Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The internet is full of Idiots

and one of them might just be you.


I have no idea why I went for a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering. I think at first I thought I'd go into academia. Become a professor, teach, do research. But academia cured me of academia. Its about low pay and politics over corner offices (ok, plenty of things are about that.. but lets move on).





Here's the trick though. Lets say you have a computer question and you have two people to ask. You've just met both these people so you really don't know much about them. You find out however, that one of the two people has a Ph.D. in computers. Now you ask your question and you get different answers. Who do you believe?

Does the person's Ph.D. affect your decision? Chances are, it affects your decision based on your respect for education. People who have graduate degrees may even see it as a matter of respect to believe the Ph.D. People who dropped out of college will argue in resentment that the Ph.D. is irrelevant and the other person may have "real world" experience.

In truth, my question was unfair. A computer degree covers certain topics and nowhere during my coursework did we cover real-world things like Windows explorer. I have a good a chance as anyone as answering such a question (I can argue I do have real world experience too), but my Ph.D. IS irrelevant in that regard.

So my argument here is about credentials. I am currently writing two books, I have no idea when they'll be done. But someday, they'll be for sale on Amazon.com.

I'll also make a wild prediction. The first reviews from readers on amazon about my books will be excellent reviews. How can I predict this? Well, for one, I know I'm working hard to make quality books - I am doing my homework and researching the topics well. Two, hopefully people that buy them and read them fast enough to post early will be educated enough to understand and maybe forgive any mistakes I make.



But, the most compelling reason I have is that those first reviews will be written by ME.


Seems underhanded doesn't it? Reviewing my own book? In fact, I intend to use an alias. In fact, I created an alias a year ago and have been reviewing books on Amazon on-and-off that whole time. I review books I've read and even books I haven't. I don't care much about the review, I want my fake-person to have credentials. He'll have a history of book reviews.

There was a story on CNN (here is a link) recently about this. Evil, underhanded authors reviewed their OWN books on amazon. Where could you find a more biased review than by the author himself!!?

I'll tell you, from people that wrote competing books. They wrote biased reviews too, only that the book stunk. In fact, an author probably actually believes his book is good - so at least he's not lying. A competitor says the book sucks regardless.

There may be no place in the world where an absolutely unqualified opinion can mean so much as that first book review. Any idiot, having read the book or not, who has a 80 or 800 IQ, can post a review. There seems to be an inequity here. That book review board can make or break a book. An actually good book can be destroyed by having a bad review on that first page.



Personally, when I read a book, I look at the author's credentials first (I never read the amazon reviews anymore). I don't have specific requirements, I dont look for Ph.D. or whatever, I just want to know why they are qualified to write this book (oh, btw, I don't read fiction for the most part, but plenty of non-fiction).

Internet message boards are full of people with uneducated opinions. I'm sure there are plenty of educated opinions too, but its impossible to tell which is which (if I'm looking to be educated). Given thats its really easy to post an uneducated opinion and that it takes years to be educated in many subjects, assuming most posts are off-the-cuff opinions is safer.

Mind you, I am in no way saying you don't have a right to your opinion. You do. But I have no obligation to have to hear it (or read it). Equally, I have my opinion and you have no obligation to read it either (but for some reason, you are).





I recently read "A Short History of Everything" by Bill Bryson. I was pretty skeptical because this was a science book discussing tens of different fields of science. Bryson isn't a scientist at all, how could he write such a book? The beauty of it was his attitude that he isn't proclaiming anything. He sat back and said "This physicist says this.. and that one says that". It may have been more useful than reading a book by one of the actual physicists.

In the end, Bryson did serious research for the book. He found out what many people thought about many topics. He proclaimed to be expert in none and inquisitor of all.

Anyway, I know when my books will be done and I know when they'll hit amazon. I encourage you -- buy my books! You'll love them and I promise, the reviews will be glowing because any idiot will be allowed to review them. And the first idiot is going to be me.

2 comments:

osbert said...

Nice blog first of all, and thanks for mailinator :)

I loved Bill Bryson's Short history of nearly everything, and I know for a fact a lot of my friends enjoyed it too. I think you've hit the nail on the head about him simply stating "facts" gleaned from different sources, rather than trying to interpret everything and over analyse.

Leaves much more to the imagination, and has rekindled an interest in theoretical physics that I've not developed since I was at school.

But yeh, I thought everyone reviews their own stuff on amazon as soon as its available. I mean its only natural I suppose, that the author of a book that has (most probably) taken them considerable time to write, should want to sell a few copies and recoup some of the money they had to raise to fund the permanent-tub-of-ben-and-jerry's-by-the-keyboard life of a serious ink slinger.

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