How good is your information, really? Where do you go for good equipment, supplies and facilities guidance? Be sure you know who you think you know, and be sure you’re asking the questions you think you’re asking.

This topic of reliable information recently came to mind as TV news ran off the end of the earth with a story alleging Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod was racist. All the big media outlets pounced on the story, citing a video clip posted on the Internet. The clip was an excerpt from a speech Sherrod had made, and it seemed to show her expressing racist attitudes—especially if your ear didn’t detect the subtle vocal inflections that usually lead up to a “surprise” or ironic ending.

Well, it turned out that a longer excerpt would have shown Sherrod was leading to a surprise ending. She was telling a story demonstrating how she discovered such views to be unfounded. By the time the truth came out, it didn’t matter. That little piece of video, edited just so, had got Sherrod tarred, feathered and fired, based entirely on allegation. Mainstream radio and television had swallowed a piece of bait from an unreliable Internet source.

Days later, the media reported that a government investigation has concluded the “runaway acceleration” problem with Toyotas doesn’t exist. Data from the cars’ black boxes showed no malfunction, but instead a lot of driver errors. Too late, of course. The media had already torn up Toyota’s reputation (and sales) on the basis of allegations alone.

These are mainstream examples, but the same kinds of problems are absolutely pandemic on the Internet, a thousand times worse, and they include business-to-business markets too.

Bloggers, don’t forget, have no gatekeepers, no referees. Lots of them are biased to start with. Lots of them can’t spell “biased.” Any yahoo with a laptop, an opinion and no information at all can lob grenades any which way, and some viewers invariably get sucked in. Check it out some time. Do a Google search for a hobby topic, maybe, something you know a lot about, and then browse all the blogs and see how full of baloney they are.

So, all that, just to say this: Be careful where you get your information about E&S. Be wary of “greenwashing,” a tendency to exaggerate sustainability and environmental claims. Get as much information as you can from authoritative sources, preferably with no reason to spin things one way or the other. Get facts you can verify yourself, or get reputable third-party data, and make up your own mind. Deal with people who want to maintain their reputations.

And be careful, too, even about end-user opinions. Remember that dissatisfied customers are far more likely to share opinions than satisfied ones. So on any given topic, you’re more likely to see negative comments than positive. Be discerning. Ask for details. Maybe a piece of equipment really does have a problem. Or maybe it’s just not right for that operator’s specific application. Maybe maintenance was neglected. Lots of details make the difference.

So, caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware—where you get your information.

Chief Editor


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