A wasteland of unfiltered data

Originally posted 11/25/2004 on a blog that I have since retired (update – On February 27, 2011, the original post was recovered and posted here with the original date).

What the Internet hucksters won’t tell you is that the Internet is an ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don’t know what to ignore and what’s worth reading.
-Clifford Stoll

(See the second comment below for some background on this quote, including what appears to be a case of plagiarism.)

The internet is believed to be a resource with great promise. However, it can also be a source of great frustration.

Millions of pages are published on the internet every month. Yet of these millions of pages, only a small percentage have any real value and of these, only a very few float to the surface to be accessible by those who might be interested in them.

In a description of what it’s like to search the internet, author Clifford Stoll describes searching for the date of the Battle of Trafalgar on the internet, coming up with hundreds of pages on it, including a biography by an eighth grader, a game that doesn’t work, and a picture of a monument in London. After spending 15 minutes trying to unravel them he doesn’t find what he is looking for.

I don’t know when Mr. Stoll performed his search on the internet nor how experienced at searching the internet he was. I performed a similar search to find the answer and came up with 21 October 1805 in about two minutes. I found the answer in the third result out of about 58, 100 using Google. To initially come up with the answer, I didn’t even look at the first two, because the description of the third looked more promising. When I subsequently looked at them, the first also had the date, while the second had the date for the bicentennial, from which the original date could be derived.More…

It’s apparent that the content on the internet has improved since Mr. Stoll wrote those words. More importantly, “modern” search engines have a much better ability to perform relevant searches, provided they are provided with appropriate terms to search on. My search used “date of battle of Trafalgar.” However, I was able also to find the date of the battle, in little more than a minute, just searching on “battle of Trafalgar.”

However, in other areas, I’ve seen times where the internet can be just as frustrating as Mr. Stoll found it to be. Specifically these occurred when I was trying to find information related to consumer electronics items that I was considering purchasing as well as using the internet to find lodging not covered by the major travel web-sites. In trying searches in both areas this morning, I was able to find relevant information that may influence my plans in a relatively short period of time.

I’m not going to expend a great amount of time trying to find a search that will frustrate me. The improvements in internet search engines as well as my own learned abilities in using them have made these searches relatively pain free, in most instance.

Unfortunately, in some instances, such as looking for information on something I want to buy or lodging in a particular location, the search results can be very, very frustrating.

Comments on “A wasteland of unfiltered data”

August 9, 2007

dcr @ 11:33 am

I’m not sure where the quote comes from, but it may have been from his book, “Silicon Snake Oil.” If so, that was published in 1995, and the Internet has changed quite a bit in the last 12 years!

Mike Goad @ 12:30 pm

I used the miracle of the internet to track this down — and even found a case of plagiarism in published works!

It was published in an article in the February 27, 1995 issue of Newsweek . I think I just found that article online at a site called BookRags. The article there is titled Computers Will Not Significantly Transform Society.

What’s even more interesting is that I think I also came across a case of plagiarism in a book originally published in 1986, and subsequently revised and published in 1996. It’s titled “The New Positioning: The Latest on the World’s #1 Business Strategy” and it’s by Jack Trout, Steve Rivkin. They used everything except the last sentence in my quote.” I found the quote there using Google books.

It’s kind of like “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” I don’t know who plagiarized who for sure, but I’m going to leave my attribution as it is.

Interesting, no?

(Pingback)

Exit 78 | Google Books may be a Danger to Plagiarists!

[…] at dcr Blogs left a comment on my previous article that left me wondering about the original source of the quote I […]


A lost Exit78 post, recovered from Internet Archive WayBackMachine; March 2011


internet, search engines, Uncategorized
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