Monday, October 27, 2008

Web sites run by its users....the way of the future. Class Presentation.

As the Internet grows so do the domains, one of the more popular characteristics of late is for the content of Web sites to be totally user driven and user submitted.

What does that mean?

It means that most of the information on the Web site has been submitted by somebody just like you, only with a lot more time on their hands.

I want to look at two news-ish sites that totally rely on user content.

The first site is Fark. The site was started by Drew Curtis, and basically allows its members to submit "not news" stories and the link where the story was initially provided. Curtis says this about his site:

The first thing you should know is that isn't a Weblog., the Web site, is a news aggregator and an edited social networking news site. Every day Fark receives 2,000 or so news submissions from its readership.

Curtis then chooses which articles he wants to give the public access to, which is usually about 20 stories a day. If the user wants total access he must pay Curtis $5 a month for access to every story link that Curtis gets a day. This is a really cool site because it allows users to share interesting "not news" with other internet-aholics. Although the users submitting the stories are not necessarily jounralists, they are news-enthusiasts who want to share some fun reading with others like them. Thus Fark is a news site, when one goes there they will be reading (mostly) legitate news which has been supplied along with the link where it was published.

Although it is possible to get articles posted to Fark that are not cited by any publication, except for maybe another user-content driven database. When one types in smoking cigarettes in an airplane lavatory into Fark, the first article they will get is not from a reliable news site but from a very special place on the Web called Totse.

Totse was started in 1989 as a BBS (bulletin board system), which is essentially an interent forum, and was originally called the Temple Of The Screaming Electron (TOTSE). For it's first decade of existance the site was not open to the Internet public, but when it did in 1997, it already had dedicated users and writers who submitted thousands of their personal stories and experiences to the site for Web publication.

Totse's goal as stated on its homepage is to promote the first ammendment and freedom of speech, therefore one can find almost anything on the site, from articles about Jewish Dietary Law to How to Make an Atom Bomb, really nothing is off limits to this site.

An argument could be made that a site like this is not news nor is it of news value, the site doesn't have normal editors nor does it give any legitamate sources to the information it provides. Most of the people who submit the articles are Totse users and go by an alias username, so it makes it impossible to check the validity of the articles. Therefore it is important to take most of the articles one finds on Totse with a grain of salt, although with the plethora of information it makes available it also serves as a good starting point and check point for real story ideas. It could be that the articles are based on opinions, prejudices and false facts but guess what, so are thousands of the blogs that people read everyday, it's just another source of information, hopefully one can find some news value in that.

The next time you want to read something really bizarre, something you might never have thought you'd want to read before, visit Fark and Totse, but be cautious because you never know what you will find or how much truth there is to it.

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