Monday, September 15, 2008

Rumour on the Internet

In response to a recent incident in which the stock price of United Airlines (UAL), dropped from $12 to $3 in just 15 minutes, apparently in an over-reaction to an incorrect news story, Mark Palmer wants to Regulate News Market Data Sources.

As I pointed out in my post on Turbulent Markets, the regulation Mark proposes raises some interesting technical challenges, as well as calling into question the value of some of the rapid-response technology Mark himself is selling.

In any case, control of rumour sounds to me like one of the twelve labours of Hercules. Agatha Christie adopted exactly that interpretation of the Lernaean Hydra when she wrote twelve stories for Hercule Poirot based on the twelve labours).

So imagine my surprise when I heard on the radio news that Tim Berners-Lee was calling for broad controls of Internet rumour [Warning sounded on web's future, BBC News 15 September 2008]. How on earth is that going to work? Is he also planning to clean the Augean stables (internet porn)? What about capturing the Golden Stag of Artemis (Steve Jobs), the Erymanthian Boar (Steve Ballmer), the Cretan Bull (Larry Ellison), the Horse of Diomedes (Jonathan Schwartz) and Cerebus (Henning Kagermann). Have I forgotten anybody?

I put "Berners-Lee rumour" into a well-known search engine and found a page from March 2006 by Aleks Krotoski, called Tim Berners-Lee on the Semantic Web. According to Aleks, Tim graduated from Oxford University in 1989. (Actually it was 1976. As I pointed out in my earlier post Hasta La Vista, Tim is now old enough to read a book called The Internet for the Older Generation "especially written for the over-50s".)

Aren't you impressed that a search engine, tasked with "Berners-Lee rumour", finds a false rumour about Tim's age? Can the Semantic Web do the same?

(Okay, okay, I'm being sarcastic. Obviously the search didn't find the page with the false information on purpose. And it's not exactly difficult to find pages on the Internet with false information, is it?)

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