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Parsing the So Called News

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Photo Phiend

I had this fantastic part time job in the late 1980s during my senior year at the University of Delaware- I worked an evening shift at a Dupont lab running samples through an electron microscope. It was a whole new world up close. I never knew what the compounds were I was photographing, but sometimes they looked liked strands of webs, piles of gold bars, or even cheerios. When bored, sometimes I looked at what my fingerprint looked like on the sample plate:

But I wander off point, even before I start.

I don’t have any definitive thing to say on whether the volume of information available to us daily makes us “smarter” or not, or whether all of this content we are reading is adding or subtracting to the human experience, its just happening. This is not about bemoaning the loss of trust in our news.

However I do speculate sometimes what happens when we forward, retweet, bookmark stuff that looks interesting or compelling, but perhaps is lesser so with further inspection. I’ve noticed a few times that a blog post I tweeted or something else I shared gets retweeted within less than 5 minutes… even wondering what might happen as an experiment if I tweeted a URL with a leading interesting title that linked to a “ha ha fooled you did you retweet this before reading?” but that seems like a cruel trick.

I caught a link in my Feed reader to Boing Boing on Dogs and cats, living together … mass hysteria! (got the Ghostbusters innuendo).

The entire half tweet character length boinged story..

Dogs are better than cats. [LA Times]

I had to follow that one!

This leads me to the LA Times story (well yes, likely not front page news, but still published as news…)
Do Americans like dogs or cats best? No contest: Dogs win, cats are most disliked

So this was a story on a phone poll done elsewhere ( where the results was:

Clearly, there are dog people and there are cat people. But it’s not much of a contest: 74 percent of people like dogs a lot, and only 41 percent like cats a lot.

So there you go, a poll done by a professional outfit, calls a bunch of people, the appropriate random sampling, and Poof! Dogs are much more liked than cats!

So the first person I shared with this said, “Oh sure, it really means that people who answer polls like dogs more!”

But even more digging reveals this nugget

About 59 percent of American households own pets, according to the poll. About 74 percent of pet owners polled said they had dogs, and 47 percent said they had cats.

So to me, this says the clear conclusion is… people who own dogs like dogs better; people who own cats like cats better.

Wow, did they need to bother all those people on the phone to discover this?

Actually, the article does have some other stats, like breakdowns for demographics on pet preferences. And this is somewhat more interesting:

Of those who owned only a dog, 34 percent said they disliked cats; of those who owned only a cat, only 5 percent disliked dogs.

But this still roots back to the starting point that 3/4 of the poll audience owned dogs.

There are thousands of ways to parse out and draw conclusions and such from this…. so what is the meaning? Where is the truth? Does this even matter?

I’ve been just as guilty as others of sometimes (or maybe many times) passing along URLs or references to stuff I briefly scanned.

I’m not saying we have to put everything under an electronic microscope, but maybe using a small lens more often will do us all better. But how naively optimistic is that? The pace keeps increasing, the flow volume of information grows more intense… what will evolve from this new kind of reading?

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. But dog! I often pass on things I don’t have time to look closely at – knowing someone out there likely will, and let me know what they think. Its news in the making, networked learning ;)

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