Tony Shin taken to task

It seems that Earle Holland, Ohio State University’s assistant vice president for research communications, also got one of the mysterious Tony Shin Infographics, only Holland didn’t simply post it to his blog unquestioned. Instead, Holland took the time to thoroughly review the infographic, pointing out its numerous errors. [PDF]

Holland writes on his blog:

“Infographics,” first popularized by the coming of the USAToday newspaper, are a quick and easy way of conveying information. Sadly, however, they’re equally useful in simplifying data to the point of misrepresentation. Science as a subject is all too often seen by the public as too complicated to understand. It’s a normal tendency for people to reach out for, and maintain, simpler notions that require less work.

That’s what viewers risk with this graphic, and that’s sad since the topic is too important to get wrong. What’s more worrisome is that Shin’s graphics on other topics appear frequently on the web. If he got this one so wrong, what about all the others?

Shin apparently responded with this:

Earle,

I feel privileged you’d take time out to put together an in-depth analysis for me. Truly humbled you’d pick this apart for me. It’s exactly what I needed. It’s hard making infographics for the general masses to understand without going too detailed into one area – especially in the science realm when there are several factors to decide/include. Regardless, truly appreciate this.

Blogger Nate Simpson has the same thoughts that I do, that the infographics appear to be designed to boost search engine optimization:

The graphic was bothering me, because it contained hardcoded references back to “accountingdegreeonlineDOTnet” (butchered because I don’t want to give them a link accidentally). The site is featureless, with no useful information about the people behind it and its WHOIS information firewalled behind a privacy shield

So with the infographics offering questionable information and the concerns that you’re an SEO stooge by postin them, anyone who gets a request to post an infographic on their website might be better off politely declining.

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