though, is the relative ease with which readers may examine an individual’s writings, musings, exercises, and even drafts posted online before the individual accepted an invitation to join a popular publishing platform. Sometimes, as in the case of Clay Travis, who posted multiple unfavorable comments of Fox Sports not long before accepting an offer to join the network, it is quite easy to find this content. Other times, a small mistake can unlock a trove of old material.    Read more…

The Future of Journalism is Alive in Grand Rapids

May 21, 2013 Leave a comment

The decline of traditional journalistic media is well documented. In recent years, newspapers like the Ann Arbor News and Denver’s Rocky Mountain News have shuttered their doors. In order to survive, some papers, such as Detroit’s Free Press and News, have merged to varying degrees. Other regional papers, like the Tennessean, are shells of journalistic operations, mere AP repeaters after laying off batches of reporters. Some national papers– including the Wall Street Journal and New York Times– have gone to paid online platforms.

We have been told that the internet would be able to replace traditional print media, but experience suggests we have yet to realize that future. Web-based writers largely are concerned with reactions and opinions, and actual reportage appears have to decreased across the board, with foreign and local beats particularly suffering.

One outlet, Grand Rapids’ The Rapidian, is advancing the news media banner in the twenty-first century, though, and it is doing so through a hyperlocal, citizen-driven approach. The idea is to have a community’s members conduct actual reporting and create original content tied to the issues affecting that community and the happenings within it. The online-only newspaper seeks to capture the diversity of happenings and perspectives across the community’s varying neighborhoods– indeed, The Rapidian organizes content both by subject area and place-rooted bureaus— in a rigorous manner by providing training from experienced journalists and writers. This journalistic training, in turn, deepens residents’ connections to their community by providing them with tools to become more engaged community members.

It is easy to see why Grand Rapidians would want to support The Rapidian, a deeply engaged news source that is growing and developing along with a revitalized city that is doing the same thing, particularly when the city’s familiar news source, The Grand Rapids Press, is doing the opposite. (To its credit, MLive, the media group that now operates what remains of The Press and a number of other, formerly independent Michigan newspapers, has been a public, financial supporter of The Rapidian.)

It also should be easy to see why those who do not live in Grand Rapids nevertheless should want to support The Rapidian. Few communities currently have a dynamic, locally focused outlet like The Rapidian, but many, I suspect, would like and benefit from one of their own. The long-term solution, of course, is for members of these communities to create their own hyperlocal news source. (Anyone involved* with The Rapidian certainly would emphasize the “long-term” nature of that solution, I suspect.) The short-term solution is for members of these communities to support The Rapidian. The Rapidian is a national leader in this concept and a possible model for hyperlocal news media in other communities, and as such, its continued success makes it more likely that communities outside Grand Rapids will be able to follow its lead and develop their own versions. Thus, no matter where you live, if you have an interest in participatory locally focused news and media that works in the twenty-first century, you have an interest in supporting The Rapidian. You can do so here today.

* Disclosure: I am a former member of the board of directors of the Grand Rapids Community Media Center, the umbrella media organization that serves the city through numerous channels, and of which The Rapidian is a part.

Blogging about Blogging (at ALDLAND)

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

I launched ALDLAND, a new blog about sports and culture, this morning. My hope is that it will develop into a multi-author site that’s both more frequently current and less frequently serious than the material that usually appears here. I fully intend to continue writing here as usual, and, as this site surges past 8,000 overall page views today, I am grateful for your continued readership.

An introduction to the new site, and the first day’s posts are available at http://aldland.wordpress.com.

The Value of Citation, Vol. II: Recognition and Transparency

September 15, 2010 3 comments

I wrote about the value of citation before and suggested that it has a few different purposes (e.g., allowing readers to locate the materials upon which an author relied; strengthening an author’s credibility; and showing respect or signaling quality). The substance of that post was tied to the release of the ABA Journal’s top one hundred law blogs of 2009. Continuing the tradition, the publication now is seeking nominations for its 2010 list. While I (somewhat famously) supported the nomination of The Volokh Conspiracy for the 2009 list, I think there are some newer sites that also deserve attention in 2010.

Because of the title, the first is recent Georgetown Law graduate Mike Sacks’ First One @ One First, a Supreme Court blog. Frequent readers of this site will recall that I’ve linked to F1@1F many times, and Sacks’ on-the-ground reporting style is a needed compliment to more traditional outlets like SCOTUSblog (which itself has a redesigned site). He also provides specific and general analysis of cases and Court trends in a way that is both informative and easily understood. From Sacks’ first post:

My name is Mike Sacks. I am a third-year law student at Georgetown interested in legal journalism and the intersection of law and politics. This semester, I have no morning classes. As such, I will be taking advantage of living only minutes from the Supreme Court to pursue a rather unorthodox extracurricular activity: reporting from the Court as the first one in line at One First Street.

