The quest for quality information

Even though we all have access to a tremendous wealth of potentially life-changing information, these riches are often obscured under heaps of rubbish. Low quality information can throw you totally off track. We therefore have to be very careful to only allow our minds to be shaped by premium quality info. 

Information quality checks

The two best methods to assess information quality are peer review and track record. Peer review is when the quality of information is verified by a number of experts in the field. It is very useful for technical information such as scientific journals and reports. Expert reviews of books can also often be found.

Direct reading of peer-reviewed journals and reports is more targeted at professional researchers. For the rest of the world, however, it remains very important to check whether any article you read got its “facts” from reliable sources. For example, the popular science articles I write on energy and climate issues generally link to reliable data sets, articles and reports.

Customer review (as offered by online book outlets such as Amazon) is generally less reliable than peer review. You therefore need many more customer reviews than peer reviews to make a proper assessment of information quality. Generally, I’d say that the average of about 50 customer reviews is equivalent to one expert review.

Another very good way to verify information quality is track record. This is especially applicable to “soft sciences” where things are rarely black and white, but rather several shades of gray (like many of the topics covered on this blog). For this reason, posts on this site will henceforth feature a link to some key performance indicators from my own life where I apply the guidelines given on this blog. This track record presents clear proof that the guidelines given here actually work (and work well) when applied in the real world.

Watch out for bias

Another important information quality trap to avoid is subjective bias. This is when an author writes an article to try an prove a pre-conceived conclusion, including all evidence supporting his/her argument and excluding all information that doesn’t. Such articles can seem reliable at first glance, but mostly give low quality biased information.

The most common place to find such articles is on websites advocating a certain scientific viewpoint (e.g. for or against climate change) or a certain technology class (e.g. advocacy websites for renewable energy, nuclear energy or electric vehicles).

Plenty of good information on such controversial topics is available on neutral sites. However, if you have to read from a site directly advocating a certain controversial technology or scientific viewpoint, it is important to also read sites advocating against it in order to get a more balanced perspective.

Some good references

The next post will give a few examples of my favourite information sources.

Filed under: Consumption patterns – Consume information

PS: Why should you take lifestyle advice from a random guy on the internet? Good question. Take a look at the effects that these guidelines had on my life and decide for yourself.

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