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r ranson
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I must have had a dozen people ask me to point them to the 'right link' this week.

Some are amazed by a new idea and want to learn more. Others doubt my accuracy on a subject (which is well within their right, I'm not always perfect). The majority just want a copy of a great recipe we tasted.

It's incredible how little information is on the internet!

Every time, I did my due google diligence and search the internet, finding nothing relevant. So I have go to down to the dusty basement and dig out the book, magazine or paper to get the info for them. Either that, or we stop by the library on the way home and I show them in a book.

The internet is filled with a lack of information.

And yet, time and again, I'm faced with people wanting to be shown the relevant link.

When I was in school, the internet sprang into being. It was amazing, but from the get-go we were taught not to trust anything read online. Use the internet for inspiration and then go to the library and find the same information in a book. This is what we were taught.

Even today it makes sense, a book by a respected publisher has to meet certain standards of accuracy and are more likely to cite their source. Of course books have their flaws, they often conform to the ideas of the time they were written. We were taught how to evaluate that information and take it in context. This was part of a basic education.

Now, even people who are older than me, are more willing to believe a website than a book. One person, I placed the book in their hand and another 5 in front of them, including some first hand accounts, and yet they still didn't believe the books because wiki said differently.

Consensus on the internet - seems to be the measure of fact.

This makes no sense to me.

Much of the internet says you can't build a house out of straw or mud, and especially not out of a combination of the two mixed with sand. Shall we believe the consensus? Purity is the mantra of almost any site that encourages seed saving, so shall we never save a seed unless it is 100% 'pure'?

I don't think consensus on the internet is an accurate measure of what can be accomplished with perseverance and ingenuity. I don't feel that consensus on the internet should be a barrier to learning. Yet, it seems to be.


This is why I value permies.com so much. Not only is the content at a higher quality (and generously offered free by the benevolent Paul) than much of the net, but it's also more accurate. The accuracy comes from the lack of 'fact'. The publishing standards here require us not to call things 'the truth' and we must allow room for other people's opinion, it leaves the thinking up to the reader.

It's the difference between saying 'there are no black swans' and 'it is probable there are no black swans'. Both are false, but one of them is far more so than the other.



Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe I'm showing the first signs of getting old. Has the internet become so accurate that it is now better than reading from a variety of sources and evaluating the information for our selves? Are we at a stage now, where technology can do the thinking for us, and I didn't get the tweet?
 
Tyler Ludens
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R Ranson wrote: Has the internet become so accurate that it is now better than reading from a variety of sources and evaluating the information for our selves?


There is a lot of actual book-learnin' to be had on the internet - many libraries of actual books transferred to digital. So maybe you can point people toward those.

As an amateur biographical researcher, I find most information on websites to be inadequate at best, erroneous at worst. So I try to go back to primary sources. Maybe you can ferret out primary source material to show people, rather than regurgitations on websites.

Links to some libraries; I'm sure there are others:

http://soilandhealth.org/

https://www.hathitrust.org/

https://archive.org/index.php
 
John Weiland
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@R Ranson: "The publishing standards here require us not to call things 'the truth' and we must allow room for other people's opinion, it leaves the thinking up to the reader. It's the difference between saying 'there are no black swans' and 'it is probable there are no black swans'. Both are false....."

Perhaps it's me, but (1) I don't see where things written on the internet differ in any way from something written in a book or scrawled on papyrus or a cave wall. All of these "leave(s) the thinking up to the reader". One can either excuse themselves from the effort of thoughtful consideration or accept the risks of not doing so. (2) It may be a different usage of the word "probable", but to say "it is probable there are no black swans" leaves open the possibility that there are some, slim as that usage of the word implies. It's why use of the words "may", "might" and phrases like "it's possible that" and even "there is finite probability that...." that allows the authors of scientific publications the wiggle room to say "we never said 'does', 'will' or 'did'....we said 'can'....as is in "possibility". So unless I'm still half asleep, I'm not sure where I see "it is probable there are no black swans" as being a false statement, since it's not implying a definite as is being implied by the first version. Using for the sake of this discussion Webster's definition of probable as "supported by evidence strong enough to establish presumption but not proof".
 
Tyler Ludens
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John Weiland wrote: I'm not sure where I see "it is probable there are no black swans" as being a false statement


Black swans have been documented to exist, so it is not probable that there are no black swans. Something can't be probable and not probable at the same time, it seems to me.
 
r ranson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
John Weiland wrote: I'm not sure where I see "it is probable there are no black swans" as being a false statement


Black swans have been documented to exist, so it is not probable that there are no black swans.


