Blogs as a source of authority – ReadWriteWeb’s v Wikipedia

Occassionally I read the website “ReadWriteWeb“. It’s a blog about online/digital media. They recently discovered that they were blacklisted by Wikipedia after a contributor tried to link them as a source. The editor Richard MacManus made his submission via the usual process, by submitting his case on Media Wiki talk pages and the debate was fleshed out. He also submitted his case on his blog, getting even more attention since it is a top 20 blog. The debate from Wikipedia admins, contributors, the ensuing comments on his blog, as well as the decision to remove has all been interesting.

This was the comment I left on his blog:

“I think this is a fascinating article and case study on why ReadWriteWeb was blacklisted on Wikpedia. I can see why they blacklisted you, but that should have been against you personally not the blog for some comments that you made 3 years ago.

I read your blog occassionally, because it was starting to get referenced and digg’d – so obviously the wider community thinks it is a good source of web 2.0 info. the fact that your syndicated by NYT only adds to the arguement that you should be removed, and rightfully that has happened.

I’m still curious to the general debate of whether blogs can be a seen as a credible source of information, not only for wikipedia but also for reference purposes (academic and in general). what about blogs outside the top 20?”


By way of background ReadWriteWeb’s editor must have done something dodgy whether inadvertently or on purpose, by adding his website multiple times as a source of reference. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it came to the attention of the editors and the was a bit of war of words and the editor used some not so nice words. This happened three years ago. We all know that even one year in the internet industry is like 7 years in the real world (Sidenote: I’m approaching one year in the industry). The pace of change and practices change quite rapidly. As one of my colleagues, Aaron noted, the business models change.

ReadWriteWeb is clearly a well known source of web 2.0 info. It is ranked #17 out of all blogs on the internet for readership with 275,000 RSS subscribers. It has content syndication with the New York Times – they use it in their tech blogs for additional content. It was the only blog in the top 20 blacklisted. The majority of those blogs even have their own wikipedia page! If it wasn’t for the personal actions of the editor and the original comments of Hu12 admin stating that blogs as a source are not verifiable/reliable/credible because they are self published, this would have never seen the light of day.

Which really brings me to a related issue:

Can blogs be citied as as source of authority, whether in wikipedia or in general?

I want to repost some of the comments I found on the Wiki spam page, arguing the case for submission. More importantly it is their views on blogs as a source of authority which I want to highlight. As a former law grad raised on evidence law, legal referencing and even simple academic guidelines, I find it very fascinating.

Why RWW was originally rejected

Comment by Hu12:

* Blogs, and Blog sites are Link normally to be avoided
* ReadWriteWeb Fails Wikipedia’s core content policies:
* ”Verifiability”
o ” Questionable_sources”
o “Verifiable Reliable Sources”
o ”Self-published sources (online and paper)”
* ”Reliable sources”
o ”Self-published sources”

1. Arguement for removal:

“I am a regular reader of RWW and I believe that it qualifies as a legitimate osurce for news and information. They do not merely recycle press releases but actually engage directly as journalists, talking directly to technology leaders and performing original reporting. The question of whether it is a “blog” and therefore does not merit inclusion is a red herring as the very definition of “blog” is vague (chronologically ordered website? the same could be said of the New York Times). Really a “blog” is just a content management software package that runs underneath a website but does not dictate what the site’s purpose is. Granted a tech blog hosted on or (free hosts) is probably on the far side of the line dividing legitimate sources of information, but RWW is far from that and should not be lumped into that category. I dont feel that th etraffic/readership issues are salient, but as far as credibility goes, RWW enjoys the same press status as print magazines, and should be treated in teh same manner. I have no affiliation with RWW whatsoever, though I do maintain several blogs of my own and write for BeliefNet.

