There’s an interesting discussion brewing over at Sound Connections, the online home of The Conference Publishers’ intrepid podcast consultant Mark Blevis.
Wherever you come down in the debate between evidence-based reporting and the power of large, unmoderated groups to moderate their own content, it’s an important dialogue. And it’s fascinating that it’s happening.
Mark got things rolling with a post that contrasted the wide-open philosophy of online blogs with the control exerted over every letter to the editor of any newspaper. I chimed in—this will come as a total surprise to friends and colleagues—with the suggestion that conference content could expand and focus the wisdom of the crowds that populate the blogosphere by putting a knowledge base behind the opinions. There followed a couple of responses that placed the open atmosphere of an unmoderated blog head and shoulders above the traditional command and control of a newspaper op ed page.
At The Conference Publishers, we’ve clearly staked our claim in favour of the cornerstone content that comes out of a well-organized meeting. We see a great synergy between the initial content source that provides a jumping-off point for online social media, and the blogs, wikis, and discussion boards that can far extend the life and reach of the original conference.
We’ve also concluded that a shared knowledge base—whether or not it comes from a live event—can correct one of the weaknesses in online media. It’s one thing to create a free market for opinions, put it all out there, let readers sort it out, and hope they look beyond the voice that shouts the loudest. It’s something else to assume that everyone online has the depth of knowledge, or even the time and patience, to do the sorting.
To the extent that large numbers of our fellow citizens base their opinions, decisions, and actions on blog content, the stakes here could be very high. (Why do you think the Barack Obama campaign launched a Fight the Smears site?)
The answer here is not to favour one kind of content over the other, but to find the best balance of both. As we keep telling our clients, there is a profound wisdom in crowds, and we can all do better by celebrating and maximizing that wisdom. But maximizing it is surely the point: if there’s a way to take a very good thing and make it even better, how can that be a bad thing?