Monday, March 21, 2005

Like, what is Truth?

Here’s an excerpt from a time management e-newsletter that I get every week, from Canadian time-management expert Harold Taylor.

“Those who write down their goals are 90 times more likely to accomplish them than those who don't.
(Source unavailable)”

A pretty impressive stat, n'est-ce pas? But I dunno – doesn’t that credit line (or lack of same) undermine the whole notion? The source isn’t just “unknown,” but unavailable!

Sorry, Hal, but in the Wild West Internet, this isn’t good enough. If you can’t quote an authoritative source, don’t pass along the information – at least not without a caution. Why a respected expert would put his rep on the line for this, I don’t know.

Ironically enough, the New York Times News Service did a little number on this sort of thing on Friday, in a story called, “If it's on the Internet, it must be true ... right?”

The story was about a website called , founded by a 19-year-old student at George Washington University. He delights in posting absurd, but often authentic-sounding “facts” that he or his web visitors make up. Examples from today:

• Worldwide, an estimated 4,000 children die every year from a sugar deficiency.
• Despite being landlocked, Missouri has the highest per capita boat ownership of any state in the United States.
• The average eight ounce cup of yogurt contains around 6,000 species of bacteria.
• In Valdosta, Georgia, it is illegal to publicly display a whip that is over five feet in length.
• Occidental Palms have the shortest life span of any known tree; most do not live longer than two years.

They sure sound real, don’t they? And who knows, maybe once in a while, by some cosmic coincidence, they actually turn out to be true.

So there’s your lesson for the day. Don’t believe everything you read. And question people’s sources when they quote authoritative “facts” at you.

Unless, of course, they actually prove your point.

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