What is happening to credibility in the online world

Before the onslaught of the world wide web, which is commonly referred to as the internet, credibility was attached to authority and the importance of the source that the authority was getting its knowledge from.

As an example, if you as a company had the stamp of an association on your letterhead that you were member of then it would depend on how many industry players were also members of the same association as to whether this stamp had any value.

If you operated in the construction industry and you were member of the Concrete Makers Association then the association would need to count as it’s members, all the big companies operating in the same space, as well as some government support and a sprinkling of academics.

High profile professors who had published papers in heavy domed journals on the topic of concrete would need to be around. Then you would need to have some scientists as members, preferably ones with a Nobel prize of some sort.

With that line-up assembled your membership to the Concrete Makers Association would be of some value because you could only be a member if you had the same high integrity and knowledge as the people and institutions involved. Or that’s what the public would imagine the case to be.

The British have a particularly strong love for this kind of association. And in general the word Royal gets put in front just so as to lend some additional weight to the institutions. So there’s a Royal Society of Medicine, The Royal Society which is so important they don’t even need to add who the society is for, The Royal Institute of Science and Art and the list goes on. There’s one for anything you can think of. There’s probably a waiting list for new members for all of these.

To confirm the seriousness, the premises these association and societies run from tend to be old with wooden panels, libraries of books, ancient retainers checking your signature and your membership and in many cases very few women members. Don’t want to lower the tone do we?

The internet has thrown this entire world up side down.

No more dusty clubs, leather chairs and smoking rooms, bars with special whiskeys, academic journals, Nobel prize winners and hallowed halls set up for networking opportunities.

Anybody can now post an article online. Anybody can become an expert, or be perceived to be an expert. Not much of the old credibility stamp is left. After all would you necessarily believe somebody to have a doctorate just by a few bits of the alphabet being stated after their name, when one can buy any degree online?

Of course the professions such as accountants, lawyers and doctors still have an aura of credibility around them which is not always warranted. There are a fair number of bad and even dangerous professionals around.

Credibility certainly has changed and has taken on an entirely new meaning. Users of the internet have developed their own way of assessing credibility and it is quite different to what it used to be.

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