You beat me to it.

The black swans refers to the school of logical thought originating with Aristotle - 'there are no black swans' was taken as an absolute fact of the nature of reality. It was believed for almost two thousand years to be a 'truth'.

Here's a popularized lesson from the history of philosophy I wrote elsewhere.

Back in Aristotle's day, it was a known fact that all swans are white and because of this, they also knew to be the truth that there are no black swans. They knew this, as a fact, for almost two thousand years, using the kind mixture of logic and experience that would one day become the scientific method.

They had a theory: all swans are white/no swans are black.
They used their senses to look at the world around them: It's a swan, check, it's white, check. For almost two thousand years, every single swan they saw was white. There was no confirmed evidence to contradict the theory. So it was taken as fact and use in many texts and teachings as "this is a known truth of the universe" kind of example. Back then philosopher actually got out and a bout a bit, not just sat around having word wars in pubs.
Then one day...: someone said there was a philosopher who didn't drink black swan.
The result: Everyone laughed at him and he was burned at the stake or something horrible.
Then another day: Someone else said there was a black swan. Fingers pointed, yelling, stones tossed, what have you. But one of the philosophers was listening in and it got him thinking that it would be so totally awesome to have not-white swans.
(can you tell I'm paraphrasing here? I am.) He went out to look for these mythical black swans. He found them, but he was somewhat famous, so no one laughed at him, they listened and nodded and said mean things behind his back then ignored him.
As time continued: Lots of people start talking about these black swans, but since we know it as a categorically correct truth, there can be no black swans, so they were all laughed at and dismissed as liars. Over time the laughing got quieter and quieter.
An then...: somehow, people suddenly realized that not all swans are white. Some swans really are black. But they knew it all along, because of course there are black swans... see, there goes one now.


So now, philosophers say 'there are no black swans' to show an example of how foolish it can appear be to state something as an absolute fact that is later shown to be otherwise.

If only they had thought to say 'there are probably no black swans' then it wouldn't have been such a loss of face. Now we can go and see black swans (if we live in the right place), so it's probable that black swans exist - as much as anything our senses tell us exists, but that's a different issue altogether.
 
r ranson
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I don't see where things written on the internet differ in any way from something written in a book or scrawled on papyrus or a cave wall. All of these "leave(s) the thinking up to the reader". One can either excuse themselves from the effort of thoughtful consideration or accept the risks of not doing so.


This is true.

My challenge with the internet is how easy it is to change the content, often leaving no trace that the average reader can follow. A bit too Orwellian for me. The internet is also influenced somewhat by public opinion and other motivations such as money. Just look at the way that SEO can be used to improve one's ranking. This can lead to the richest or loudest voices having the most say as to what is valued.

Paper books are harder to change... and a great many sources of information are not digitized yet. What's more, a publisher put's it's reputation on the line, so a good publisher will take the time to evaluate the content.


I love the internet. I use it daily as a source of inspiration and a starting place for learning. But I worry that relying on the net as the only source of information leads to folly. I'm shocked how many people seem to do this now. Why would they think the internet is the most accurate source of information? Why do they think it's the only source of information?

But like I said, this might be the first signs of aging. Just the other day I caught myself referring to some modern music as 'noise' just because I didn't like how it was yelling at me.
 
r ranson
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To put it more permaculturely, I'm lamenting a monoculture when it comes to sourcing ideas and information. What happened to diversity?

I know the people in my example aren't like the people here on permies, so I shouldn't hold them to such high standards. Many of them eat monoculture crops, so why not mono-source information? But still, I'm surprised by it.
 
Todd Parr
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R Ranson wrote:
It's incredible how little information is on the internet!

Every time, I did my due google diligence and search the internet, finding nothing relevant. So I have go to down to the dusty basement and dig out the book, magazine or paper to get the info for them. Either that, or we stop by the library on the way home and I show them in a book.

The internet is filled with a lack of information.



