MARK GOODACRE defends "gateway" pages
as not only useful filters, but also models for students which help them learn what good academic sites are like and why. I haven't read AKMA's paper, so I won't comment on any of the criticism of it, but Marks positive comments about gateway sites seem spot on to me
Let me just develop one of Mark's points. He writes:
AKMA compliments the hard work, diligence and charity that goes into gateway resources. Given that a lot of work does indeed go into developing and maintaining a gateway, I appreciate AKMA's appreciation of that effort. But I would add that ideally the gateway resources are not simply consulted because of that diligence but also because of the perceived expertise of the authors of the gateways in question. In other words, the reason that I might be interested in what Felix Just, S. J. selects on Johannine Literature is because I respect his ability to discern higher quality resources.
This is very true: a gateway by an expert whose credentials are there for everyone to see is likely to be widely consulted by interested people once the word gets out, and that is all to the good. But better yet the Internet, and especially the Blogosphere, provide a self-correcting context that gives a thoughtful reader tools to help sort out which writers at which sites know what they're talking about. Even anonymous sites can often be evaluated using these tools.
Last July the Council of Europe (which, incidentally, can still go to hell), put out an idiotic proposal
that all websites should be required by law to grant equal space to or link to anyone they criticize. What they don't realize is that the Internet already
allows anyone to check whatever anyone else is saying about a given website or blog. In effect, the technology already available does grant a "right of reply" to any web author, without the intrusive and ham-fisted legislation. Both Mark and I have mentioned Technorati
, a site that many bloggers use to keep track of who links to them. But Technorati can be used by anyone to see the links that bloggers make to any
website: all you have to do is put in the URL and press the GO! button. You can check all the links to a whole blog (here is PaleoJudaica's current entry
) or to a single post. For example, Mark's "Throttle to Knowledge" post has the following Technorati links profile
. This can tell you what any blogger has said recently about any website. The only limits are that Technorati seems not to keep the links on file for more than a few weeks, and that sometimes it can take a few days for their spiders to update new links.
Another useful tool is the Google Advanced Search
which allows you to see who is linking to a given web page. All you have to do is insert the relevant URL (see the section under "Page-Specific Search"). This is the result
for paleojudaica.blogspot.com and this is the result
for my Divine Mediator Figures
course page. It includes links to blogs and other web pages, but not, it seems, links to individual blog postings.
Both Technorati and Google give users the tools to find out what others are saying about a website or blog. This has two positive effects. First, the user can get a sense of what others make of the site. If people who seem well informed say good things about it, that's a good sign. If not, not. Second, this transparency of criticism encourages the author of the site to keep track of criticisms and to make corrections when appropriate. If others can point out where you're wrong whether you like it or not, it makes sense to make a virtue of necessity and use their criticisms to improve the site. Good bloggers generally do this anyway, but a little incentive never hurts. I've gotten lots of useful feedback and corrections both from reader e-mail and from other blogs (such as here
). This is a good example of the sort of emergent order that arises on the Internet as long as we can keep bureaucrats from meddling with it.