Why Quality Doesn't Matter - Misinformation in the Information Age
Quality over quantity
Or so we've all been told, but this simply doesn't apply online in this information age that we live in today. Especially with an ever-increasing number of ways to take leverage of search engines in order to drive traffic towards websites designed only to make money through advertising, the quality of information readily available is quickly degrading. Certainly more information would seemingly be better wouldn't it? More quality information would most definitely be welcome, but what's occurring now is large-scale rewording to the detriment to the average internet user. Hopefully either search engines can advance their current technology to weed out that which is redundant, repetitive or nonsensical, or people will be interested in finding quality information again forcing writers to actually write (gasp).
Who's an average user?
You might be wondering who exactly is an average internet user. A broad term from any view-point and one that many a company would love to pinpoint to better target their products. In my mind, an average internet user would be those that only use what's familiar to them. They don't care if Internet Explorer isn't the most efficient browser, it's what was already on the computer so it must be good. They use the search engine that's on their homepage and using anything else is foreign and scary, and don't even think of switching operating systems because most people think the computer and the operating system are the same thing. And why should they, if they don't need to know the difference they shouldn't have to.
Sure as the younger generations grow older, and the older generations pass away this average internet user will become more tech savvy but the fact will still remain that there will be a staggering amount of available information out there that simply will be a rewording of what's already been written. Just think about how many different ways you can say why the sky is blue...
Do we really want quality information?
Ask yourself this question. You might find yourself immediately saying a resounding yes before really thinking about it. You'd like to think so, that you'd be able to quickly dismiss any information as disinformation, misinformation or quality information and then move on from there. But, it would seem that to most of us, it doesn't really matter. If it did, we'd complain about the state of the news at the moment, often littered with misinformation due to lack of research in order to be on the 6 o'clock news. We'd want facts before an article came out half baked, basically leaving the tabloids with nothing to report. You'd see comments on articles and websites asking where they've sourced their information and what background they have on the subject.
But you don't see this. We're seemingly happy with what we can find, and the reliability and quality of the information we find. Because there isn't any backlash over poorly written articles, reviews and other informative material this will continue to happen. No doubt many of you think what you're reading now is pure nonsense, but without this call to action, I doubt anyone would actually write a comment requesting that I should review it due to lack of research, or email me asking me to remove this article because of misinformation or quality of the information is poor.
If we do want quality information, why do we allow such poor quality to continue?
For one, most people are too nice. People allow it to continue because they don't want to seem harsh commenting on another persons work, even if they truly believe it to be sub-par or nonsensical. Even if it's clear to them that the article has been written for the purposes of gaining traffic, clues such as bolded keywords and strange sentences that don't truly flow within the article. Another would be, in my opinion, that the average user can't tell the difference between clearly advert targeted work and true quality information.
Let them search on the internet, and they'll gladly click away at what those who are regularly searching for information on the internet would immediately flag in their minds as poor quality or to avoid. The information you'd find in these links are very generalized, and if you happened to read more than a handful, you'd find they all basically spout the same information but slightly reworded or rephrased. But this is all the average user expects, and probably needs if the state of the information available is of the quality it is at the moment.
Now, this isn't to say that those who are aware of ways to spot quality information are any better than the rest, because that would be a complete lie. We've all done a quick search on your favourite search engine and clicked on the first couple of links that look promising, and once we've got a general wind of what's going on we'll move on with that information. It might not be the best quality, or most original, and you'll probably read the same sentences a couple of times over, but it's the quick fix of information that we need and if we're honest, we just couldn't be bothered searching any further than a couple of clicks past the first page of your search results. And we surely won't comment if we think the work's quality of information is poor, we'll just close the window.
Age of misinformation?
Well, I certainly wouldn't go as far to say that it's an age of misinformation, seeing as there is so much information at our fingertips it's mind boggling, but it certainly is hard finding quality information that isn't reworded from an original thought or source document. The more you reword and rephrase a thought, the more diluted that thought becomes. Ever try putting a phrase into a language translator, and then translating that second phrase back into the original language? If not, try it out. I think this scenario is very similar to what I've just described.
In order to get more quality information and content, we've got to start dishing out repercussions. I'm definitely not saying we should be critical for the sake of being critical, or all become internet 'trolls', but if nothing happens, the poor quality of information available will continue to get traffic and will continue to be reworded again and again, leading to information based on an already diluted thought.