That’s the question the BBC is asking (link above). “What is there left when voices rise in debate without chairman or standing orders? You have babble, not Google,” they argue (an argument that is itself, of course, an editorial decision.) I don’t much care for the “chairman” analogy — I’m too much of an anarchist for that protofascist yearning for parental discipline — but it seems to me that the more the soup is stirred the higher the premium on a discriminating palate. As long as that palate can be recognized or appreciated.
Social bookmarking sites like Digg and Del.icio.us replace the editorial function with a kind of democratic free-for-all, largely unrestrained by any checks and balances. Which does present opportunities. But recent studies have shown that a small number of people are able to control most of the high-ranking articles on such sites through established networks.
Which system is better for protecting minority and alternative views? Are there other options? How can alternative viewpoints make themselves heard, when the whole world is tuned in to American Idol?