PDA

View Full Version : OT, accuracy of info you get on the web



DR
05-26-2011, 03:31 PM
On another forum there was a discussion about a certain machine.

I was of one opinion about it's capability, several others were of a differing opinions. We were all wrong.

I Googled on the machine and found quite a number for sale on ebay, at dealers, CL, etc. Of the first ten hits, 6 had the same incorrect info. Of all that I read none were correct, most omitted the specifics so it's not certain whether the sellers knew the correct spec.

What blows me away about this is it appears the erroneous info has spread like wild fire. Since the spec in question is not apparent by examining the machine, it must have come from net searches. Info-wise, it was the blind following the blind.

I remember my grade school teacher saying don't believe it just because its in print.

Evan
05-26-2011, 03:41 PM
Any time you are looking for information first try going to the original source. The manufacturer, the government agency, the university or the statistics bureau etc. When I find something that looks interesting the first thing I do is search using an entire sentence from the article as the search term, placed in quotes. If it turns up more than a few hits then I know it is an example of everyone quoting everyone else, usually originally from Wikipedia. It can easily turn into a completely circular cluster fuk where nobody has an actual authoritative source from which the information was obtained.

DR
05-26-2011, 03:59 PM
.................................................. .............

When I find something that looks interesting the first thing I do is search using an entire sentence from the article as the search term, placed in quotes. If it turns up more than a few hits then I know it is an example of everyone quoting everyone else,

.................................................. .............


Yes, I've noticed that also. Surprising how often an exact phrasing will be repeated on a number of different sites.

Forrest Addy
05-26-2011, 06:18 PM
Bad info like counterfeit money drives out the good especially on the web where sage advice carefully spoken is often smothered by glib insanity .

We need a concise little Latin phrase like "caveat emptor" for information seekers. "Caveat Veritatis cupitor" maybe. Sounds cumbersome to me.

Dr Stan
05-26-2011, 06:25 PM
One needs to consider the info from the web roughly equivalent to what one would hear at the local coffee shop in the morning. Some of it is quite accurate, but there is also plenty of BS. The key is learning how to sort and sift though the mess to find the legit stuff.

tyrone shewlaces
05-26-2011, 07:03 PM
My quotes come either off the top of my head or the seat of my pants, so if it's coming from me you can at least count on it being original if not factual.
:p

Optics Curmudgeon
05-26-2011, 09:03 PM
"The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you can't be sure of their validity"

-Abraham Lincoln

Greg Q
05-26-2011, 10:26 PM
"The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you can't be sure of their validity"

-Abraham Lincoln

Thank you. I had a good belly laugh at that.

Pete F
05-26-2011, 10:38 PM
"The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you can't be sure of their validity"

-Abraham Lincoln

Now that is funny! :D

-Pete

danlb
05-26-2011, 11:44 PM
While there is a lot of bad info, there is a lot of good info too. I learned how to run a lathe by reading various web sites.


Dan

fixerdave
05-27-2011, 01:26 AM
On the flip side... at least with Google you can, quite often, dig down to the original source in a reasonable amount of time.

I suspect the percentage of bad info is about the same as the pre-web days. It's just that there's orders of magnitude more information available now, just sitting in your living room easy to get at. People have always been wrong, even the experts. It's just a lot more obvious now that you can view multiple sources in near instant succession. Thus, rather than the truth being buried under mountains of repeated mistakes, it is often the case that if you get enough information out there then the truth can rise to the surface, where it never would have before.

Here's a good example... again, quoting the web off the top of my head. They did a recent study on the medical profession. It appears that something like 40% of the time, your average North American doctor is wrong and proscribes treatment that contradicts current knowledge. At that rate, you're probably better off getting medical advice from Google. Granted, medical knowledge is changing pretty fast these days. That's the main reason I like metalworking... a 50 year old book is still full of useful info - and yes, some of it is probably wrong, or still wrong after 50 years. Authors are no better than doctors; everyone makes mistakes.

David...