For every politically salient case from January through April, I will attempt to be at the head of the general admission line….

Camping out at the Court in winter’s nadir will not be easy. Tents are forbidden. The concrete sidewalk makes for an unforgiving bed. Sprinklers spring up in the still of the night. Challenging climate be damned, however; when the next person arrives, excited to be first, he or she will find me, with my cracked lips and frozen fingers, sardonically asking how it feels to be second and seriously inquiring why he or she is crazy enough to get in line so early.

And that question–”why are you here?”–is what I set out to explore. Every Supreme Court reporter tells us what goes on inside the Court at argument and in its opinions. Every Supreme Court reporter gets insight and analysis from expert academics and practitioners. Sometimes Supreme Court reporters even interview a party in the case to expose the human element often lost in the rarefied air of high court’s legal abstraction. But no Supreme Court reporters ever ask the Courtroom’s spectators why they have congregated inside the Temple of our Civil Religion.

Our citizenry who have come to witness the Court first-hand surely have something to say, whether when waiting in line before the Court opens or spilling out onto the steps after the Chief Justice’s gavel bangs closed the day’s session….

While Sacks has been coy about plans for year two of his blog, he recently promised to share more about “big things” yet to come, so stay tuned.

The second is the News blog at Law School Transparency‘s site.* LST is a nonprofit organization working to improve the quality and transparency of law school employment data. As with F1@1F, I have linked to LST information here before. See, e.g., here. From the recent post entitled, “Support Our Mission? Nominate LST as a Top Law Blog“:

The ABA Journal is soliciting nominations for its annual list of the one hundred best legal blogs. If you think Law School Transparency belongs on that list, please nominate us by clicking here.

Visibility is an important component of our drive to further our transparency mission. In addition to the growing amount of information available in our Data Clearinghouse, this blog allows us to communicate openly and directly with all of our stakeholders, including law schools, current, past, and future law students, and the general public. We have and will continue to use this space to create an open conversation about transparency in law school employment data reporting.

Your support will make LST an even more visible part of the legal community online.

I have written about substantive aspects of law school and the legal profession. See here and here. LST’s work, which is in line with my emphasis on the importance of access to information, provides a complimentary, quantitative perspective based around statistical data. See also here.

The legal profession isn’t the only important thing in the world, nor has it been the sole focus of this site. With the recent appointment of two new Supreme Court justices, the impending start of a new Court Term, and the ongoing media attention to LST’s efforts, however, this is a fitting time to highlight these two sites and recognize their continuing contributions.

Topsy Washington – “Recognition,” The Waterline EP (2004)

* Full disclosure: I recently became a member of LST’s Advisory Board, and I have begun to assist with blog posts, including the one quoted above.

TheVillageGreenPreservationSociety.org

July 22, 2010 2 comments

The settling of conflicts is one lens through which to view the progression of civilization. To this point, conflict seems to be endemic to human society, and we appear to have an inclination to resolve these conflicts. This extends to more general areas like arguments and problem solving.

A rough history suggests that, early on, the way to resolve conflict was through physical violence and, if the scale and magnitude necessitated, war. As nomadic tribes coalesced into agrarian communities, humanity saw the rise of civil society, politics and diplomacy, and the eventual proliferation of oral and verbal discourse. See also The Beer Theory of Civilization; I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition. This notion of a shift from violence and war to civil discourse, peaceable assemblies, and political engagement isn’t a perfect historical description, of course. More than a few early cultures had their philosophers and deliberative political structures, and more than a few modern states continue to rely on militaristic means of conflict resolution. (Indeed, physical violence probably remains the real trump card in the vast majority of aggregate and individual dispute resolution.) Still, there has been a marked development of peaceful, deliberative means of problem solving in recent centuries.

The United States is no stranger to violent means of conflict resolution, even setting aside foreign policy. The Civil War stands out in this respect, as do the dropping of the atomic bomb and the violent and deadly acts of those dubbed “domestic terrorists.” Even the dueling that claimed the life of one of America’s greatest Founding Fathers was a recognized part of the European culture Americans imported and sustained for some time. By the time of the civil rights movement, violence remained on the table and indeed was a viable option for both sides. There nevertheless was a perceivable shift in which violence was a last resort and peaceable means were preferred in the first instance.

