If You Need A 2008 Prediction... How About: The Fact Checker Is Dead... Long Live The Fact Checker
from the bah-who-needs-it? dept
It gets facts wrong and draws some dubious conclusions out of those incorrect facts. It starts out with a pet peeve favorite: the ever popular claim that the internet is about to run into trouble handling traffic growth. Amusingly, the article claims to support this prediction with "some certainty" even though the most recently debunked telco-backed report didn't even think we'd see any troubles until at least 2010. The prediction makes the huge error of stating that 90% of all internet traffic is spam email -- which is probably based on some (questionable) reports claiming that 90% of all email is spam -- but email hardly represents a significant segment of internet traffic. You would think that it would mention things like BitTorrent or file sharing as the usual culprits -- but somehow the Economist reporter thinks it's spam that will destroy the internet. And, as Andreessen notes, the only actual proof the article presents is that sales of networking traffic are way up -- which indicates that any problem is being solved, not that it's getting worse. One thing that's become clear in all these reports about the internet breaking: it's almost always made by someone who doesn't understand technology. Whenever the technologists have their say, they'll note that there's not much to worry about and technology should be able to contain any problems.
What may be more interesting, however, is this tiny point noting how fact checking has gone out of style in the press -- but it doesn't much matter when you have folks like Marc Andreessen willing to fact check for you, with the only price (okay, perhaps it's not cheap) being the mocking you get and the hit to your reputation as a top of the line publication. Perhaps it would have been cheaper to actually check the facts -- especially on things as easy as the amount of internet traffic that's spam, as well as whether or not Google has already bid on the 700 MHz auction (as the article claims) despite the fact that said auction hasn't happened yet. And, of course, this doesn't even get into the fact that a predictions article can be done with plenty of time to spare, meaning it should have had plenty of time for fact checking. Meanwhile, Andreessen only takes on the first two of The Economist's predictions, but the third one is equally ridiculous, claiming (again, incorrectly) that thanks to the bankruptcy of SCO, Linux is now "popular in small businesses and the home." It may be gaining in popularity, but it has little to do with the SCO case, and any popularity from Ubuntu came about long before SCO's bankruptcy -- and it would still be a stretch to call it "popular" outside of a small core audience. It's as if whoever wrote the piece is living in an alternate reality.