Who do we believe?

As information is becoming cheaper everyday and as we are getting access to more and more information, I see one problem. There are certain ‘well known theories’ which are being proved to be untrue. Also of how ‘facts’ are generated when in fact it had never really occurred. These are things that we studied during our schooling as ‘facts’.

On one side, this is a good thing. It makes you question everything you read or hear and not just accept things blindly. But on the other side, it makes you feel, well, then, what do we believe?

Wikipedia is a classic example of information accuracy and the arguments around it. Do you trust Wikipedia? Take an example of a controversial article – say Scientology, or about Crop Circles, or say the Nazca lines. Would you believe what Wikipedia has to say? Well, isn’t there a slight possibility that the theory is wrong, especially when there are mathematicians, archaeologists, physicists or historians who subscribe to either sides of the controversies.

What if a vast majority of the people actually believe something that is actually not true? Wasn’t the earth believed to be in the center of the solar system and that the sun revolved around the earth?

Here are some things that I came across in recent days:
1. The theory of evolution and the theory of Intelligent design.
2. The Sphinx mystery – is Sphinx older than it was initially thought to be and does it have connections to mars?
3. The Aryan invasion theory – did it really happen?
4. Global warming a myth?
5. Aliens and UFO’s – has anyone really spotted them?
6. Man landing on the moon

Well, the list is endless. If you look for information on any of these, you will see tons of information that can convince you either ways.

Not all of us are mathematicians, not all of us are theoretical physicists. Nor do we have the time to verify every single ‘fact’ we come across.

So the question is how do we believe what we read and who do we trust and believe?!

The evolution of the pub-sub model on the web

Recently, I have seen a new trend emerging on the web. Until quite recently, we had people publishing their information as RSS feeds and others subscribing to it. This was the first step towards the pub-sub (publish subscribe) model.

Then came tagging and people started publishing 'relevant' tags along with the feed entries. This has helped in the emergence of a new trend, wherein I am able to track not just websites, but information pertinent to certain keywords (or tags).

A major advantage of this is that I don't have to subscribe to RSS feeds, rather I just subscribe to a set of keywords (optionally combined using a regular expression) and then get information based on it. I have been trying this for quite sometime now and have been getting wonderful results.

In fact, this is how founders of websites are able to track the popularity of their tool by just subscribing to the keyword that relates to their website. The moment someone tags their blog entry with this tag, it arrives in the feed readers of the founders and they are quick to comment and 'show interest'. Here's more information and an example of how the founder of a website tracked my blog entry within a single day and here's another.

Hoping that tagging is not misused (remember what happened to <meta>?), we have a new way of tracking relevant information.