Google News: Will More Voices Lend Clarity or Distortion?

Citizen journalism took another step forward this week as Google News is making it possible for its U.S. users to comment on stories. Here's the catch: Those users must be directly or indirectly involved with that story.

On one hand, this could be a valuable service to readers in that people involved in a story, but who weren't quoted or interviewed by reporters in the original story, can offer new details that lend a different perspective. Readers could benefit from a more three-dimensional view of events.

On the other hand, however, this could open the door to users who want to purposely distort information that might be difficult for reporters to confirm. It also could allow too many users in, to the point that all perspective on events disappears in a cacophony of contradictory comments.

Yahoo debuted a similar undertaking last year but abandoned it when too many readers used a story as an excuse to preach on other non-related topics.

Google officials said they will have a verification process in place: A user must e-mail Google some sort of credential along with their comments, and then a Google staffer will attempt to confirm their identity via a domain name check and e-mail follow-up. If users pass the screening, then their comments will appear with the online story.

The key to the success of this effort will be in its moderators, and whether they possess the editorial judgment to make the proper decisions. So what say ye, citizens? Is it yea or nay on this new evolution of online journalism? Let me know at [email protected].

IBM Signs On To Build World's Fastest Computer
Even before its development is underway, a proposed supercomputer to be built by IBM for the National Science Foundation, reportedly to be the world's fastest, is causing some controversy.

According to documents that were accidentally placed on a federal government Web site, the proposed system would cost about $200 million to build and be located at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The system, which Illinois officials are calling "Blue Waters," would be the first computer capable of carrying out some one thousand trillion mathematical operations a second.

However, word that the contract would be awarded to IBM has generated more than a little concern among some computer scientists who are specialists in creating high-performance computers. Apparently, their concerns focus on the contract raising questions about "impartiality and political influence."

"The process needs to be above all suspicion," said Horst D. Simon, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., in a New York Times story. "It's in the interest of the national community that there is not even a cloud of suspicion, and there already is one."

The proposed system figures to attract the planet's most advanced scientific research projects, but unlike the vast majority of supercomputers used in academic settings, this one will serve a handful of Grand Challenge science projects, such as simulating the impact of global warming.

IBM Software Chief Disses Microsoft SOA Strategy
Speaking of warming things up, IBM heated up its competition with Microsoft in the SOA market this week. Steve Mills, head of IBM's $19 billion Software Group, said Microsoft is offering merely a "lightweight messaging infrastructure," and that its overall approach has been significantly slowed by its steadfast focus on linking Microsoft-compatible processes.

On the other hand, IBM, Mills said, is focusing its SOA-based strategies on all platforms and applications which attempts to integrate a much wider range of technologies compared to Microsoft's focus on Windows platforms. This, he says, represents a "profound difference."

"SOA is not just about the message-passing architecture, which is why Microsoft SOA is significantly different from IBM," Mills said. "The [Microsoft Developer Network] mechanism is a lightweight messaging infrastructure in a message-based environment, whereas IBM delivers a fully functioning infrastructure."

Mills took another jab at Microsoft by saying that another important difference between the two companies' approaches is that IBM uses open standards for both XML and Web services. Microsoft and IBM have long bickered over XML standards, with Microsoft leaning toward Office Open XML and IBM favoring the Open Document Format (ODF) open source standard.

Mailbag: Making the Switch to Linux
So, who among us have made the switch to Linux? Lafe asked, and readers answered:

We are migrating all but legacy servers to Linux, making use of virtualization (VMware and VirtualBox) and have a number of users moving to Linux on the desktop. Interoperability is not perfect, but the majority of the problems are caused by proprietary variations on standards. Better control of Windows Server and desktop patching is helping to improve matters.

The migration continues...

Have I made the switch to Linux? Yes, I have switched my home computer from Windows XP to dual-booting Sidux (Debian Sid) and XP and usually one other Linux distro. I haven't seen my XP OS in close to six months now (is it still there?). I have not had any issues, security or otherwise, since I installed Sidux about four months ago. I have tried several other Linux distributions from Ubuntu to PCLinuxOS and have settled on Sidux.

I am an IT manager for a Microsoft shop. And technically, yes, we have Linux at the office, as well, if you count the OS of our two firewalls. I am also testing a security suite of appliances based on Knoppix.

As a division network manager in an educational institution, so far we have adopted Linux for one out of five servers. It is a low-use production server that is in use mostly as a proof-of-concept server providing SMB, SFTP, SSH, HTTP and MySQL services. The goal was to create an AD-integrated Linux server, and using OpenSuSE 10.2, it works great. In fact, server response times are better for this system on lesser hardware than on any of the other servers (all Windows Server 2003). This was a migration from an older Fedora Core 2 system that was not AD-integrated, and provided only SFTP and SSH services.

I have also experimented with Linux as a desktop system, and it's not quite ready yet. For my users, there are certain LoB apps that have no Linux equivalent or require IE 6 (yes, IE 7 breaks the apps). For myself, I have yet to find adequate tools for Linux to administer AD users and computers. AD is implemented at the enterprise level, so migrating to another directory service such as Open Directory is not an option.

I have, not by choice, used Knoppix 5.1 to retrieve data from my home computer hard drive after XP suffered an OS corruption and would not boot. I booted from the Knoppix boot CD and was able to transfer over 30GB of data, including 2GB of family photos, to an external FireWire device prior to reloading the OS onto the computer. So while I have not "loaded it" onto my computer, I am more than happy to keep this CD as part of my emergency repair tool kit (it is better than the one Microsoft has provided). I will probably load the OS onto an old Dell laptop I have just to give it a good trial.

I, like most Linux users, have made the switch from Windows, and since early 2006 have run no operating system other than Ubuntu. My first experience with Linux was probably in 2001, when I tried out Corel OpenLinux Lite. This installed OK, but I had a number of conceptual difficulties with it (What is "mounting" a device? Why didn't the book explain? Why should it have to?), and could not get a GUI to function. So I tried various distributions, none of which worked out for me, and there was a period of time when I only ran Windows again. I rediscovered Linux with Ubuntu 5.10.

Now, it is almost two years later. I don't run Windows (on my laptop nor desktop); I have no need to. My sister doesn't run Windows; she has no need to. My father shares his hard drive space between Ubuntu and Windows XP (which is required for his work). They don't require me for any technical support (even when interacting with Windows machines on a network), as the Ubuntu system is exceptionally straightforward, and get everything for free: software and an amazing community for support.

It is not just the free price of the software that we have learned to appreciate. That we can all see and modify the code, that this is guaranteed by the license, is what makes it so special, and so fast-moving. Development is happening at exponentially increasing rates as more attention is attracted, and because anyone can contribute. This has led to the modularity of the system, and the package manager.

Recently, I have been advocating the principles of open source software, protocols and formats as much as I can. I strongly believe that if the motive to take profit from others for oneself was removed and replaced by a drive to produce good, interoperable software, then the whole industry would benefit. Truly, I find it hard to see how this cannot be the case, although I am aware of niches where proprietary systems are required to keep people alive -- but then, why not just open up the protocols and formats, keeping the software closed? This would increase competition, and thus innovation, as developers would implement and extend the specifications.

Join the fray! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.


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