I couldn't disagree more. The amount of information to be found on the internet is staggering. If you know how to search correctly, there is very little that can't be found, to include the books that you (and I) love so much. Most people's idea of searching is typing "lasagna gardening" in Google and finding your answer (which, btw, returns 236,000 hits). Is your answer in there somewhere? I would hazard a guess that it is. The key is to search correctly. How to do that is covered in great detail by some truly fascinating people, like the late Fravia+. Learning to search is extremely interesting for some people, and just finding your way thru the Fravia+ website alone could take you many months, and you still can't see parts of it if you use good old Internet Explorer. Learning to search to the levels he explores is far more than most people will ever want to do, but even learning a few simple techniques will yield gold rather than dog poo in your searching.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I love searching the internet, it's one of my favorite hobbies. I've found many cool old historical documents that way, which I wouldn't be able to obtain at the physical library or afford to buy from antiquarian booksellers.

 
r ranson
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Todd Parr wrote:

I couldn't disagree more. The amount of information to be found on the internet is staggering. If you know how to search correctly, there is very little that can't be found, to include the books that you (and I) love so much. Most people's idea of searching is typing "lasagna gardening" in Google and finding your answer (which, btw, returns 236,000 hits). Is your answer in there somewhere? I would hazard a guess that it is. The key is to search correctly. How to do that is covered in great detail by some truly fascinating people, like the late Fravia+. Learning to search is extremely interesting for some people, and just finding your way thru the Fravia+ website alone could take you many months, and you still can't see parts of it if you use good old Internet Explorer. Learning to search to the levels he explores is far more than most people will ever want to do, but even learning a few simple techniques will yield gold rather than dog poo in your searching.


I wish I had your amazing search skills. Alas, my skills are average at best. (another sign I'm getting old perhaps?)

My problem is two fold. Finding the search terms that other people think relevant, and wading through the misinformation. Trying to find out what the size and weight variation of a goose egg is, or the largest recorded size of an alpaca leaves me baffled. When I do find the information, it does not correspond to experience. My goose eggs range from 250 to 350g, and I've seen geese lay much larger eggs than mine. I have had two experts confirm that my alpaca is an alpaca. They also say it weigh upwards of 550pounds. Neither of these real life experiences can be correct, I'm told, because consensus on the internet tells us otherwise.

Another example, the internet tells us one must breed goats every year to produce milk. Then again some more recent books tell us this too. It's simply not accurate. Yes, one can do it, but a goat can stay in milk for years after kidding. This use to be common knowledge among goat enthusiasts, but now...

A multiplicity of sources for information gives us a much more rounded picture - and the opportunity for us to make informed decisions.


Maybe I need to qualify my statement to say "It's incredible how the average person can find so little information is on the internet", only that doesn't flow as nicely.
 
r ranson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I love searching the internet, it's one of my favorite hobbies. I've found many cool old historical documents that way, which I wouldn't be able to obtain at the physical library or afford to buy from antiquarian booksellers.



Me too.

The internet is a wonderful place.

Thankfully it's not the only place one can find amazing information. I'm constantly surprised what I learn in the most unlikely of places.
 
Todd Parr
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R Ranson wrote:

I wish I had your amazing search skills. Alas, my skills are average at best. (another sign I'm getting old perhaps?)



To call my skills "amazing" would be a stretch. I am a dedicated student of people that ARE amazing. The process fascinates me, and once you start learning it to some depth, it's quite a rabbit hole, and I have spent many hours chasing one rabbit after another. Try punching filetype:doc confidential "not for distribution" or +"thank for your order" +"click here to download" into google sometime for an example. If you are looking for research-type results, adding site:edu to your search string often helps. Even learning a few simple additions can vastly increase good results while decreasing the noise you get from your results.
 
John Weiland
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@Tyler L: "Black swans have been documented to exist, so it is not probable that there are no black swans."

@R. Ranson: "Back in Aristotle's day, it was a known fact that all swans are white and because of this, they also knew to be the truth that there are no black swans."

Referring to Tyler L's comment, non-literate peoples would not have a documentation system. Does this mean that the point of distinction between "...'there are no black swans' and 'it is probable there are no black swans'..." cannot be made with them? How, in Aristotle's day, did they come to the conclusion (as 'fact') that all swans are white? Was this in fact concluded the same way that Rene Descartes concluded that dogs were automatons and could be vivisected with impunity? I will assume that Aristotle was falling into the old trap of "I and my kind are the ultimate in rational thought....not I nor my kind, nor contacts of my kind have ever reported seeing a black swan, therefore black swans do not exist". By the same token, I suspect Descartes was rationalizing "I belong to the pinnacle of creation. I "feel"...and other's like me with whom I can converse have similarly reported to "feel". I cannot converse with the dog...since it cannot tell me that it 'feels' and likewise is not part of the pinnacle of the creation, it therefore must not 'feel'." (I'm making assumptions here for both Aristotle and Descartes: One thing the internet probably does have is a link to their actual arguments for their respective cases for which I would be grateful if these were passed along.)

