Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Zen of Internet reading -- a bad example

Much Internet writing is conversational, requiring careful, mindful and often critical reading. This example illustrates hurried, thoughtless reading.

An enthusiastic, but rushed administrator at our university recently sent the following message to the university president and vice presidents, with a copy to our dean and faculty:

Subject: CSUDH Ranking...

Hello All… FYI on this news that CSUDH was ranked #9 by Forbes Magazine as a Best Buy in Online MBA Degree Programs.
You can read more at http://www.forbes.com/feeds/businesswire/2010/05/06/businesswire139265756.html
I followed the link to learn more, and it turned out that Forbes had not ranked us or any other school -- they merely posted a press release from a company called GetEducated.com on their news wire.

GetEducated maintains a database of online degree offerings and their cost. We were listed ninth cheapest among non-AACSB schools. This is indeed an accomplishment, but it is not a #9 ranking by Forbes Magazine.

The person sending the message had not read the Forbes post carefully.

After checking GetEducated, I sent a clarifying message to the same people who had received the initial email.

Subsequent to my message, they sent 19 emails congratulating us on our ranking by Forbes. The people sending those messages had quickly glanced at the initial email, felt good about it, and expressed their feeling. They did not follow the link in the initial message or carefully read my message.

This is an example of the problems that can arise when one is not a critical and mindful reader on the Internet. The problem is exacerbated when the reader uses a phone -- they will be less likely than desktop or laptop users to follow links and carefully read longer posts like the GetEducated press release.