In this post, I will talk about common mistakes people make when using the Internet for research. The “research” could be anything from what phone to buy to fact-checking information you heard on the news.
Please note everything I say are my own opinions.
Only using social media as a source of information.
Social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Yahoo Answers, Disqus) are very popular places to get information from others. You will find the users on social media have wildly varying opinions. Unfortunately, most of these answers are given with little to no facts to back them up (a few do though).
In addition, social media tends to attract trolls who try to sow discord. Usually they gather like-minded minions who all-at-once gang up on someone they decide not to like that day. This wastes a researcher’s time, since he has to filter out irrelevant posts.
Summary: Occasionally you will find a good user on social media with quality information that is not just an opinion, but from my experience most social media answers are quickly written and are of poor quality.
“Everyone says the same thing, so it must be true!”
This one is a very common mistake. I even fell into this “everyone else says it” trap when I was younger.
This is when you do research and find a lot of people giving the same exact (or close) answer, and you believe what they are saying to be true just because everyone agrees. The problem? Everyone saying the same thing does not equal a true answer.
Sometimes (really a lot of times) the majority is not correct. How do you know that 2 or 3 people didn’t give misinformation online a while back, and everyone else jumped on the “band wagon” automatically believing what they were told and repeating the same to others?
You must conduct a lot of research – and may even experiment for yourself – to verify other people’s information (I do this a lot when solving IT problems). Some information will be accurate and others will be junk.
Some answers are obviously wrong. Like if a dozen or so people all claimed at once that they could jump 20 feet into the air with no assistance, you could safely assume they are lying (or are very delusional).
Another example is the “Linux is more secure than Windows” crowd on the Internet. You will find tons of websites that give this kind of misinformation (e.g. Windows gets viruses, while Linux doesn’t) with virtually no facts to back anything up.
Something similar happened on an Internet forum I was on several years ago. A ton of people (15+ posters) made claims that were very outlandish and unrealistic. Finally, one guy posted saying they were all lying and said if they were really doing what they claimed, they would have seriously hurt themselves. Listen…everyone except a couple of people stopped posting. The guy obviously was correct. They all were lying to boost their egos or whatever the reason.
Summary: The majority is not always correct, and may even be deceived themselves from rumors they heard or unfounded opinions presented as “facts”. Worse they may even be lying due to an agenda they have. This does nothing to help the researcher who is needing honest, accurate answers to his questions.
Blindly trusting information obtained on Wikipedia without verifying.
I’ve observed many people quoting Wikipedia like it’s the Bible and can give no wrong answers. I must disagree.
I have read things (e.g. health & politics) on Wikipedia that were at the very least biased and at worst propaganda. This is due to literally anyone being able to edit most articles on Wikipedia.
I had one Wikipedia article that made a bold claim, but when I clicked the link going to the supposed source of this information, the link didn’t even exist. Someone just made up stuff and gave a phony link to make it look good to people who didn’t bother to verify.
Even if the article’s author is telling the truth, a self-appointed “fact-checker” on Wikipedia may erase their edit due to a severe bias.
This happened to a friend of mine a while back. He corrected some misinformation on Wikipedia about the Bible, and someone literally admitted to him that he did not care about the misinformation and reverted my friend’s edit. Completely dishonest.
Summary: I find Wikipedia useful when it comes to topics such as PC/Console/Server technology or basic information about someone popular (e.g. their age & net worth). Anything else (e.g. politics, science, history, the Bible, etc.) tends to attract people with a major bias to intentionally give misinformation to others.
“Professionals (e.g. doctors, politicians, scientists) can be trusted to give accurate information on the Internet.”
Unfortunately, people who should “know the facts” don’t always know the facts. Sometimes they guess while claiming they “know for sure”, they may assume information they received is correct (without verifying), or they just plain make up information to support their agenda.
Of course, I am not saying all professionals do this, but it is a very common occurrence (e.g. fake news via the mainstream media).
This means if you automatically believe information without verifying “because my doctor said so” or “my nice newscaster in a suit & tie said so”, you may find that the information was not as accurate as you thought and this may lead to trouble for you.
Also, watch out for professionals who predict the price of stocks & cryptocurrency. In my experience, many people who give trading advice are just guessing themselves while passing off their opinions as verified facts (e.g. “the price of a particular stock @ $22.00 per share will rise to $25.00″…later on it doesn’t come close and may even drop).
