What is fisking?
As the inimitable Bill Safire described
"Another good blog term is to fisk, from Robert Fisk, a U.K. journalist. That's when you take an article and reprint it on your blog adding your line-by-line critique. It comes from bloggers doing that to Fisk's work, and now you'll hear 'That was some fisking of Bush's State of the Union.' "
Fisking is a methodology for responding to information is a systematic and detailed way. It is characterized by:
Granularity - talking about specifics. Facts. Evidence. Reasoning. Conclusions.
Accuracy - Not countering BS with more BS
Logical reasoning - Many people use arguments that persuade instead of prove. This is true lowering of the quality of debate, and good fisking pushes back on that.
Citing sources - The point of fisking an article is to show that the writer's position is on weak ground. That is best done by citing credible evidence of such (not just somebody else's opinion that they are wrong).
Civility - Fisking is adult criticism of the issues. People will not read something if it's written by a petulant child. Life is too short.
Fisking is also typically characterized by seriousness, but to be honest, it's not required by the form. (For an example, see James Joyner's fisking of the Declaration of Independence, below.)
A fisking of an article will often be the most useful critique of the other person's argument for someone who wants to synthesize their own well informed understanding of the issue, regardless of their own position. Because it is detailed, a fisking is almost never a lazy contradiction of an argument (i.e. a whole article that just says, "Nuh uh!" You're probably read many of these.)
Here are some great examples of fisking:
At Fiskkit, we have decided to take that methodology, web-ify it with an intuitive interface, and scale it up.
The idea is to take the methodology of fisking and combine it with the Wisdom of Crowds recently expounded by James Surowiecki and a little bit of statistics to see if we can synthesize some things (truth, information, civility) better than if we all just work on our own.
We think we can.