My wife and I once sat in room of a social gathering which brought together members of a philosophy and several science departments. It was concluded over dinner that (we're talking the late 20th century here) if science has not proven something to exist, then it does not exist. Irrespective of how many polled scientists and philosophers would agree with that conclusion, it's how the conversation ended....with my wife and I quietly in stitches. It seems like the ultimate in hubris first to conclude that, because humans have not born witness, directly through their own senses or indirectly through their tools, to some phenomenon that it therefore does not exist, but second that because some self-deified culture has not witnessed something, then it surely is not worth polling those from other cultures before putting the stamp of 'fact' on a statement.

"If only they had thought to say 'there are probably no black swans' then it wouldn't have been such a loss of face."

And yet even today, "loss of face" will be had in certain circles if one dares suggest that science will not be able to provide all the answers. It certainly will be able to provide *some* answers for *some* contexts, but the degree to which the process goes from "conclusion A at timepoint B in environment C" to "conclusion A in environment C" to "conclusion A" (sans context) is quite perplexing at times. No easy answer to this disinformation creep, but always good to go back to sources to question original conclusions and the type and quantity of evidence used to formulate that conclusion. And for that,....and finding a good recipe for vindaloo....., the internet offers some pretty good stuff.
................................................................................................................................................................

“They have no craving for truth as a transcendental reality. Indeed, the concept has no place in their values. Truth to the Pirahãs is catching a fish, rowing a canoe, laughing with your children, loving your brother, dying of malaria. Does this make them more primitive? Many anthropologists have suggested so, which is why they are so concerned about finding out the Pirahãs notions about God, the world, and creation.

But there is an interesting alternative to think about things. Perhaps it is their presence of these concerns that makes a culture more primitive, and their absence that renders a culture more sophisticated. If that is true, the Pirahãs are a very sophisticated people. Does this sound far-fetched? Let's ask ourselves if it is more sophisticated to look at the universe with worry, concern, and a believe that we can understand it all, or to enjoy life as it comes, recognizing the likely futility of looking for truth or God?” --Daniel Everett, "Don't Sleep, There are Snakes"
 
Todd Parr
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R Ranson wrote:

... I have had two experts confirm that my alpaca is an alpaca. They also say it weigh upwards of 550pounds. Neither of these real life experiences can be correct, I'm told, because consensus on the internet tells us otherwise.



Pardon the huge thread drift, but this part of your post made me curious enough to do a couple quick searches. The results are worth exactly what you paid for them

According to Michael L. Westendorf, Ph.D., extension specialist in animal sciences at Rutgers, Llamas weigh between 280 and 450 pounds, and Alpacas about 100-175 pounds. One way to tell them apart is that alpaca and vicuna have no enamel on the tongue side of their incisors, while Llama teeth are fully enameled. You may have already known that, but I thought it was interesting.

While you are right that consensus on the internet says alpaca don't get that big, that isn't the reason I would think they don't. The reason I would tend to think they don't get over 500 lbs is because I couldn't find any instances of people that have an alpaca and have a verified weight measurement that is that high. Maybe you do have an alpaca that large, or maybe yours doesn't weigh as much as the experts said, or maybe it isn't an alpaca. It would certainly be worth getting another opinion from someone you trust, and the knowledge gained that alpaca really can get that big would be a good thing for everyone to know.

Bottom line for me is that you have to treat the information you find on the internet just as you would a magazine article, a book, what have you. For me personally, I check references and sources if they are available, and try to find the original material, rather than someone's summary. I agree with you whole-heartedly that wading thru the bad information can take a lot of time.
 
Tyler Ludens
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John Weiland wrote:
non-literate peoples would not have a documentation system. Does this mean that the point of distinction between "...'there are no black swans' and 'it is probable there are no black swans'..." cannot be made with them?


I think it's possible for a statement to be false whether or not there is documentation. I may say "the Earth is flat" because I think the Earth is flat. That does not make the Earth flat. That does not make it probable that the Earth is flat. "There are no black swans" was false in Aristotle's time if black swans existed. It is false now.
 
r ranson
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Let's start with the alpaca. His name is Beau.

I've had two of the top llama and alpaca experts for our provence come to see him, and they both agree he is an alpaca. At least two vets have seen him too, they agree that he is an alpaca - but I suspect that's because they don't have as much experience with alpacas so they just defer to the experts in this and everything else caleilid related. The only way we can be more accurate is to do genetic testing. Far too expensive.

There is a chance he is not an alpaca, of course. There is also a chance that he has llama ansesorty. But none of the vets or experts who have seen him think so. I don't know enough about alpacas to have an opinion on this, so I go with what my experts tell me. It's laziness on my part, I know. But quite frankly, I just can't find the subject interesting.

