Someone is wrong on the internet

November 4, 2012

(This article was originally published at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

I made the mistake of googling myself (I know, I know . . .) and came across a couple of rude bloggers criticizing something I’d written. I don’t mind criticism, and lord knows I can be a rude blogger myself at times, but these criticisms were really bad, a mix of already-refuted arguments and new claims that were just flat-out ridiculous. Really bad stuff. I then spent about an hour, on and off, writing a long long post explaining why they were wrong and how they could make their arguments better. But then, before I hit Send, I realized it would a mistake to post my response. Getting into a fight with these people whom I’d never heard of before . . . what’s the point? If they want to comment on my blog, I will respond (within reason), or if they are well known researchers or journalists, it’s perhaps worth correcting them. Or if they made an interesting argument, sure. But there’s no point in scouring the web looking for bad arguments to refute. That way lies madness.

I was then reminded of the famous line about someone being wrong on the internet. And I finally understood. Blogs look so authoritative. Get a good layout and some good fonts, and you look as authoritative as any other site. Anyway, this is not news to most of you, I’m sure. But somehow it suddenly hit me, just today.

P.S. The hour wasn’t wasted. In writing my pointless refutation, I realized something I hadn’t thought of before. Which I will blog (or incorporate into a paper) sometime. In the meantime, I’ll have to stop googling myself.

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