While perusing my RSS subscriptions in NewsGator this evening, I bumped into what sounded like it might be an interesting article at Lockergnome. The piece was two paragraphs of commentary followed by a link to the “source article” at RealTechNews. But that wasn’t the origin of the story… the trail actually goes further and further back until the original piece is finally unearthed. Here’s the trail I followed for this article “Ten signs your son is a hacker”:
- Is Your Son a Hacker? Ten Signs to Look For at Lockergnome, linked to
- Is Your Son a Hacker? Ten Signs to Look For at RealTechNews, linked to
- Is Your Son a Computer Hacker? at Albino Black Sheep, linked to
- Is Your Son a Computer Hacker? at Adequacy.org
What I find so interesting about this is that time and again instead of people tracking to the original source and then linking to it, in what I’d describe as a “wheel and spokes” model, Web authors are instead linking in more of a “daisy chain” fashion, perhaps never going all the way back to the original source (where it’d be quite clear that it was written back in December, 2001 and obviously a deliberate attempt to provoke the hacker community into a debate).
In some sense, I think this is one of the dark sides of the linking mania that the Web always had, but that’s become far more rampant with so-called linkblogs where people post links to what they consider interesting content, as often as twenty or more times a day. They’re serving as screeners, as selectors, but how they’re selecting content is what I find worthy of note.
In particular, it’s a good question to ask yourself: how often do you actually create original content for the Web and Internet, and how often do you just copy and paste or even simply point to other material without even offering even a minimal explanation of why your reader should care?
What’s most interesting about this resurgence of a tired meme, if you will, is that the original article is really rather sloppy, poorly thought out, and factually rife with errors. If it isn’t a hoax, it’s certainly not demonstrative of any intelligent thinking about the interesting question of how you would know your child is a ‘hacker’. Yet it’s being linked to by bloggers and web authors, without any of them digging into the link chain and finding out what’s really going on.
Instead, after the fact, Alice Hill, the reporter for RealTechNews who “broke” this story, issued an update on her story hours after posting it:
“Update: Our suspicions were correct, the posting was a hoax that originated on a a site called Adequacy.org (now defunct) that took pride in posting things that sparked controversy and outrage. I�ll leave the segment here, but maybe someone can come up with a real list of signs because teen hacking is something many parents aren�t aware of. D�oh. Thanks to Rob for pointing this out!”
If Ms. Hill was suspicious, why didn’t she dig into the story before posting it to the site, then?
My point isn’t to embarrass Ms. Hill at all, however, but to simply highlight both the challenge of Web readers finding quality original content, consistently, from Web sites, and the challenge Web authors face writing articles in a world where everyone can fact check everyone else.
At a bare minimum, if you are producing content for the Web, either in a weblog or some other type of site, please spend the few extra minutes digging through your citations and references to ensure that you point to original material, not indirect links. It’ll improve the veracity of your prose and satisfaction level of your readers.
It also makes me wonder what percentage of the billions of Web pages that modern search engines index have at least 75% original content. My guess: less than 15%.
What do you think?