Just because you heard it before anyone else doesn't necessarily mean your news is worth something
Blogs | 29 Aug 2012 :
For those of you not interested in football, you might not know we're in the last few days of the football transfer window. While this might not be of any significance to you, there are probably a lot of people that you work with who are mightily interested in who their chosen club might buy or sell. Whether you are interested in football or not, I think its worth looking at how the end of the football transfer window provides a salutary lesson in how the Internet can achieve the tricky feat of providing people with more information while making fools out of them of the same time.
Those of you with no interest in the game will notice your colleagues busy visiting fan sites, news sites and Twitter on an increasingly frequent basis as they wait in hope or fear for the latest "news" about signings or sales from their club. I use the word "news" advisedly because most "news" around transfers tends to be pure speculation, often unsourced and sometimes plucked out of thin air. It might have its origins in something as flimsy as one person marginally associated with a particular club saying "it would be nice to have such and such a player in the team" and the next thing you know there's a headline saying: "Arsenal/Man U/City/Chelsea/Liverpool (take your pick) launch bid for XXXXX".
I think the amount of time people expend at this time of year visiting web sites and forums desperate to learn the latest about their club's comings and goings is likely to be out of all proportion to the information they receive. Worse still, the sheer volume of unsubstantiated and unfounded information out there swamps the true stories by about ten to one. What this means is that the more time people spend reading (writing and talking) about transfer "activity" at their club, the more likely they are to be taking in useless information and the more likely they are to end up talking rubbish. It stands to reason.
Now, I'm sure those people think they are better-informed because they "learn" things more quickly about what they think is happening at their club, but actually they are misinformed because most of what they have learned isn't of any use at all. In fact, if they just waited until a minute after the transfer window closed, they would be a lot better informed. Also, they wouldn't have wasted their time (and possibly company time) searching for mainly useless information about their club which is instantly proven false one minute after the transfer window closes.
So much for football, but if you look at the way we use the web to keep up to date with any "news" event, you would probably find the same pattern repeated there as well. The web serves up a torrent of information and titbits from "informed" sources on a constant basis but just how much of that "news" you're reading is actually true and how much is just opinion masquerading as fact?
And I think there's a relationship between our perception that the Web gives us the latest inside information about something (when actually a lot of the time it's giving us the wrong information) and the strident and hostile tone you find on web forums and in comments. After all, if you believe you're talking from a position of greater knowledge, you're more likely to patronise and insult your "opponents". The problem is that such "knowledge" is based on information that, quite often, is wrong or distorted. And while that is hardly the most dangerous thing when it comes to speculation over football transfers, it can be potentially lethal in other contexts.