Finding That 1% On The Internet

Man Overlooking Mountain
Image by akbaranifsolo from Pixabay

The internet is an enormous mess of information that can be difficult to search, validate, and utilize. The common refrain today is fake news. These problems have always The link above is an episode snippet from the Arthur TV Series about people lying on the internet.

Nothing much has changed from then to now, except more algorithms to fight against and information to sift through. Here are some principles learned the hard way to extract useful information (that 1%).

Prefer Utility Before Popularity

Companies like Google, YouTube, Reddit, and Facebook optimize for popularity over utility. In fact, almost everyone eventually optimizes for popularity. Popularity is a general metric for determining some utility but it is not always optimal. Utility is affected by multiple factors.

The more popular something is, the greater the chance we overestimate its utility. This is a simple trade off. External forces (i.e market pressures) may prevent individuals from making rational decisions or disseminating useful information.

YouTube is a good example of this; smaller channels often provide more valuable knowledge than larger channels. Bigger channels may have external pressures that can affect their ability to provide useful information.

You will gain much headway on the Internet if you have the insight to distinguish between what is just popular and what is actually useful. Take for instance this Amazon’s Choice Not every review on Amazon is an honest review. In fact, there are more fake reviews than many of us would like to admit. being casually picked.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

If you do not know what you’re looking for, you almost certainly will not find it. It is important to first understand that perhaps we know nothing.

This is a humble approach that makes the initial search easier. Many subjects involve varied levels of scope and knowledge that depend on experience.

Always Sort by Controversial First

In any knowledgeable discussion, always focus on those who are controversial first. There is something great about individuals who are critical. These are the types who often care the most about a subject.

They can also bring out more knowledgeable individuals who make great effort to rebut them. These two groups can take you from what you don’t know, to what you should know.

Pretend That You Know What You Don’t Know

We do this all the time. If you go to a library and do not know what book you are looking for, you will instinctively give the librarian a set of ideas to consider.

On the internet, this was much easier to do in the past. Today it’s a bit more tricky, but the concept still holds true. Try to envision as closely as possible what you expect to find even if you do not know what it looks like. This is a skill that is hard to put into words.

The Best Information is Usually at the Bottom

Ever been to Stack Overflow and notice that in a lot of threads, the answers seem to get progressively better as you scroll down?

If it’s first, it must work is the motto of most question and answer forums.

In the search for that elusive 1%, it’s always practical to consider new information.

Valuable Knowledge is Lost Every Day

The internet never forgets is somewhat of a tired phrase, because sometimes the internet does forget.

I’ve learned more useful information from Archive.org than most of the stuff being pushed out today. Sometimes finding that 1% means you must travel to the past.

Updated 21 April 2019