The peak of this time of civic unrest, the late 1960s, has become an archetypical reference point for much of the subsequent civic and political action. The question now is whether this model has been stretched too thin, overused, and, in a certain way, too peaceful, in the age of the internet. Is web-based “social networking” the sort of engagement and participation that would impress Tocqueville, Kennedy, King, Putnam, or Armstrong? Are 140 characters enough for a meaningful treatise? Can a Facebook.com group change the world? Or should we just grab a groupon and plan our revolutions face-to-face at the newest eatery (that checks out on Yelp, of course)? In short, global electronic connectivity has fostered the rise of a sort of wide-sweeping, possibly disparate civic engagement, but is it of significant consequence? Have we walked too far away from the days of settling our differences and sorting things out on the battlefield?

During that high period of American public participation more than forty years ago, a British group already was recognizing the runaway (from meaningfulness) potential of burgeoning civic engagement. The melodic title track of an album otherwise described as “sentimental” and “nostalgic” has a more satirical ring in my ears. (That or it’s the most conservative song ever written by a group banned from performing in the U.S.) Lyrics are available here.  A live performance from 1973 gives the feel:

The familiar album version is available below, and there is space for your responsive comments below that. Whether you have some ideas about the role of violence in modern dispute resolution, the future of web-based civic engagement, or a new verse to add to the song, I welcome your thoughts.


The Value of Citation

December 2, 2009 1 comment

The previous post made passing reference to the deficiency of cited material in the digital pages of Wikipedia, something that, for many, reduces the quality and reliability of the content.

Citations serve a number of purposes. Most basically, they allow the reader of a work to access the material the author of the work relied upon for the assertions in the work. The requirement for uniformity in citation stems from this basic purpose. Consistent format in citations facilitates readers’ ability to track down the precise source the author used. There are a number of citation styles, which are often extremely complex. Although there is not a single, common system of citation, different fields, professions, and specialties tend to adhere to a consistent system within their own literature. In legal documents, The Bluebook‘s “Uniform System of Citation” dominates the profession and is in its eighteenth edition. I have advocated a simpler regime, at least when it comes to academic papers, for some years, guided by the basic premises of citation discussed here: 1) provide enough information about the cited source to allow a reader to look at the same source material the author was looking at while writing, and 2) be consistent. Adherence to these two guidelines should require no additional work on the part of the author, unlike the more complicated systems.

Beyond this basic function, proper citation has other effects. One of these is the strengthening of the author’s credibility. In a legal brief, for example, the goal is to inform and convince a judge, not to create a great literary work. Judges who read a brief devoid of citation to relevant authorities will be skeptical of the brief, even if the arguments are of good quality. Statutes and court precedent are authorities that bind judges. When a brief cites those authorities, the judge is more comfortable with the attendant arguments because the advocate has presented arguments rooted in the judge’s relevant legal landscape. In the case of scholarship, the situation is inverted but the outcome is the same. There, the goal is to create a groundbreaking, original work, and one might think that citations to the work of others erodes originality. Very few scholars produce truly sui generis work; rather, it is very likely that they relied upon the ideas of those who came before them. Failure to cite to the ideas of others will erode the author’s credibility– first among readers familiar with the background literature and then more generally, once a reputation of plagiarism spreads– detract from whatever actually original ideas the author presented, and irk those whose ideas the author imported as original.

Beyond maintaining credibility, another purpose is the active showing of respect that comes with an affirmative recognition in the form of citation. More neutrally, citation to a source signals, in most cases, quality. This notion is the basis for tracking the influence of scholars and publications by aggregating and tallying citations. The idea of showing respect for content creators plays out informally as well. On online information websites like Twitter, for example, the practice of retweeting, or otherwise giving credit by linking to originators is common and widely favored.

Sometimes citations come as a pleasant surprise. A colleague recently forwarded me a link to the American Bar Association‘s news posting on the top legal blogs of 2009 and directed my attention to the caption for The Volokh Conspiracy:

The Volokh Conspiracy is named for its founder, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, but it’s authored by nearly 20 contributors, mostly law profs with a passion for con law, government policy and each other’s observations. One fan, Vanderbilt law student Alexander Denton, praises Volokh contributors for “engaging posts on a variety of topics, thoughtful interaction … and writing styles that are [both] scholarly and accessible.”

It is unlikely that the ABA bolstered its credibility with that inclusion. Even so, I’m sure a VC Guest-Blogging invitation will arrive any minute.

Categories: Information, Internet