Re: Credibility of the Internet (was: User-centered design)

Subject: Re: Credibility of the Internet (was: User-centered design)
From: Steven Feldberg <steven -at- ICU -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 9 Feb 1999 08:37:28 -0500

Ben Kovitz wrote:
> Well, actually, I think that some better advice--though perhaps equally
> likely to go unheeded--would be for readers to have some more realistic
> expectations about TECHWR-L and the Internet in general.

Good advice (don't know that I'd call it ``better'' though :o) that's
essentially the flip-side of what I was suggesting. Yes, I pretty much agree
with all that you said in your post. And, true, while ``anyone'' can post on
this list, don't you think it's appropriate that when those doing the
posting are _technical communicators_ they practice a modicum of
information hygiene in posting, *as well as* in reading?

>It's a place to converse about technical
> communication, not a place to announce official results.

Absolutely. And saying ``Optima was designed for online reading" is a
qualitatively different statement from ``I think [or I once heard somewhere]
that Optima was designed for online reading." The first statement is
provably false. The second statement is ``conversationaly'' true.

> But the ease of participation on the Internet also makes it a place to get
> mistaken ideas corrected. Apparently a number of people had heard the
> false rumor about Donald Norman and Lotus Notes. If they hadn't posted,
> they wouldn't have gotten corrected. To me, that sounds like wonderful
> of TECHWR-L. I'm glad it happened--both the original, erroneous postings,
> and the correction.

Excellent point. But there's a flip-side. In this circumstance, the
assertion was so jarring to anyone familiar with both Norman's work and
Lotus Notes, that it just had to be deflated. But what if it wasn't? Then
this list would have served to further such a rumor and because of its
credibility--despite a *designed* lack of gatekeeping--would have lent some
credence to it. An ounce of prevention....

> But it's important to realize that very little information on the Internet
> deserves much credibility on its own.

All the more reason for professionl technical communicators to set a "gold"
standard for the quality of information presentation.

But remember--you read this on the Internet ;^)

/Steven Feldberg
Feldberg Communications
steven -at- icu -dot- com

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