Pete F
05-27-2011, 01:44 AM
quoting the web off the top of my head ... 40% of the time, your average North American doctor is wrong

I'm tempted, but I'm not going to go there... :p

-Pete

J Tiers
05-27-2011, 08:36 AM
People with agendas, or an interest in wrong info, have a large , free, audience on the web.....

There has been apparently a problem with corporate folks going around and editing wikipedia entries to be favorable to their own company, or unfavorable to a competitor. When information can be so easily manipulated, it is a problem.

of course it can be as easily publicized that the manipulation occurred. Then it becomes a fight of "he" said vs "she" said, escalating to "he" said vs "THEY" said, which "obviously" means "he" is wrong, since "so many" people don't agree (even if they are the same person 200 times).

it's particularly useful politically...... if you recall the "definition of miserable failure" a few years ago, a "google bomb" directed at GWB.........

And then there are the rumors that spread even in face-to-face communications..... and all the faster if communication is instant from anywhere to anywhere else.

Small wonder that ignorance spreads its message so well...... usually ignorance produces a more "spectacular" story than "truth" does, so it is repeated more often.

An example.... someone was spreading the thought that machinists "all die from cancer" because touching the alloy metals brings those deadly alloying metals into your bloodstream...... it's far more spectacular as a concept than the truth is.

toyjeep73
05-27-2011, 08:44 AM
Machinists all die from cancer because touching the alloy metals brings those deadly alloying metals into your bloodstream.......

How long before that is wikifact?

justanengineer
05-27-2011, 09:06 AM
Wikipedia is by far one of the worst sources of information on the internet IMHO, which is the reason many teachers/schools will not accept quotations or citations from it. Many times during college I would research a topic and read the Wiki info anyway...quite often it got a chuckle for its absurdity.

With regards to learning anything relating to a trade or machine operating, if my only source of information was the internet then I would sell my tools and be done with it. A large portion of it is just wrong. No sense in harming perfectly good tools due to my own ignorance.

GerryR
05-27-2011, 09:17 AM
Oh, I don't know about all this. The older I get, the less I realize I know. Then came the internet. I didn't realize how many geniuses are out there. What I can't figure out is why, with all this genius around, we're in the shape we are in as a nation, or the world for that matter.

KillerMike
05-27-2011, 10:36 AM
57% of all stats are just made up on the spot.

fixerdave
05-27-2011, 11:17 AM
57% of all stats are just made up on the spot.

Pretty close... the average of the first page of google hits on this comes out to 60%, so it must be true :) Yeah, I actually googled this and did the math... must be reading too many XKCD comics. For the record, it ranges from 27% up to 91%... the average is 60% on the first page. How about that, real stats about made up stats... it's getting late, time to go to bed.

fixerdave
05-27-2011, 11:44 AM
Oh, I don't know about all this. The older I get, the less I realize I know. Then came the internet. I didn't realize how many geniuses are out there. What I can't figure out is why, with all this genius around, we're in the shape we are in as a nation, or the world for that matter.

Lawyers.

Really, one lawyer must be able to negate the brilliant ideas of hundreds, if not thousands of smart people. Go ahead, try to give a good idea away to some company. They just go "la la la, we can't hear you." Too afraid of being sued. Stupid lawyers.

Besides that, the world really isn't in that bad of shape, all things considered. Wars are much less frequent, and smaller when they do happen. The population problem has gone from peaking at 20 billion or so down to 9 billion, which is still a lot but actually, maybe, manageable. While terrorist nuclear bombing is becoming more likely, total nuclear war is much less likely than it was.

The Boomers get a bad rap, but really they went to sleep wondering if the world was going to end before they woke up. The generation of whiners we have today are worried that global warming might make the sea levels rise in 100 years. As for the economy, it's just getting back to normal. The 50's were just so spectacularly good for the middle class that it's skewing everyone's perception.