The theory is that Beau was castrated at the wrong age. His body failed to produce the hormones that tell the long bones to stop growing. You can see this in some eunuchs (as in humans). In some parts of the world, they used these as body guards because they grew so large.

As for estimating the weight, again it's something I leave to my sheerer. We have to get this fairly accurate (within 25 pounds is idea, within 50 pounds is okay) or the meds we inject in the critter won't work. So again, I trust the opinion of the person with the experience - not on faith, but on checking her background, reputation, and more importantly by asking her questions and evaluating the answers based on information I already have. As we have no scale that large, the weight is of course an estimate based on standard measurements for simular livestock. Like 'weight tape' for camelids.

 
r ranson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
John Weiland wrote:
non-literate peoples would not have a documentation system. Does this mean that the point of distinction between "...'there are no black swans' and 'it is probable there are no black swans'..." cannot be made with them?


I think it's possible for a statement to be false whether or not there is documentation. I may say "the Earth is flat" because I think the Earth is flat. That does not make the Earth flat. That does not make it probable that the Earth is flat. "There are no black swans" was false in Aristotle's time if black swans existed. It is false now.


This is my agree with Tyler day!


Aristotle 'invented' a system of logic that looks (very simplified) like this:

All S are P
No S are P
Some S are P
Some S are not P

We know this because it's written. Of course, with writing there is room for mistranslation, especially over nearly two thousand years. But this part remains consistent... or so they teach us at Uni.

Aristotle said (again, over simplifying) that all statements about reality can be said in one of those four formats.

All Swans are White
No Swans are Black
Some Swans are White
Some Swans are not Black

This was pretty standard logic teaching (again, oversimplifying) for a very long time. Swans were used as an example for teaching this logic because it was obvious to everyone everywhere that there were only white swans. (see above story for how that turned out).

So there you go, third year Aristotle in under a minute, only without the awesome venn diagrams.
 
Todd Parr
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And I'm happy to defer to your experience with your alpaca, especially considering that my total experience with llama and alpaca is petting a few of them that were brought to the hospital I work at for the patients to see, and petting a couple that belong to my neighbors, and I don't even know which theirs are. As I said, I just thought the tooth enamel thing was interesting. I didn't want to cause the thread to drift from the original intent.
 
r ranson
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I'm wondering if I've failed to express something here.

I'm not picking on the internet, nor any of you.

I'm also in favour of the 30 second google school of knowledge. It's a great starting point for further learning.

What I worry about is when the 30 second google is taken as more accurate than the world around them. This seems to be a trend in people I know... or maybe it was always there, I just didn't notice.


As permacultureists you understand the value of diversity and very likely know what it's like to go against the mainstream opinion. I think maybe you've had simular experiences?
 
r ranson
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Todd Parr wrote:And I'm happy to defer to your experience with your alpaca, especially considering that my total experience with llama and alpaca is petting a few of them that were brought to the hospital I work at for the patients to see, and petting a couple that belong to my neighbors, and I don't even know which theirs are. As I said, I just thought the tooth enamel thing was interesting. I didn't want to cause the thread to drift from the original intent.


Tooth thing is very neat. I'll be asking my sheerer about that when she comes. I can't look in their mouth 'till then because my boys are total skiddles around people. They are rescue animals so have issues.

I took the bait because I wanted to show how I came to gather that information and make a decision to accept or reject it (or in this case, be somewhat on the fence).
 
John Weiland
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@R. Ranson: ".. or maybe it was always there, I just didn't notice. "

I guess my impression would be that it's always been there, but with some agreement with you on 'trends'. Where one wishes.....moreso craves.... simplification, then it won't matter if it's read on the internet or read in tea leaves. Such an approach may lodge an ingested bit of information as fact simply because of that tendency in their make-up. But I will agree that it *may* be a trend concomitant with the rise of internet use, whether causal or simply correlative, that a careful weighing of various sources of information is not a high priority and may be on the decline.

Addressing the issue of finding as accurate information as possible on the internet, one problem I see is that, due to the economics of journal publication, some of the most accurate information is behind the "closed door" of purchase: It exists, but you would have to pay for a copy of this or that article. Some of the journals like PLoS are open access, but are new and are not very 'deep' in their number of entries as compared to some of the well established journals that go back into the 1800s. So the cost of publishing science material has been an impediment to its transparency. But, more and more there is change towards open publishing standards, all due to the existence of the internet.
 
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