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The Responsibilities of Writing for the Web.

    In cyberspace, where your actions are separated by distance, pseudonyms, and perhaps even cryptography, I still think you have a responsibility to think of the effects of your actions. I don't mean legal responsibility, as in "I can sue you if you don't", but an vanishing type of "don't hog the water fountain" responsibility. More than just consideration - noblesse oblige. Sites such as Slashdot, Fark, and others can't be called the nobility of the internet(including Fark nixes that - heh!), but in terms of the ability to get the word out about things that mostly fall outside the scope of or below the radar of major media, they are king. If your websitehas been lucky enough to rate linkage, you have felt the burn of 250 hits per second and nasty bandwidth allocation exceeded notices from your hosting provider. The kind of responsibility I'm talking about would involve sending a message to the owner of the page letting him know the link will be posted in a few hours, allowing him to arrange for a mirroring of his site or to prepare his server for the equivalent of a DoS.

    I've noticed a trend on weblogs and meta-sites such as Slashdot and Metafilter of linking to google searches on the linked words instead of a page on the subject itself. Taking Google's amazing ability to determine relevance for granted can certainly be forgiven, but is conceptually against the idea of such sites. A group of people who filter the world through their perceptions, color it with their emotions, and focus it according to their expertise is a group of people who can recommend the most relevant, poignant, or technically accurate pages. Furthermore, the practice undermines the Google rankings for the linked topic: the very thing that makes the practice possible. As the Googlebomb has illustrated, enough articles linking to google searches on the linked words would considerably distort the site ranking from what it would be if all the links were real pages. The only purpose I can see for linking that way is to deliberately not affect site ranking, because Google doesn't cache its own searches. An example of such use can be found above in the link tagged to the words "your website". In this case, the search page itself contains information I wanted to show(146 hits for that search). The kind of responsibility I'm talking about, existing in a completely separate dimension for law and pbligation, would require everyone writing for the web to consider it their duty to use their expertise, perception, and feelings when they link a page.

It enriches the web for us all.

Mr. Gunn : 8:48 PM : Monday, January 13, 2003 :

I think I've found the first example of codon bias at google!

Mr. Gunn : 8:16 PM : :

Comments will return when I can get them hosted somewhere under my control. Enetation provides a fine service, fine enough that I even donated some money so that I could use their dedicated server, but it still made the page load too slow and only worked sporadically. Please email me with those comments or questions about anything(I'm still learning), but especially thoughts provoked by the articles or useability issues and I will include them with the relevant post. I put a fair amount of work into this and would like to hear from anyone who stumbles across this page.

Mr. Gunn : 8:08 PM : :

No Sense of Place directed me to 4 MIT Professors give science advice to the president. The actual number is 85 and counting, from science personalities nationwide, including such personalities as Craig Venter (who has a great rant), Ray Kurzweil (who goes offtopic, but makes some excellent points), Eric Drexler, and this from Stephen Schneider.
The role of science in the public debate is clear: assess what can happen and what are the odds of it happening. The role of policy—driven by the beliefs of the public—is to make value judgments on how to react to the odds of various possibilities. It will take some major realignment of institutions like the media and congressional hearings apparatus to back away from the model of polarized advocates toward a doctrine of "perspective":reporting and debating based on the assessment of the likelihood of various events, not giving advocates of extreme opposite views equal time or space.
Anyone who has the media report on their particular topic of expertise, especially if it's a scientific topic, knows how totally clueless the newspaper or television treatment can be. However, more subtle distortion also exists. Instead of reporting on the different positions of many scientists regarding a certain issue and maybe the relative validity of each postion judged by the number and repute of the scientists holding each position, the stories that get reported force a debate among the two most diametrically opposed views, even when neither is very likely. Ever read anything about Nature vs. Nurture?

My eyes opened wide when I realized how clearly he understands the problems of science debate among the public and the nation. Unfortunately, and perhaps this is the problem, every statement I read declined the hypothetical offer to be science advisor to the president.

Mr. Gunn : 6:31 PM : :

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