Really, if you look around and compare to most of human history, things are pretty awesomely great. Right now, the average human is less likely to die in war, less likely to be hungry, and more able to choose how they live than ever before. It's pretty obvious if you step back, look at the whole world, and expand your time-scale. How's that for getting way, way off topic :)

Weston Bye
05-27-2011, 12:05 PM
I was the recipient of a mutitude of widely-circulated e-mails, one of which cautioned that using cruise control on icy roads could cause the car to speed up to a hunded miles an hour and loose control under certain circumstances.

Knowing what I think I knew about cruise control, I replied to the multitude of recipients (a simple "reply to all")that the e-mail could be right about loosing control, but for the wrong reasons; the driving wheels might stay at the preset speed while the vehicle was actually slowing, resulting in loss of traction and control.

Nobody ever challenged me about this, but I never received any more of the chain e-mails. :D

Evan
05-27-2011, 02:08 PM
It is pretty easy to find accurate information on the web, as long as it isn't statistics. Any sort of statistical information is open to doubt no matter who compiles it. Unless you know exactly how and when the information was compiled and the precise method by which it was obtained and the questions asked the statistics are both questionable and impossible to verify. That includes government statistics.

I am a member of the Angus Reid online polling service and answer polls several times per month. I do it because my opinions carry a lot of weight with a lot of high level decision makers that way. Instead of being just one person out of 35 million in Canada I am one person out of a couple of thousand that determine how decisions are made by all sorts of decision makers.

It is interesting to see how the polls are constructed. In particular, when certain questions are asked the possible answers often produce a bias in one way or another by what is left out of the possible answers.

MCS
05-27-2011, 03:42 PM
In the 1980's I designed a couple of racing motorcycles. One won a national championchip and was 9th in the world championchip.

So these motorcycles pop up every now and then on the internet. One is already copied twice. On one I forbid to use my name, just because I don't want to be associated with the life threatening standard of construction.

So I know from the first hand how internet works. And there is nothing I can do to even slightly correct it. I just designed them, so what do I know about them, compared to the enormous knowledge of the selfpronounced historians?

It's impossible to block the flood of false information, the right attitude is sit back and smile.

Only Wikipedia is on spot. They had me in my original town, I moved, they lost me and now they guess I live in Holland, which is a right guess, although it's still a guess.

jack3140
05-27-2011, 07:27 PM
"The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you can't be sure of their validity"

-Abraham Lincoln
now that proves it lol :)

Ernie
05-27-2011, 07:59 PM
I've been doing as Evan said and I search for at least a large part of the sentence. I may get a half dozen hits with that exact same sentence. Not only are the sentences identical, but he rest of the paragraph is identical too, complete with the exact same typing mistakes. Who's copying who?
Ernie

beanbag
05-28-2011, 07:22 AM
One needs to consider the info from the web roughly equivalent to what one would hear at the local coffee shop in the morning. Some of it is quite accurate, but there is also plenty of BS. The key is learning how to sort and sift though the mess to find the legit stuff.

Thank you for that insightful and helpful comment.

Abner
05-28-2011, 08:06 AM
Lawyers.

Really, one lawyer must be able to negate the brilliant ideas of hundreds, if not thousands of smart people. Go ahead, try to give a good idea away to some company. They just go "la la la, we can't hear you." Too afraid of being sued. Stupid lawyers.

Besides that, the world really isn't in that bad of shape, all things considered. Wars are much less frequent, and smaller when they do happen. The population problem has gone from peaking at 20 billion or so down to 9 billion, which is still a lot but actually, maybe, manageable. While terrorist nuclear bombing is becoming more likely, total nuclear war is much less likely than it was.

The Boomers get a bad rap, but really they went to sleep wondering if the world was going to end before they woke up. The generation of whiners we have today are worried that global warming might make the sea levels rise in 100 years. As for the economy, it's just getting back to normal. The 50's were just so spectacularly good for the middle class that it's skewing everyone's perception.

