Sunday, August 26, 2007

Where do you get *your* info from?

or, if you read something on the internet that isn't backed up by references, page numbers, and proof, don't believe it!

I have "Google Desktop" as my desktop, with several newsfeeds on it from various organizations. Occasionally I get logged out so that when I sign on to my computer, all I get is the "generic" Google desk top, and one of the features of this thing is called "How To Of The Day, a selection where people write and give advice on everything under the sun, from "How to Make a Bead Bugland (for Kids)"
to "How to Change a Bicycle Brake Cable" (those are today's selections) to how to avoid being bitten by a rattle snake, ya da ya da ya da.

And I look at those headlines and I just cringe. Just who are these people writing as if they are experts on the subject, and does anybody really believe they know what they're talking about? I like to think that anyone who, at the time of this writing, is over 30 will be too smart to trust anything written on the Internet, but today's generation, and generations to come, will look at the offerings on the internet, think "Well its in print so it must be true" and not realize that the material they're looking at was written, more likely than not, by some nebbish off the street and not some professional who gets paid to write what he or she knows.

There are plenty of places on the web where aspiring writers can publish their work instantaneously - because they're not paid for it. And if the website isn't paying them for their work - then what they're writing probably isn't any good. Sure, there are exceptions, but more often than not that's the case. Yet I have a sinking suspicion that anyone reading these sites takes anything said there as gospel... Frightening.

Frankly if I want to know how to avoid being bitten by a rattle snake I'm not going to trust what someone on the web says about it, I'll go to a library and get a print book on the subject. Unless I'm visiting not a "generic information" website but one that is devoted to herpetolpgy and one in which every writer has a bio that lists a university degree after the name, or at least decades of experience in the field.

Today, I'm finally able to post to groups at My Space. I was reading through various groups and, in my "Rockets Away! Space Travel Group" someone had posted a definition of a "sounding rocket." And this "someone" knew absolutely nothing about sounding rockets, but stated definitely what they were - rockets where loud noises were made by grenades or other instruments, and the sound and how long it traveled was measured from the ground- some nonsense like that. (The word "sound" in sounding rocket comes from the nautical term to "sound" or take measurements, and has nothing to do with noise as such, and certainly not measuring how long it takes the noise of a grenade exploding on a rocket to reach the ground.)

No one had bothered to respond to this person's post, even to point out that it was nonsense - until today when I did so.

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