Letter Drop: Capacity for Veracity; OASIS Plans Universal Metadata

Chris Loosely contends that Joshua Greenbaum "describes blogs and wikis as 'a lot of bunk masquerading as information,' but his column contains a lot of bunk masquerading as a solution."

Capacity for Veracity

Joshua Greenbaum's "Wikis, Blogs and Other Points of Failure" (April 2006), describes blogs and wikis as "a lot of bunk masquerading as information," but his column contains a lot of bunk masquerading as a solution. Statements like "heaven help us if no one calls the bloggers and wikites on the carpet when they mislead and misinform" are about as useful as saying "obesity is a widespread problem and it's time someone did something about it." Nobody is going to decree absolute standards, and no one is going to appoint experts to police and enforce those standards.

The strength of the Web is that it facilitates open discussion. So the formerly elite members of the "expert media," who have a vested interest in restricting the availability of information because they get paid for publishing it, can no longer monopolize the discussion. Yes, some nonsense also will be published--that's the price of freedom of speech.

Chris Loosley
Senior director, SLM Technologies
Keynote Systems
[email protected]

It scares the hell out of me that some miscreant could alter information within a Wikipedia listing. I want to reference an authoritative source, not one that an individual with too much time on his hands might sabotage because he thinks it would be cool. It would be like trying to teach algebra, but every week you'd worry whether someone had decided to change the rules of mathematics.

Michael JD Sutton
Assistant Professor, Information Architecture and Knowledge Management
Kent State University
[email protected]

It is true that misinformation can spread wildly without verification. Part of the problem with the data emanating from corporate environs is that no one takes accountability for it--it's just left out there to fester in the public domain, without having gone through a peer review process. Wikis, which do require authors to identify themselves, have a better mechanism for correction: If someone publishes something false or malicious, we know who it is and the error or distortion can be corrected.

Blogs, on the other hand, will always be a far more suspect source of information, because their factualness is contingent on the veracity and accuracy of their authors.

Vince Mariano
Librarian, Health Professions Division Library
Nova Southeastern University
[email protected]

OASIS Plans Universal Metadata

Thanks for the great article "Looking for Meaning in the Semantic Web" (Dashboard, March 2006). The Semantic Web is well on its way to becoming a reality, one that will profoundly change how we work with information, even as it exponentially escalates the volumes of information. At the OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee, work is under way on a universal metadata model (UMM) that will serve as a bridge between XML and RDF, enabling user tagging of conceptual relationships and the import of exacting ontologies and business process semantics. The committee expects the effort to have a dramatic impact on archiving, search engines, citation and bibliographic work, as well as provide both a desktop productivity interface and an interactive Internet-ready presence.

Gary Edwards
OASIS OpenDocument Technical Committee
The OpenDocument Foundation
[email protected]