Reputation and anonymity
Posted Apr 11, 2011 8:52 UTC (Mon) by pboddie
In reply to: Groklaw shutting down in May
Parent article: Groklaw shutting down in May
When I read media coverage, I want to be able to rely on it and the facts it gives, and to leave verification to others, for practical reasons, unless I'm deeply interested on the subject. A convincing argument might be flawed in unobvious ways, or in ways only apparent to other experts. A reputable source might still be mistaken, but it's less likely (if reputation was earnestly gained). Her opinion might still be partial, but I believe a reputable source should declare her partiality, allowing the reader to compare sources having opposite points of view.
Sure, a reputation can be a useful thing, but it's not the only thing. Moreover, someone who has a reputation in one area might try and leverage that reputation in another area - you see this quite a bit with journalists - but that doesn't mean that they're qualified or that the reputation is applicable in that other area. I agree that putting a name against an opinion makes it easier to filter out erroneous opinions, but that doesn't mean that an anonymous opinion should have no weight. Indeed, in some areas (whistle-blowing, for example) it should perhaps carry more weight.
So, what opinion I have of Groklaw? I can judge myself that LWN is an accurate and reputable source, and they often refer to Groklaw as another such source; similar opinions appear on Wikipedia, thus I would consider Groklaw worth reading.
And you have reached that conclusion by assessing the quality of the information and by sampling different sources, which is something a reputation might reduce the need for, but it shouldn't eliminate such a need or desire.
I would guess The Economist to be a reputable source, though I never investigated the issue.
Again, there are some interesting observations to be made. Although The Economist can be quite predictable (it is The Economist, after all), there are times when it has published a position and then had to admit that it was (as far as its contributors are concerned) wrong, most notably around the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Now I accept that with an anonymous person, the "track record" of the commentator would not be known - they might claim to have been against the Iraq invasion all along, for example - but I think it is possible to treat all such commentators as individuals and ignore notions of hypocrisy (which only applies to concurrently contradicting positions, of course) while still digesting what people have to say.
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