Saturday, March 14, 2009

dummies.com?

Google is working with a site called "dummies.com" where you can post how-to information and articles in discrete units called "knols". Check it out. They have a contest. Most of it is at a very low level of expertise, apparently.

There was an article some time back questioning, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" and perhaps this is their effort to change their image. One can hope that the idea of dummies is intended to be irony. Use the search box for Woodworking and see what comes up.

5 comments:

SC Universalist said...

You obviously aren't familiar with the extremely popular "Dummies Guide to ..." books which is what the Dummies website is from

Doug Stowe said...

I don't think that things we do with out hands should be disparaged through the use of the word dummies or idiots. Mike Rose's book Mind at Work shows the high intellectual content of a wide variety of occupations. Having an intellectual grasp of something is far different from having the actual hands-on skill to do it. Like carving stone. You can understand the principles but never without a huge investment in practice be able to actually do it effectively or well. So the dummies guides are maybe so hugely popular because we are in fact so very incompetent, but also because we disparage or marginalize and feel superior to things that require skill.

John Grossbohlin said...

I'd take this Google article a step further by saying Google like tools are making the internet less useful. This as every bit of nonsense written by every "expert" under the sun is presented on a level playing field. When I was teaching at the college level the www was born. With that birth there was an almost immediate decrease in the quality of the "research" turned in by my undergrad students and my peers complained about the same thing from the masters students. Things have gotten even worse over the years as it seems that people cannot differentiate between reasonable and reliable, and nonsense. While not perfect itself, Snopes.com at least sheds light on the fact that there is a lot of nonsense "gospel" floating around the www.

I'm still on a college advisory board for computer science and MIS. At our technology conference last fall, to a one the presenters were pushing the latest web technologies and gimmicks. I was not very popular when I suggested that all that stuff is making the internet irrelevant as the information is becoming less and less reliable and the noise to signal ratio seems to deteriorate exponentially with each new gimmick, e.g., twitter. The example I cited was how when I started using the Internet back before the www, I was communicating with folks like Constitutional Law professors/attorneys who argued cases in front of the USSC, VP of Columbia Pictures, President of an executive placement firm, founder of the Byrds Roger McGuinn, and myriad other folks with an area of expertise in whom you could have some confidence. We passed around academic journal articles, discussed ideas and critiqued each other's work. Some of this was a public exchange via ListServs and FTP sites, some via e-mail, some via BBS file archives. In those days the internet search tools included Archie and Veronica... but you could find relevant and useful information. With Google you're almost more likely to get somebody's nearly unintelligible product critique from Amazon.com as you are to find the web site of the company who produced the product. It is also more difficult to gain access to some folks who were formerly available as they've become much more private in their communications... though I have found a few of my past associates on LinkedIn and this blog retains the spirit of sharing and discussing ideas.

Doug Stowe said...

John,

You may have followed the flap this last week between John Stewart and Jim Kramer from MSNBC. John Stewart challenge the MSNBC network to serious financial reporting so that he could get back to his fart noises. Cable networks have lowered discussions to gutter level entertainment, and it is ironic that we have to we look to the entertainers for the truth. On Fox, being fair and balanced means giving equal time to both sides with no real concern for actual truth. So I guess, the internet is not much different from cable TV and it is a sad sign of the times.

I am working on a knol for the Dummies.com It may be the way of the future. Already, there is a decline in how-to book and magazine sales, particularly in those areas that require skill. The National Association of Home Workshop Writers of which I am a past president seems to be struggling. so, it may be that discrete bits of information will be all that the world has time for.

But, we know that the pendulum swings. Idiocy will in time be replaced by wisdom... if we are to survive.

One thing I worry about with the knol concept. When you get a lot of poor information out there, people may be likely to blame themselves for the failure of the information and end up losing learning momentum and educational enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

It's all about money. Of course it's something we all need to survive. However it's easy to draw conclusions about anything whether it's on the web or from a book but the dumber we get the more money we spend because we have no intellectual backbone. So we are led down the road of consumerism by the so called experts like Oprah and her corral of lifestyle experts. There are others which includes the www . It all goes back to mindfulness. We have a majority of rushing citizens with cluttered minds and a media driven to make us dumb and dumber in the pursuit of the capitalist way. Look at AIG saying we screwed up but but we are going to take your money and pay ourselves for mediocrity and nobody does a thing not even our govm't. People like to take about the days of our youthful exuberance and how we are going to change the world and we all fall down to the level we are at now dumber and less skillful then anytime in the history of man. Adaptation and determination is what's going to get us through the times we are presently at. Also it is time to break out the metaphorical pitchforks and torches and continue to the make strides just like the wisdomof hands.
My own personal opinion is that college is and for the last thirty years the biggest waste of time and money for young people and I just finished putting two boys through DePaul university here in Chicago. They feel the same way as me. Many many many years ago ordinary people were to be admired not pitied. It's just the opposite in todays world and that is what our youths are taught on the www, by the media and at college. The only skill they pick up on is how to get away from that ordinariousness. I find the word dummies to be a form of negativeness. If you are mindfull it leads to a positive worth and karma.
Scrap Wood