Thursday, September 25, 2008

Baby Steps Towards Blogosphere Credibility

Millions of citizens are regularly updating their blogs or posting YouTube videos with the idealistic hope of being “the one” who exposes the truth. They dream of being a hero among amateur writers by posting what they believe will shed light on a scandal with the government or a corporate giant.

Allowing the average Joe to voice their opinions so freely through the Web 2.0 revolution has had a twofold effect. In some respects, it provides additional checks and balances on our government, major media vehicles, and big corporations. The downfall is that most of these postings are based solely on opinion without credible sources. Without integrity, these writers are almost immediately cast off as being radical conspiracy theorists. Some postings are simply perpetuating rumors, while others make valid points but with little to no proof to back them up.

I found one blog on that I found to hold some validity. The blog was originally posted on, a medical student’s blogging site to discuss medicine and genetics using Web 2.0 tools. While politics and pop culture can be heavily debated, I still like to believe that science can provide irrefutable facts and I therefore turned to a medical blog to seek some truth.

The blog discusses Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, and his announcement that he has a predisposition to Parkinson’s disease. Brin claims to have discovered this through the use of 23andMe, a personalized genetic company co-founded by his wife. In Brin’s blog, he exaggerates and sensationalizes his findings and claims he has an 80 percent chance of having Parkinson’s later in life, and goes on to say how happy he is he discovered this early through the use of 23andMe.

The blog refutes Brin’s claims by having Steve Murphy, a genetics fellow at Yale University, analyze Brin’s data. Murphy claims that Brin’s statements were completely embellished. Brin does not carry the gene that is the leading cause of Parkinson’s, and if he did, it would not ensure him to have an 80 percent chance of contracting it.

This blog did not receive an outrageous amount of press attention. There were no books written about it or guest spots for the author on any late night talk shows. However, his well organized, logical posting did expose the Google founder as a man who misinterpreted genetic data to gain media attention for his wife’s cause. If more blogs could be this rational and fact based, blogs may be accepted as a legitimate source of information and more credit could be given to the amateur.

Despite this blog and other’s significant findings, I still prefer good old fashioned articles and books, like the glory days of Woodward and Berstein, to crack a conspiracy theory.

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