Really, if you look around and compare to most of human history, things are pretty awesomely great. Right now, the average human is less likely to die in war, less likely to be hungry, and more able to choose how they live than ever before. It's pretty obvious if you step back, look at the whole world, and expand your time-scale. How's that for getting way, way off topic :)

On Lawyers-
But when you need one you need one and you want a frickin good one at that. Having spent to much time around them lately, I prefer them to lying witnesses.
You are correct - it is a great time to be alive. May that continue to be true.

Rustybolt
05-28-2011, 09:08 AM
"accuracy of info you get on the web"


Judging from my own experience, you've got a 50/50 chance of anything being correct.

SGW
05-28-2011, 04:44 PM
See my signature.... :D

Mcgyver
05-28-2011, 05:11 PM
Lawyers.

Really, one lawyer must be able to negate the brilliant ideas of hundreds, if not thousands of smart people. Go ahead, try to give a good idea away to some company. They just go "la la la, we can't hear you." Too afraid of being sued. Stupid lawyers.


What have lawyers to do with it? They're, imo, a reaction not the cause. First off only a small percentage of lawyers are litigators, secondly, if the ridiculous rewards and case decisions lead to unsavory and intimidating practices (they do, on that I think we agree) blame the cause; the bloody judges, juries and legislators that created the playing field and the clients that engage litigators to take advantage of it.

lazlo
05-28-2011, 06:32 PM
What have lawyers to do with it?

Nothing. This thread is just a bitch session. Especially amusing since a great deal of the "information" posted here is cut-and-pasted from Google searches :)

I also find it amusing that so many are convinced that Wikipedia is rife with factual errors, when Wikipedia is edited by the masses.

Truth by consensus. It's a weird concept, but then again your high school history book was written by some nameless author -- do you prefer "truth" according to one person, or a large group of people?

Evan
05-28-2011, 06:46 PM
do you prefer "truth" according to one person, or a large group of people?


You pose a false dilemma. I prefer truth from those that know it, be it an individual, an organization, a corporation, a policy making body or an entire government. You don't always find truth there but the chances are a great deal better than dealing with masses of people that don't understand the difference between belief and knowledge.

PeteF
05-28-2011, 07:12 PM
Nothing. This thread is just a bitch session. Especially amusing since a great deal of the "information" posted here is cut-and-pasted from Google searches :)

I also find it amusing that so many are convinced that Wikipedia is rife with factual errors, when Wikipedia is edited by the masses.

Truth by consensus. It's a weird concept, but then again your high school history book was written by some nameless author -- do you prefer "truth" according to one person, or a large group of people?

Amen Brother! I think the worst examples of internet BS are the "experts" on various BBs who pretend they have an enormous amount of personal expertise in the subject area, when in fact all they do is use Google to regurgitate what they find on the net, or simply forcefully present an opinion as a "fact". The problem is often that while the information is correct, it is correct only in a specific context. A classic example of this lies in medicine, yes you can Google all sorts of specifics about a medical condition, but that doesn't make anyone a doctor. It's one thing to be informed and work WITH a knowledgeable person in the field, it's completely another to start telling somebody who is properly trained in the area how to suck eggs. To consider themselves immune to this fact would be Darwin's theory at its finest I'd say! I have personally experienced people try to TELL me how my job works, based upon a quick Google search on their behalf. More often than not they've been completely wrong simply because they don't properly understand the basic fundamentals. Those who have completed formal education know only too well that the first part of the course can be filled with what sometimes appears to be esoteric details seemingly unrelated to the end goal. That's not a coincidence. That's the foundation of one's thorough knowledge of the field, if it was just as easy as looking up Google, everyone would simply complete only the final year of their degree and declare themselves qualified.

Pete

Dr Stan
05-28-2011, 09:34 PM
It is pretty easy to find accurate information on the web, as long as it isn't statistics. Any sort of statistical information is open to doubt no matter who compiles it. Unless you know exactly how and when the information was compiled and the precise method by which it was obtained and the questions asked the statistics are both questionable and impossible to verify. That includes government statistics.

