Home > Crowdsourcing > Online Reputation Management for Crowd-Sourcing Platforms: Cleaning up After the “Bewildered Herd”

Online Reputation Management for Crowd-Sourcing Platforms: Cleaning up After the “Bewildered Herd”

September 3, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

As the Web 2.0 model has shifted to content being generated by users (often referred to as “crowdsourcing”) as opposed to administrators, it’s presented a somewhat novel problem of proofing the contributions of the masses.

The “Bewildered Herd” is a term attributed to Walter Lippmann who is one of the early scholars of journalism and public relations.  Lippmann’s contention was that the public was essentially too inept to govern itself and needed to have smart people make up its mind for it in order for society to function.  To wit:

“The public must be put in its place, so that it may exercise its own powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.”
(Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, 1922)

Crowdsourcing (originated by Jeff Howe of Wired) is explained by Clay Shirky below:

On the whole, user-generated contributions are amazingly effective and have accomplished a powerful amount of the work in building the Internet.  There are, though, occasionally problems.  Here are some of the sites I try to watch regularly for inaccuracies and misinformation:

Which crowdsourcing sites do you monitor for inaccuracies?

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  1. September 3, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Interesting array of crowd-sourced sites. Of course, there is correcting inaccuracies which is a good point, but there is also the idea of public ‘opinion’–i.e. not facts asserted but perceptions. Some sites, like Wikipedia, are taken as fact (an issue raised by many educators who caution students against citing it). Others may be seen as opinion. I wonder if we PR people should stress that the crowd sourced info is ok and even good to consider, but to stress the difference between fact and opinion.

    The quote from Lippman is timely. But John Dewey debated Lippman on this matter and stressed the importance of public opinion–vs dictates from ‘enlightened elites’–as vital for democracy. Here’s a blog post with background on Dewey: http://www.scottlondon.com/reports/dewey.html (which, ironically, I crowd sourced)

    Obviously the ‘expert vs crowd’ issue continues.

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    • September 3, 2010 at 3:26 pm

      Absolutely – fact and opinion are definitely two separate things; PR pros should definitely stress to colleagues and clients alike that tampering with entries just to massage the way the content is presented for a more favorable reading is a bad idea because it will invariably be discovered (to say nothing of the ethical component). I should perhaps have stuck to more of the ‘instructional’ sites.

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