Reader feedback loop

This week I need to follow up on some reader feedback. Following the recent column “Entropy, identity and reputation” reader James Turner wrote, “First, remember that Wikipedia is not a closed system. It is infused with new stuff all the time, so growing errors are offset by growing content. How that entropic battle settles out, I am not sure, but it probably favours a net increase in information and net decrease in entropy.”

I’d agree that there would be a net decrease in entropy and over time the rate of decrease would accelerate as more stories are added and more people get involved in critiquing and editing. This is an environment where the sum of the participants is greater than the whole crowd.

Turner continued: “Consider too, that if errors are intentionally introduced for purposes of deception, the information is ‘wrong’ in a factual-type way, but it is serving an ulterior motive that may constitute a higher-order type of information (or misinformation, if you will.) So, if I falsify a Wikipedia entry to further some ambition, I would contend I have reduced the system’s entropy (though the total entropy of the system and the rest of the world will have increased) despite appearances to the contrary.”

Interesting. Anyone with an information-science background care to weigh in?

The column “$#&* your newsletter!” rang loud bells for many of you, and reader Steven Margison replied. “Yes!! I wish I had a column in which to vent my spleen! Subscriptions to companies that I have never even heard of tick me off as much as it does you. I hope they take this to heart. What honks me off even more is when they actually call me, act like we’re old friends and former clients, when I don’t even know who they are. Too bad my antispam system can’t cover the phone system as well.”

Reader Jack Miller agreed. “You are right on the mark. Newsletters are as bad as spam.” And he concurred with Margison on the topic of telemarketers: “Now can you do something about the 10 to 15 phone calls I get per day from marketers? What gets to me is all the questions they ask. What are you using now? How many servers is it installed on? How many users do you have? The answer in all cases is really none of their business! Of course, I am more polite than that. I simply say, ‘Sorry, I am not at liberty to discuss that information.’”

Miller pointed out that the telemarketers wouldn’t keep asking unless someone actually answers them. He asks, “Please remind your readers that they do not have to answer any of those questions and it is in their best interest if they don’t!”

Consider yourselves reminded, and if you have trouble simply hanging up on these sales people I have a suggestion that may give you some pleasure. The next time you get a call, try driving the conversation like this:
“How are you doing today, Mr. Miller?”
“Fine, what is your name?”
“What is your name?”
“Er, Bob Smith.”
“Is that spelled s-m-i-t-h?”
“Yes, Mr. Miller, it is. Now I’d like to ask you about…”
“Hold on — did you say Bob is your first name?”
“Yes, I did, Mr. Miller. What I’d like to is ask you…”
“Spelled b-o-b?
“Yes, and I’d like to ask…
“And Smith, s-m-i-t-h is your last name?”
“Yes. Anyway, Mr. Miller I’d like to…”
“So, that’s Robert — it is Robert, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I…”
“Not Bobby then?”
“No, it’s not. Listen, I’m…”
“So that’s Robert, r-o-b-e-r-t, Smith, s-m-i-t-h?”
“Er, yes, but I want to ask you…”
“Got a middle name, Bob?” .
..and so on. Few make it past the three-minute mark.

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