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The Age of Misinformation October 18, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in InformationIssues.
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Alas, here I am after months of avoiding blogging. The problem is that my head has been way too caught up with personal matters. But more recently I find myself time and time again consumed with anger during routine Google searches and so it is that I turn to the more savvy netizens (our fickle and fleeting reader base?) to uphold and support my cause–the death of Yahoo! Answers.

As a librarian and self-declared “information specialist” I have no problem admitting that I frequently turn to Wikipedia. While it is certainly no Encyclopedia Britannica, there are references that one can check. So when Wikipedia is returned by Google as the first or second hit, I can deal with it.

However, when Yahoo! Answers is returned in the first page of results (as it increasingly is) I wince inside, and then click on it. I can’t help it. It’s like driving past an accident; you can’t help but look. Not only have I found numerous highly-biased erroneous answers voted “best” by fellow commenters, but the subject matter of the questions concerns me even more. As a pregnant woman who often uses the internet to find quick answers (knowing, of course, that calling the doctor is the best and final way to go), I am shocked by how many people ask crucial, health-related questions.

What are the requirements for people submitting answers? There are none. And to add insult to injury, Yahoo! supplements answers with responses from their “Knowledge Partners”, aka corporate sponsors. As much as we librarians and savvier internet users try to stress the inaccuracy and dubiousness of such sites to our more trusting friends, we are often shrugged off as fuddy-duddy Luddites (have I mentioned I’m 27 by the way?). At the risk of sounding like a sensationalist, isn’t this just another step (or large leap) in the “dumbing down” of our country? I plead with you, as a fellow American, don’t click on Yahoo! Answers; don’t support it. And maybe someday in the not-so-distant-future it will just be a bad memory!

Copybot’s List of Interesting Wikipedia Articles February 20, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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In case you are counting down the hours until works ends (hmm…who could that be?), training for Jeopardy (also sounds familiar), or just want to kick your spouse’s/friend’s/lover’s butt at Trivial Pursuit (bingo!) here’s a great list of interesting articles on Wikipedia to keep yourself entertained. The list is from the Copybot blog and kept me entertained for a while. As a librarian, I’m all for vetted, published, researched and cited sources but I don’t think the “Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic”, “Globster”, or the “Harrowing of Hell” can be found in the Encyclopedia Britannica, or at least not in such detail. Have fun with this one!

Remember the Blackout in August 2003? December 23, 2009

Posted by dataduchess in Uncategorized.
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Yesterday’s post about the increase in visits to the New York Times website on the day of Michael Jackson’s death sparked an interesting comment from pupfiction about other notable days in recent history. I, in turn, recalled the Blackout of August 2003, including some some fascinating satellite images of the northeast from before and after the failure.

NOAA satellite imagery one day before the blackout.

NOAA satellite imagery the night of the blackout.

In trying to find the images shown above, I read the Wikipedia entry about the Blackout, and it was really interesting. Through an official investigation, they created a sequence of events that caused the blackout, and even traced the cause back to some overgrown trees near an Ohio power plant. This is worth reading.

I remember the blackout quite vividly: I lived in NYC at the time and was lucky enough to have only my regular 15-block walk home. My brother who was commuting to a summer job in the city was about to get on a subway when he felt the city shut down around him, and he turned and climbed the stairs back to the street before he could be trapped. He walked about 50 blocks to my apartment and then we set out to find a payphone (cell towers were overloaded, and I didn’t have a land line in my apartment) to call our parents and let them know we were together and safe. We spent the evening playing cards by candlelight, and turned a crazy event into a fun memory. The next morning, we ventured down to Grand Central, in the hopes that trains would be running, and fortunately we were able to get on one. We couldn’t buy tickets with no power in the station, but the conductors were just letting everyone on anyway… it was kind of nice that they just wanted to help people get home.

Do you remember where you were during the blackout? Did it affect you? Did the event turn out to be a positive, like it did for me?