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Is Digital Content Self-Correcting Through Crowdsourced Peer Review?

Posted by David Rothschild on Oct 4, 2011 9:04:00 AM

crowdsourced peer reviewOne of the most valuable tools that bloggers and digital content publications use as a source for edits is their user community. When a writer or organization either doesn’t have the resources for a standard editor or can’t cover the sheer volume of published works, they can  turn to their readers to point out grammatical errors, perform fact checking, and even scan content for cases of plagiarism.

This practice has occurred since the days of purely print media – when editors would (and still do) publish corrections to problem articles that were pointed out by readers. Nowadays, digital content is free-flowing and constantly changing – giving readers a chance to contribute in-real time to the end result of any piece of digital content.

This form is crowdsourcing is incredibly useful in pointing out errors and omissions that might otherwise escape a standard peer-review process. Even scientific research groups and publications are embracing ‘crowd sourced’ peer review to facilitate a better editorial process and tap the knowledge database of the entire research community.

One related story involves social media blog network Social Media Today. The site accepts contributions from a large volume of bloggers, and doesn’t necessarily have the editorial resources to screen every single submission. It’s a good thing that the Social Media Today audience was able to recently catch a few instances of plagiarism coming out of one particular blogger’s content. The readers alerted the community via comments about the infractions and the posts were promptly taken down by the company.

Social Media Today commented on the occurrence by congratulating the community: “Which raises an important point: While we work hard to maintain high editorial standards on our sites, we don't have the resources to check every post for originality. In the spirit of the blogosphere, we rely on our members to correct each other's mistakes.”

While it is a great defense to have a user community that is acting as a backup peer review process, it shouldn’t necessarily be a publication's only line of defense. This would be like relying on citizen's arrests to keep the peace – while it is a worthy notion it wouldn’t necessarily work out well. On any given day a citizen / user can decide to not care about grammar, fact checking or plagiarism – which leaves a publication with a big mess on their hands.

The best line of defense is to have a multi-layered peer-review process that involves several components, including standard editorial peer review, plagiarism checking software, as well as a well-versed user community that cares about the integrity of published content.


Murphy, McGill Richard.  "A Message to Our Bloggers."  Social Media Today LLC. September 27th, 2011.