If a tree falls on the Internet…

A couple of days ago — I was away — MPR’s Tim Post ran a story about the problems newspapers face with allowing users to attach comments to news stories. Apparently, the concern in newsrooms is, people can attach some stupid comments.

This led to a discussion in our own newsroom today about whether user comments that might be racist or otherwise uncomfortable, compromise the journalistic integrity of the organization that produced the original journalism.

On the other hand, if the job of journalists is to take a snapshot of a community — is the racism part of that picture?

It may be a moot point of an effort succeeds to create a filter that will rid the Internet — or at least what you see — of stupidity.

The StupidFilter Project is the creation of “an open-source filter software that can detect rampant stupidity in written English. This will be accomplished with weighted Bayesian analysis and some rules-based processing, similar to spam detection engines. The primary challenge inherent in our task is that stupidity is not a binary distinction, but rather a matter of degree. To this end, we’re collecting a ranked corpus of stupid text, gleaned from user comments on public websites and ranked on a five-point scale.”

Yes, well, I’m not at all sure that using the sterling success of spam filters is a proper depiction of a utopian online universe.

But what is stupid and, more important, are we better off not having it? Racism, one might — and should — argue, is stupid. It is certainly ignorant. But if we don’t see it in its most naked form, is it not there?

  • This is a great blog! and yes planting trees is very important for the future of the planet. Keep up the good work!