Amen to that comment Evan. One can "prove" anything with stats by manipulating the data and/or using statistical tests that will generate the answer(s) one desires. One of my favorite stat books is titled "How to lie with Statistics" and there is also the famous quote "liars, damn liars, and statisticians." :D

PeteF
05-28-2011, 11:50 PM
Amen to that comment Evan. One can "prove" anything with stats by manipulating the data and/or using statistical tests that will generate the answer(s) one desires. One of my favorite stat books is titled "How to lie with Statistics" and there is also the famous quote "liars, damn liars, and statisticians." :D

Oh yeah, big time. Indeed I'd go one further than that and say many of the "studies" are often fundamentally rigged to achieve the outcome desired. I've only done one original study in my own name, but you can bet your sweet whatsit that I knew the "answer" I wanted to achieve before I formulated the questions and selected my sample. It was all scientifically and statistically valid, totally rock solid in that regard, but there was little likelihood at arriving at anything other than my desired outcome. Endless examples of that can typically be found, where a rogue study "proves" xxxx, despite thousands of other studies, and even generally accepted wisdom suggesting otherwise. Indeed the Economist recently did a piece on this very subject, where many years ago high profile scientists were employed by tobacco companies to "prove" that there was in fact no link between smoking and cancer.

Be a sceptic ;)

Pete

loose nut
05-29-2011, 11:49 AM
Lawyers.

Really, if you look around and compare to most of human history, things are pretty awesomely great. Right now, the average human is less likely to die in war, less likely to be hungry, and more able to choose how they live than ever before. It's pretty obvious if you step back, look at the whole world, and expand your time-scale. :)

True unless you live in most of Africa or much of the Middle East.

loose nut
05-29-2011, 11:53 AM
If you really want the truth then there is only one reliable place to get it.

From me. Only believe what I tell you.

Look into my eyes:eek:, you are getting sleepy, you will believe what ever I tell you. You will send me your money and carbide inserts and.........

lazlo
05-29-2011, 12:37 PM
I prefer truth from those that know it, be it an individual, an organization, a corporation, a policy making body or an entire government.

Outside of science, there's rarely a single truth -- more often a point of view. The American Indian version of history of the United States is quite different than the European emigrant version.


“History is written by the victors.”

or more depressing (and probably more apropos to current events):


"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'"

SGW
05-29-2011, 12:50 PM
Even those who are supposed to know "the truth" may choose to tell you something else.

And it often does depend on one's point of view: "One person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter," etc.

There may be some definite truths. It is irrefutably true, for example, that high carbon steel contains more carbon than low carbon steel, but the questions of living are seldom that simplistic.

Evan
05-29-2011, 02:13 PM
"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'"

"Wells, 1984"

When you step into the realm of politics or beliefs (much the same thing) then there are no absolute truths. The "truths" I refer to are simple matters of fact such as the specifications of equipment, scientific principles, physical properties, matters of law, enumeration and documentation of any sort.

J Tiers
05-30-2011, 11:50 PM
Even "wikipedia" is not an unredeemable swamp......

If you want certain types of info, you may be taking your chances. Anyone just about can post info, and if they cite references, they likely won't be challenged, at least for some time.

But I have found little wrong in the topics related to math and engineering..... although many are written in ways that make them less than useful.

Not that there is total perfection, just that I have not personally found wrong info when poking around those areas of the wikipedia.

PeteF
05-31-2011, 12:16 AM
I know for a fact, at least in Australia, Wikipedia is not considered a reliable source to cite and won't be accepted when presenting university papers. Personally I find it normally relatively good, but ultimately everybody, yet nobody, is responsible for the accuracy of the material it contains.

Pete

Evan
05-31-2011, 01:11 AM
But I have found little wrong in the topics related to math and engineering..... although many are written in ways that make them less than useful.



That is true. The reason it is true is because it isn't a matter of disputable facts that require references to verify. All it requires is a knowledge of the formal logic and first principles that apply to the subject at hand. Such logic isn't subject to interpretation and isn't a matter of belief.