More from the Scary Front Lines

by Roger Pynn

I’m not sure what I’m more frightened by … the increasingly common use of unidentified sources by what I used to think of as respectable media outlets or the steady movement toward an online world where your most trusted source is totally anonymous.

Google’s acquisition of a company Mechanical Zoo Inc., operators of a social media search service known as Aardvark was reported by The Wall Street Journal’s Scott Morrison suggesting a price of the transaction by quoting a blog that it said cited an unnamed source.

“Terms weren’t disclosed, but tech blog TechCrunch, citing an unnamed source, pegged the price at about $50 million.”

But, having assumed that those standards are about as important today as teen virginity, I moved on to explore the story because Google has been up to some pretty intriguing stuff in the past week as it scrambles to capitalize on its cloud power to rain on Facebook’s parade with Buzz, and its ability to turn your contacts file into a personalized social network.

By gobbling up Aardvark, Google seems to have done away with the need for confirmed sources not just in the news business, but in our lives. I often refer back to my partner Dan Ward’s classic post back “In Anonymous We Trust,” but this takes our willingness to trust blind sources to a new level.

Listen to this faux conversation that Aardvark uses on its Web site to demonstrate the process it uses in its free question and answer system where Morrison says you ask question and it searches your network of social media contacts for the best person to answer:

Questioner: What’s a great bike path around Golden Gate Park? (Sent 11:16 a.m. PDT)
Responder: My favorite is a secret trail that takes you to the beach … (Sent 11:20 a.m. PDT)

Notice to Questioner: Did you ever stop to think Responder may be a predator? Why not just jump into a conversation with “it” and see if you can get directions to hook up? Maybe we’ll read about you in The Examiner when they find your remains next week “alongside a secret trail that leads to the beach in Golden Gate Park.”

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