One of the things that makes the internet so great is the ability for people to keep contributing to it. Without the constant and growing users, the internet would be a boring and plain place. Everyday we see videos and articles being published at a substantial rate, contributing to the vast amount of information being readily available for everyone to benefit from. Powerful websites have emerged such as Youtube, Reddit, and Wikipedia (to read up on the history of Wikipedia, check out this article from our reading) where ordinary internet dwellers can contribute, or find the next viral video, amazing photograph, or a unique fact about a famous person. However, with the massive amounts of people who use the internet, there are sure to be a few errors, slip-ups, or misconceptions that occur.
In Nicholas Carr’s blog post titled “The amorality of Web 2.0,” he talks about that good and bad of websites like Wikipedia, where internet users are the main contributors. He says that “in theory, Wikipedia is a beautiful thing.” However, he mainly talks about the problems of Wikipedia in his post. He states “in reality, though, Wikipedia isn’t very good at all. Certainly, it’s useful – I regularly consult it to get a quick gloss on a subject. But at a factual level it’s unreliable, and the writing is often appalling.” It certainly can be unreliable, but one can also check whatever they read has a source to it. This isn’t a full proof way to ensure what one reads is factual correct, but it can add some sort of credibility. Wikipedia can be unpredictable and that’s probably why many high school teachers and college professors don’t let students use it as a source.
Another extremely popular website where ordinary internet users can contribute anything is Reddit. Reddit is a bit more controversial than Wikipedia because users can literally submit any photo, video, article or any other link and other users can give their two cents on it. Here’s a fantastic article on all of the basics of Reddit for someone who maybe confused or never been on Reddit. Earlier this year, the Boston Marathon bombings really caused a storm on Reddit and users were trying to find out who the suspects were before the FBI did. I’m not sure if any Reddit user even considered the actual suspects, but there was a lot of users who were targeting the wrong people unfairly. This article from our reading talks more about how Reddit and another popular website 4Chan, tried to hunt down the suspects, but ended up harming some innocent people. In fact here’s one of the many threads on Reddit where users tried to hunt down the suspects, if anyone is interested in checking it out.
These user oriented websites have many upsides, but also plenty of downsides. On Reddit, Wikipedia and other sites, we can find out amazing things about our favorite famous person, or we may up finding false information. Regular everyday internet users generate almost all the content on these sites, in turn, have a lot of power. Also, it is really simple to submit or edit something. That’s what makes them so great, but that’s why we should also be cautious when browsing them. With all this said, do you trust reading information off Wikipedia articles? If you were (or maybe are) a teacher, would you let your students use Wikipedia as a source? What do you think of Reddit and do you go on it yourself?