Reasonable expectation of truth

Soap boxA lot of ideas have been mincing around my noggin lately, and I keep coming back to the immense volume of opinions, half-truths and in some cases blatant fabrications that are floated around the Web, getting either assimilated into the collective stack as truth or is deliberately passed off as truth and equally absorbed by the mass of web travelers.

The net, to a degree, has become a soapbox for anyone who not have a voice otherwise; which teeters on the fence between good and bad. I’m not so arrogant or presumptive to make a statement as to how the web is full of trash, or that blogs are 99% bad – I’ll leave that other, better known gabblers. It’s like the internet has become Speakers Corner in London, if I use this list from Scott Berkun, it is almost exactly parallel.

  1. It’s self-organized. Anyone can stand anywhere and start going.
  2. People get interactive. There’s lots of yelling and heckling.
  3. It’s mostly peaceful. No one is forced to speak or listen.
  4. Some of the speakers are amazing. They own their crowds without microphones, podiums, powerpoint – just them and their voices.

Here’s the problem: the expectation of truth has been severely overstated and in many cases completely misrepresented. People are constantly stating in many cases baseless opinions as fact, all the while people are swallowing it hook, line, and sinker. I’ve seen this in action many times before when I was hawking camera equipment in Portland. Some bloke would pop in and start on about how his buddy Jimbo said that this camera, scanner, lens, computer, monitor, or flash memory card was the best because…. the following dribble was just about always partially or entirely inaccurate, taken regardless, at more than face value because he has some casual acquaintance with this fellow. The exact same process repeats itself on the web, only it’s more pronounced.

I say this in part because of the influx of Web Design and Development sites that have popped up all over God’s Green Earth, all claiming to be the best provider of something, with truck-loads of experience and expertise and more than willing to wax poetic about it in their corporate blog. Just today I read an eMarketing piece (with 3 parts no less) which was all fluff. It had no meat in it at all and came to no conclusions based on the series title. Its sole purpose was to entice search spiders to crawl it and increase the ranking of their site by the not-so-clever use of keywords. Worse yet are the bloggers, developers, and whateverers that will post and spread erroneous information just because it is popular and will get them more hits. Flash is a favorite kicking target of half the web, and the other half seem to just repeat AJAX, AJAX, AJAX, like this is the magic phrase that will transport them to the land of SEO goodness. This is an excellent tactic when performed well, a one which I myself have implemented; the difference being that I try to research what I am writing about before I form or relay an opinion or post a (so-called) fact. Research is one of the most enjoyable parts of the writing process, which is in fact why I write. I enjoy learning more about the tools I use every day, and researching and sharing ideas about new ones.

How can we expect as a people that each other be honest, and perform due diligence to research information when our teachers, and paid Government officials are held to such low standards? When deception and lies have become such an integral part of society that it seems that, as a behavior, being deceitful is no longer deplorable – but admirable. We expect to be lied to.

I have no answers. None. Nope. Sorry. What I do have is simple advice to folks trying figure things out on the web. Read, read, read… then read some more. If it sounds too good or too bad to be true; flat out; it is.

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