Analyst crap factoids as memes: nobody thinks any more

There are a couple of fundamental causes underlying the success of analyst crap factoids as memes [a meme is an idea that propagates through the species like a gene].

As a comment said, one fundamental cause is "People Want it to be True". You've joined the ITIL cult and you are evangelising new members. If somebody says 86% of sites use ITIL, they reduce costs by 48% and an average of 76 little boys in Montana get cured of leukaemia with every implementation, then you grab that and wave it without a lot of critical analysis.

Another fundamental cause is "Nobody Thinks Any More" (much of the present company excepted of course, as there is plenty of evidence of critical analysis in the comments on this blog).

The piles on my desk and the bursting "must read that one day" folders in my email attest to the fact that there is far more information than anyone can process into knowledge. Someone said the last person to know everything was the Librarian of Alexandria. Since then either all knowledge has not been accessible in one place or, since it has been again, it has been practically impossible for one person to get across it all.

Most people deal with this by consuming as much as they can. As a result they consume in 30-second sound bites. The media have trained them to do this. The media serves pre-digested pap for quick easy consumption. Analysts are part of the media (so is this blog). Not enough people read past the analyst's press release to even look at the actual "research", let alone stop and think about it for a while.

Me, I read no daily papers or news websites; read no regular magazines except for my hobby, for pleasure; watch zero TV except the occasional dinner with my son if my wife is out; read no websites on a regular basis; scan and delete 98% of my email without reading it. I do scan Wired and Computerworld feeds semi-regularly if I have an idle moment. If it is important enough, then people will be talking about it - it will be a meme. I found out about 9/11 because my neighbour told me.

I read books and magazines that interest me. I read about 5% of the headlines that come up on my ITIL news Feed. Most of all, I read some of the stuff that is personally recommended to me. And what I do read, I may speed read but I think about it, critically. I wish more people would read less and read better by thinking.

Then maybe crap factoids would spread less effectively.


Will Edwards skewered me!

Hah! Will Edwards skewered me!

"Someone said the last person to know everything was the Librarian of Alexandria". - Source: The IT Skeptic
I actually heard exactly the same factoid some time ago, but it was concerning Leonardo Da Vinci! It just goes to show that just because it sounds good doesn't make it so!...
So, in this new age of blogging, we need to think carefully about apparent facts and how they are propagated. Just because something is in print, does not make it so - especially in these days of the web!

Thomas Young

I was originally going to let it go but since the second post came up:

The phrase "The last man to know everything" was used to describe Thomas Young. He's credited for deciphering the Rosetta stone and the Egyptian hieroglyphs, among many fairly remarkable yet anonymous accomplishments.

He also proved Newton wrong with his wave theory of light.

Andrew Robinson published a nice biography last year on Young called, "The Last Man Who Knew Everything."

a fairly unattractive ethnocentric assumption

OK OK, so I'm confusing "the last man who knew everything" with "the last time all human knowledge was recorded in one place". One can argue that the internet (or perhaps Google?) is the first repository of all knowledge since the Library of Alexandria.

BTW, there is a fairly unattractive ethnocentric assumption behind such statements. I doubt that the Librarian or Leonardo or Thomas Young knew an awful lot about kabuki theatre or Sun Tzu (maybe?) or the rise and fall of the Khmer empire or Inca quipu or Maori techniques of navigation.

Perhaps the internet is the very first time that we approach one repository of all knowledge. For a long time I've been planning an article on this topic....

The dark side of the force

I have been collecting and writing about bad practices at
I decided to add the crap factoid as a bad practice in the post and have suggested a counter-measure. Much is written and mused about as good/best/perfect/excellent/great practice and not enough about the dark side of the force, bad/lazy practices.

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