A little experiment.
As you might have been able to tell, I've been having difficulty finding time to blog this last week or so. (I'm working on other writing projects right now.) I've been thinking about The Problem of Information a lot, and I think I've come up with a short follow-up. It's a little social experiment, and I think it will be interesting to see if it catches on.
We all participate in online communities, whether it be in the comments section of a news website or blog, Twitter, or just on Facebook. A lot of our arguments work like discussion on major news outlets, including the citing of statistics and other supporting evidence without citing our sources.
As you well know, these stats are not necessarily true, but by in large those who agree (and many who disagree) with the point being made never question the factuality of this data.
I propose that we start. Right now. I know it will definitely make you annoying to people, but I would like to encourage everyone here to respond, at least once, to an online claim made without citing a valid source of evidence, with a polite request for citation.
It would be as simple as: "That's an interesting figure. Would you mind telling me where I can go to verify it?" or "I'm not saying I disagree with your point, but I'd like to know how I can verify that fact." You don't have to be outright contentious about it. In fact, it's probably better if you're not. People don't like having their comment or FB post ripped apart.
If everyone started requesting citation of valid sources even a few times a week, it would go a long way toward a healthier data culture. Thanks.
PS: This page will give you a web badge you can post if you like.