Regards, Aziz Poonawalla

2. Arguement for removal:

Respectfully, I’m floored that this discussion is taking place at all in 2009. There are published tabloids and even minor newspapers with less credibility that ReadWriteWeb. This distinction between ‘blogs’ and ‘newspapers’ is worse than archaic; it fundamentally dismisses the immense disruption in the media industry. Blogs like that are more transparent and verifiable than many papers by virtue of their readership and topicality. And, frankly, there’s an odd double standard at play. Mashable, TechCrunch and GigaOm all have their own entries in Wikipedia and cover similar beats. Moreover, at least in this editor’s opinion, Marshall and Richard’s credibility on certain topics has proven to be more viable than the posts on at least one of those sites. I strongly urge the Wikipedia community to remove this blacklisting and reconsider its policy around blogs. It made sense in 2004. In 2009, there are now major blogs at the New Yorker, the Atlantic and the New York Times. Because the form is a reverse chronologically ordered list of entries, does it suddenly become an unreliable tabloid? I think not. Vetting should be based upon more than that, particularly the expertise and proven track record of the writer. That expert vetting is important to both Britannica and Wikipedia going forward. I hope you all get it right here.

-Alexander B. Howard

My thoughts

I’m going to talk about the topic in general, not specifically readwriteweb. I think the editor blew it a bit out of proportion but I’m glad he did because he highlighted a very good issue that had attracted a lot of intelligent debate.

Blog when they first started becoming developed were self published and generally, were not really edited for quality. However, nowadays, many newspapers, companies, communities, and groups are using blogs. They are becoming very professional in nature, similar to newspapers and books. Within their genre, they can be highly authoratative. In some cases, blogs have the same status in the media as newspapers and books. If the readership, editorial quality, sources, reputation and most importantly their content is credible, they why can’t they be referenced? If the New York Times can be referenced, why can’t their NYT blog be referenced? It usually written by the same writers and probably goes through the same level of editorial review as regular print articles. If the blog writer does their research, links to their sources and does proper journalistic investigation, how is that any less credible?

Of course not all blogs are like this. There is a lot of rubbish out there too (but then so are some books!). To dismiss blogs as inclusion in wikipedia because they are self published it is a futile argument, since wikipedia itself is self published. Can the wider community use blogs as a reference for example a student writing an assignment? Just like other sources, it should go through a rigurous criteria however, it would be slightly different since it is an online source. The fact is print and newspaper readership is dying out, and online has become a new source of information. A lot of news and information can come from blogs – it has been embraced by the public and is gaining ground as a source of info.

Look at wikipedia itself. The first time I heard of it was when my manager send me a link about wooden pylon term a client of ours was using. This was 4 years ago, when wikipedia was still in its infancy. Now, wikipedia is seen as just as credible as Encylopedia Britannica. They have tests and it matches up as a source of credible information. Encyclopedia Britannica itself is moving to a wikipedia type model, where users can submit content and there are professional staff editing the content. Whether they can keep up is another question!

You have to examine each blog on its own merit – not all blogs can be referenced. I will write some more thoughts about this later as I have to head off but I leave you with the wikipedia policy on verifiability and the reason why Read Write Web was removed:

1. The use of links to ReadWriteWeb is not disruptive. If an individual editor is repeatedly adding spam links to it, have an administrator block that editor.
2. While ReadWriteWeb may or may not be reliable, non-reliability on its part would not, in and of itself, justify blacklisting the website.
3. ReadWriteWeb is well-known and publicly objects to the inclusion on the blacklist. The perception of Wikipedia as unfairly blocking the use of links to the website is not helpful to Wikipedia, whether or not the blacklisting is otherwise justified.
4. While the participation may be (and is probably) skewed as a result of ReadWriteWeb’s public objection to the blacklisting, the great majority of commenters on the applicable discussion page support the removal of the entry from the blacklist. Since the removal is reversible, continued discussion can confirm whether my removal has general consensus. In the meantime, the removal seems less likely to cause problems.

I’m out like blogs as a source of authority,

Matt Ho.


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