Last night, I attended a seminar specifically meant to give information about a heart-healthy diet. For my customers or potential customers reading this, don’t worry – I don’t have a heart condition that would cause me to keel-over in the middle of your project – I just thought I’d attend in order to receive preventative information. However, like me, most of you reading this post have probably been to a number of these – enough to know when you’re getting contrary information. That was the case, last night. It struck me how confusing health issues are for people and in an area somewhat simpler to traverse than our industry’s information.

Some of you will argue that it’s not easy to understand nutrition and health since new studies are always coming out and telling us new and contrary information. However, much of it is really pretty straightforward. For example, the sodium content of something is measurable. It’s pretty easy to know how much sodium is in a can of beans because it tells you right on the label. Now, while we might argue what the effect of the sodium might be on one individual over another, the actual amount of sodium in that container is measurable – it’s defined. If someone were to come along and make a statement that made it questionable that any can of beans is “better” than another for the purposes of minimizing the sodium content, you could easily read the label. However, the talk I went to strayed a bit from this and this is where I started realizing how easy it is to mislead people.

That’s where this becomes similar to our own industry. While I don’t think the speaker meant to give bad information, I think the person didn’t have all the information they needed and that the presentation was put together in a somewhat misleading manner. I often run across this same issue in our industry. We sometimes hear people give speeches that intend to rouse us to our feet in agreement, to buy some software product or services, or to follow the person in whatever cause they want to promote. In giving these presentations to people new to the industry, it is sometimes easy to get them to follow that. Then, for years and years to come, those new people in our industry have some wrong information they work on, often either in a happy bubble, not realizing things aren’t quite right, or in frustration, wondering why things aren’t going their way.

Everything Has Gotten Too Small
Our industry is so complication that there is really no way to address this. When we used to have the big conferences where many people could come together and talk, they could more easily share a lot of information with a lot of people. When we used to have one or two major periodicals that just about everyone read or the discussion group that just about everyone was a member of, we could more easily distribute information. When the information wasn’t correct, we could more easily reach people to correct it.

These days, we have become so splintered into smaller groups that there is no way to get messages to the bulk of our industry. When you attend specialty conferences, some of them are so small that there just aren’t enough of a variety of people at some of them to be able to share ideas and discuss industry issues.

Lack of Expertise
It used to be that a variety of people with different levels of expertise would attend conferences. These days, the presenters might be (but aren’t always) experts and the attendees are sometimes less experienced people. Otherwise, they might not bother attending the expert’s lecture. Since some of the experts aren’t really experts and since some of them have a narrow view that doesn’t allow them to know the entire picture with all the information they need to give, and since the attendees don’t necessarily know, either, some of these conferences probably aren’t as worth the price as they might seem.

My personal thought is this: if I can glean at least one great tip from a conference, then it was worth the price. However, as I’ve said, before, that is seldom the case, any more, that I can get that one great tip to make the cost worthwhile. And, if I were new to the industry, how would I even know which were the “great” pieces of information and which were the misleading ones? The answer is that I probably wouldn’t know.

I don’t see things getting better. As we become yet more splintered, I imagine that people will continue to be led off into the wrong directions fairly easily and in small groups. I tend to believe that giving us all the opportunity to share our opinions hasn’t necessarily kept us all on our toes to make sure that we’re correct and complete in our information. Instead, it’s caused the information to be just that much more confusing, as with the nutritional examples I began with.

For those reading, ask yourselves this: why are you reading this? What makes you think I know anything? How do you know I’m not just making things up that will cause you to panic and run to call me to save you by selling you my services?

The problem is that, while those of you reading this who happen to know me probably know enough about me to feel confident that I’m not doing that and that I might actually know something, and that those of you who have been reading this blog for quite a long time might have been able to compare enough of these posts to other people’s posts to get an opinion on this, for those just starting to read this blog, you don’t know that. It’s hard and I don’t know any way around it.

My Only Tip
The only thing you can do is to remain skeptical. Question everyone and everything. Yes, I mean it – be as annoying as possible.  😉

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

One Thought to “Getting Past the Misinformation”

  1. I think what you describe is the case for any type of industry. In the particular case of lab informatics, we need to look at the number of labs that have some form of LI implemented and try to mentally compare that to 10 years ago. Have we improved, regressed or stayed the same?

    It is my observation that the industry has progressed substantially. There are more labs with LI systems than ever before and prices are coming down, quality is going up and the life of the system is extending beyond 10 years. I remember back in the 90’s when we would all joke that LIMS followed the 2-2-2 rule. Two years to select a lims, two years to implement and two years before you start doing it all over again.

    As a LIMS vendor we are getting new clients weekly and the selection process is minimal. We then take weeks for implementation rather than months and we have a life expectancy measured in 10 year increments. It truly was not always that way. I know other vendors are having the same sorts of success.

    So if things are improving in our industry, I believe the information the industry is basing its decisions and actions on is improving as well. If the information is rubbish the outcomes will be similar. So bottom line… there is a lot of information disseminated within our industry by lots of experts and users alike and I think it is actually helping to improve our industry and it is reflected in the market results.

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