As I quoted an article about NY Times' plagiarism, I was thinking about the difference in authority of between traditional news sources and the weblog. A couple of days later, I had a chance of having lunch with Joi Ito and Dan Gillmor. Joi was talking about the journalism and blogging and mentioning that traditional newspapers should be separated into two entities: journalism and printing. It led to a discussion how we create a better democratic system.
Well, media companies basically "assemble" (aka "edit") topics and news into newspaper and distribute it to readers at reasonably cheap cost. If we replace the newspaper with the blog, the editor-in-chief with the blog owner, paper distribution with the net distribution, and the interviewee with the referred blog/website, both look very very similar. So, what makes difference?
Big difference is the authority of the interviewer. Usually the interviewee (tacitly or customarily) allows the interviewer and the newspaper to refer because the interview is done with obvious consent that the interview results in the reference in the newspaper. There exists the credibility to the newspaper, since people usually refuse to accept interviews when they don't know the interviewer. When you refer/quote it from the blog/website, this prerequisite doesn't exist (unless the blog/website explicitly shows the consent like creative commons-type licensing policy.)
The newspaper, however, doesn't always ask explicit consent to refer/cover things. Why? There is a tacit social thought that journalism is able to do that to check the super power on behalf of groups of silent majorities. This vague thing really gives the authority to have copyright almighty to the media company.
But the time passes and the media company, who was designed to help the minority, became the super power. Now a new checking system is required to check the checking system.
I wondered if it could be the weblog, with appropriate ways to make this work. One of the key things that make it work is how we can give the credibility to the individual weblog. Joi proposes the system which ranks weblogs/authors by others' ranking (he mentioned complex mathematical procedures, using Technorati, which Dan and I didn't instantly understand ;p).
I don't have any clear idea so far how to compute such rankings, but the discussion made me start thinking about links and trackbacks. Giving a link means that giving an authority, but trackbacking is just a notion of "you don't know me but I exist." It should be literally the first "ping" and you should decide if it is worth your link.
Think about a case A asks you to introduce A to B (more clearly, in business matter). You will carefully examine A and introduce A only when you conclude that A doesn't harm your reputation. Can we implement this structure into the blog network with reasonably easy algorithms and (important!) procedures? (Otherwise you will rate 3 out of 5 to all your acquaintances.) Maybe the algorithm should exploit the standard/usual instructions you do in your weblogging life.
I just came up with the names "Trusted TrackBack" and "Ranked TrackBack", which are basically trackbacks but examined the mechanism mentioned in the last paragraph.