The Web is increasingly my go-to place for everything; advice, support, intel and inspiration. Is my traditional bull-dust detector up for the task of discerning what’s good for me?
It is the best of times, it is the worst of times (I can feel a novel coming on... dammit, I’ve only got 500 words!) The world seems to be plunging ever deeper into chaos and crisis at precisely the same time as mind-boggling scientific breakthroughs are occurring. Financial, social and economic disasters abound, while the Internet explodes with individuals and orgs purporting to have all the answers.
Pre-Web, there weren’t many people to turn to in times of need. My solicitor? Priest? MP? GP? Bank manager? Now every ‘consultant’, ‘expert’ and ‘coach’ is Twittering and blogging their personal contribution to solving my problems and creating my (their) Utopian future.
The problem Web-based advice and information is that there are a few additional dimensions that affect both the advice itself, the delivery of it and my perception of its usefulness.
Like, do I not trust someone just because they haven’t got time to update their Website regularly? Or, if some ‘guru’ or other is highly active online and seems to have a lot of followers, sponsors and links all over the place, does that make what they have to say any more credible? Does my style-over-substance sensibility dismiss an expert’s proposition out-of-hand because his/her site looks like crap? Do I not even bother to read it, because it has no fancy graphics, bullet points and roll-over effects?
I need to keep a few extra wits about me, now that new media carries the message. The simple task of discerning anything of value in amongst the sheer volume of information is a daunting one. Judgment criteria go way beyond the content:
How did I find it in the first place? A lot of sites get traffic thanks to nothing more than their search engine friendliness. Google, Bing and Co. are working ever harder to bring you quality results, but they are a long way off passing too many value judgments and opinions on the links they deliver.
Is the self-appointed ‘opinion leader’ a sycophant who is just very good at recruiting followers through powers of persuasion, rather than the substance of their message? It’s amazing what a blogger can cook up with a teaspoon of fawning and a few cups of self-aggrandisement.
Are they literate? Even in today’s wrld of txting & ROFLMAOing, I maintain that someone with a reasonable command of the Queen’s English probably has most of their other faculties intact as well.
Is the thinking part of a groundswell? Ideas whose times have come tend to pop up independently in multiple locations. The best way forward is most likely going to be through ideas that many people are now beginning to expound, rather than one nutter banging on with his/her manifesto. Does anyone agree with me here? Oh the irony! This is your NETT nutter, signing off for another month...