Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Information or Opinion - which is it?

Do you remember the Australian comedian, Clive James, and his frequent, hilarious references to the ‘Information Super-Highway’, back in the days when, for many of us, the internet was some strange new activity for teenage boys and their friends that required them to closet themselves in their bedrooms for hours on end and resulted in huge telephone bills?

That phrase, ‘The Information Super-Highway’ and Clive James’s descriptions of getting lost in the side roads and back alleys of the internet, are often in my mind as I hunt down some small piece of information and find myself, hours later, none the wiser but having read up on all sorts of other interesting but irrelevant subjects!

Who needs books when you can get what you want from the internet? To be sure, there’s a vast amount of information out there on the web – so much that it’s a rare thing for me to buy a non-fiction book these days! Why pay good money for a book that I may only refer to a couple of times a year when I can just look up what I need to know on the internet? Wonderful!

A few years ago I even taught myself to teach reading using Synthetic Phonics entirely through reading articles on the internet and participating in the relevant discussion forums. And in the past year or so, I’ve learnt a huge amount about greeting card design, illustration, marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, blogging... I should think there must be thousands, possibly millions, of articles, hubpages, lenses and blogs giving advice about blogging alone!

 But I’ve discovered that we need to be very careful. Some of what passes for‘information’ would be better categorised as ‘opinion’. Sometimes, if the article or blog is written with enough authority, it’s easy to forget that it’s just the author’s opinion and not necessarily based on hard evidence. Anyone with a smattering of information can, by adopting a tone of authority, pass themselves off as an ‘expert’, especially if they make liberal use of bullet points!

When we are hungry for advice or information, it’s very easy to swallow what we read, hook line and sinker. A new and enthusiastic learner will soak up ‘information’ like a sponge, without filtering out the ‘opinion’. It was when I noticed the contradictions in some of the ‘information’ and advice about blogging that I realised that I needed to be more selective about what I take on board and what I reject.

Contradictory advice is the clue
On the subject of blogging alone, some advise us to post everyday, others advise several times a day, while yet others strongly suggest we should not post too often! Respond to all comments, respond to just some comments...turn your comments off! Let your personality come through – don’t get too personal, nobody’s interested in you...and so it goes on!

In the end we have to decide for ourselves what is sound, useful advice and what is someone just churning out yet another blog post. Sometimes it’s hard for the novice to know what to believe and what not to, in which case, the only way is to ‘suck it and see’.

There will always be people with different ideas about the best way forward – that’s the way of the world. But when we’re just starting out on our learning curve, one of the first things we need to learn to do is to distinguish between solid, tried and tested, information and mere opinion masquerading as information. It’s important if we are to avoid wandering down roads to nowhere.......


Ulla said...

Very important and very interesting article! In my opinion everybody who gets her information via the internet has to have the ability to scan very quickly, having some questions in his mind: What is the content of this article/blogpost? Does it have new information for me or is it just a brew of things already said? Is it opinion, but one which makes me think? What do I gain from it?

Standoutloud said...

Well said. The thing to remember is that there is always more than one way to do things. Just because it worked for someone else does not necessarily mean it will work for you. The best thing is to remember that you are an individual and to be yourself in everything you do.

Disclaimer. This is just my opinion however and not fact.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you both for your comments.

Ulla, I think you're quite right; with so much written content available on the internet, I agree that it's important to be able to quickly sum up whether something will be useful (or interesting/entertaining) to read or not. Otherwise we could find ourselves completely overloaded!

Standoutloud - thank you for pointing out that what works for one may not work for another. So in a sense, what is in fact useful 'information' for one person may be nothing of the sort for others!

Overall, I think we need to train ourselves to read critically if it doesn't come naturally.

starrybluesky said...

Also, even though the "information superhighway" is not brand new any more - neither is everything cut and dried and the so-called " experts" - or rather "gurus" as they frequently style themselves,are only a couple of steps ahead of a novice.

Off to have a look at your art now :)

Country Mouse Studio said...

So true about not believing all you read. I too don't buy books or magazines anymore, there are too many interesting blog posts, like this one

Judy Adamson said...

Hi starrybluesky - thank you for stopping by and reminding us that experts are now calling themselves gurus and whatever they call themselves we must decide for ourselves whether their 'advice' is worth taking. The internet is so unimaginably vast and largely unmonitored so anyone can publish their views and advice. So we need to remember to be just that little bit more vigilant than we would with books and magazines which would at least have gone through some sort of editorial process.

Thanks, Carole - I hope I always make it clear that when I offer suggestions or even advice, it's just my view or opinion and not 'written in stone'!

Art Information said...

Art Information

Art Information said...

Art is amazingly subjective. The process of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotion is the definition of art.

Art Information