The social life of IA

A database developer talking about public health. (Udell) It’s really incredible how little we know, and how numbers are misused.

“But of course, you have to come up with an estimate of how many people
are dead. So somebody picks a number, and then you hear it on CNN that
night. Fifty thousand, a hundred thousand, a hundred and twenty-five
thousand, none of those estimates were based on any attempt to really
find out.”

I noticed this when journalists used to call me asking “how big the vlogosphere was”. (This was pre-Youtube). Of course, there was no way to know (we didn’t even know how to define “videoblogging”), so I made up a number that I thought was ballpark. And they *always* ran with it, leaving out my qualifiers.

“Imagine if you were the CEO of Toyota, and your CFO said, well, sales are pretty good, we think, but we’re not sure.”

And about standardization: “If you went to a UN organization and said, we want to standardize how
we collect data about child nutrition, the response would be, let’s
have a conference. We’ll have experts get together in Rome, and then in
Paris, and decide what are the key questions for any standard child
nutrition survey. But it’s hard to achieve unanimity, and there’s a
built-in incentive not to because every time you get together it’s a
trip to Rome.”

This working with the social life of information is something that seems mainly ignored in current IA texts and practices.

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