I am not saying they have bad intentions when giving advise, but if you are not careful, this can bite you badly in the wallet.
Summary: Always verify information you receive, even if it comes from a “trusted” source. That source may be giving accurate data, but you should still do your due diligence and verify.
Posted in General, Internet and Servers
I have written before about being cautious concerning any VPN providers who claim they are not keeping logs.
Just this morning, I was sent an email concerning several VPN providers who had their data dumped onto the Internet, proving they had been keeping logs while claiming they do not keep logs.
This is more proof that you should never trust a “no logging” VPN service to not keep logs.
Now am I saying that using a paid VPN is useless? No, but you need to be careful which VPN service you are using. In my experience, very few are legitimate, and even the legitimate ones are probably logging enough data to eventually identify you.
VPN services are in it for the money and most will say anything (e.g. “no logs”) to make a quick buck. Not to mention they could be selling your user data on the side – a double-whammy.
Posted in Computers, Internet and Servers, Security, Software, VPN
First off, what exactly is an online “comment war”?
An online “comment war” is when a bunch of people are commenting to each other – usually several times a day – in an effort to “win” an argument. This usually is done by using bad arguments, insults, and faulty logic. “Comment wars” are pretty much useless and go nowhere fast.
I will give my latest experience of a “comment war” I ran across a couple of days ago. Please keep in mind that I was not involved in the “war”. I was just a watcher.
I have changed the names of the main people involved for privacy reasons. I am also just giving a brief explanation of what happened. Too much detail will remove anonymity as well as take too long to write (this post will already be long enough 🙂).
I also will try to keep the paraphrase in context. Sometimes paraphrasing causes the context to get warped.
The last two days I have been watching – off and on – an online “comment war” on a semi-popular news website.
To start, an online user named Betty posted a comment about a controversial video circulating around the web. In her comment, she attacked a whole group of people, which included an accusation that could not be proven just by watching the video. Basically she made a – more or less – useless comment.
Now another user named Greg responded to her and asked her if she was being genuine and why she was being prejudice. Two days later, she never responded to him. This is a sign that Greg was right in his assessment and Betty did not know what to say in reply.
Betty then proceeded to comment to another user making an even more ridiculous claim.
Someone else – named Reed – responded to Betty. He strongly disagreed with her short but inaccurate comment. While he did not do the best job in replying, he did ask her some questions that challenged her claims.
Here is where the “war” begins. Both Betty and Reed start commenting to each other. Now to be fair, Betty did say 2 or 3 things that were logical and most people would agree with. However the rest of her commenting was illogical, insulting, “smart-aleck”, and dishonest.
Basically Reed kept re-asking his (valid) questions to Betty while she continued to ignore them for basically no reason that I could tell.
Around 1 1/2 days later, Betty starts to agree with Reed and act like what he is saying is “exactly” what she was saying.
I suspect that Betty knew she lost the argument (Reed did make valid points), and did not want to admit she was wrong. So instead she decides to try and make it look like she and Reed are saying the same thing.
Another person – we will call her Lucy – responds to Betty and makes a very valid point. Betty, now being calmer and less emotional, responds to Lucy.
Betty’s response to Lucy sounded good, but there is a major problem with what she said. Betty is now claiming to have been arguing for something completely different than what she stated to begin with. In other words, Betty was contradicting herself.
There are two explanations that make sense in this situation. Either Betty did a real bad job in explaining what she originally meant, or Betty was losing the argument and started to lie to hide that fact.
My personal opinion is that she was lying. This is because:
- Betty ignored Greg’s comment asking about her genuineness and her prejudice. Several people up-voted Greg’s comment, since he made good points.
- Betty totally ignored Reed’s repeated questioning about the illogical stuff she previously said.
- After multiple people called on her illogical posting, she suddenly has a totally different argument than what she originally posted.
As you can see, an online “comment war” does not really accomplish anything.
When Betty encountered arguments that made sense and even refuted some of what she said, she quickly “moved the goal posts” – changed her context / main point – to make it look like she did not lose the argument.
These “wars” would not happen if people would just be respectful and admit when they made incorrect assumptions, wrote in a disrespectful tone, etc.
Instead people’s pride gets hurt and they want to “fight it out” instead of being logical and acting like a mature adult. Worse these people end up being dishonest and changing their arguments to prevent embarrassment from losing an argument.
Posted in General, Internet and Servers, Society