Editorial: October 2006

In this day and age, information flows easily and freely via
channels that used to not exist. The internet connects
various outlets into one source for information in ways that
only textbooks were able to match 15 years ago. The
internet and its associated information sharing are a great
boon to this hobby. But also a real concern. We all
gather information and store it away for later use in our
brains. We develop a base of knowledge on which we draw
conclusions and to which we constantly add new or improved
information. This flow of information can be represented
in a fashion just like the ‘food pyramid’ of grade
school memory. The base of the pyramid is made up of
everything we’ve come to understand and all of the facts
we’ve stored away. As you move toward the pinnacle
of the pyramid, you get into fuzzy realms where opinion and
theory press beyond what we understand as fact.

In this editorial, I would like to present a scheme for
filling in the pyramid of knowledge that we all contain within
our heads.

triangle.gif

The base, or lowest layer, of our knowledge should be formed
by the most trusted sources. Textbooks and referenced
research articles make up the vast bulk of information for
filling in the foundations of our understanding. As time
progresses, the information we gain from less reliable sources,
but come to accept also filters downward into the base of our
understanding. Keep that in mind as you build your
library. Without proper references, what you are reading
is likely someone else’s opinion. The middle layer
contains current topic items that are passed around by local
clubs, internet reports and articles, and hobbyist level books
as well as books and articles that present practical
experience, but don’t reference much of their
information. Talking with that buddy of yours from the
local club and learning how she kept her inhabitants alive, for
example. They are still valuable sources of information,
but they do not stand alone. The top tier is comprised of
forums, gossip, and, unfortunately, many local fish
store’s advice. Its not the fault of the store
owners, per se, but the hobby moves at a constant pace,
and many stores provide outdated information to their
customers. This is certainly not true of all stores, but
keep it in mind that you might want to double check your
background knowledge against more standardized sources.
Internet forums are the last place that I would consider
searching for information. It is true that there are
useful tidbits buried amongst the millions of postings, but
frequently there is zero validation of that information.
Many people parrot responses they have seen others post, post
their own opinions as fact, and generally don’t put much
thought or time into full in-depth answers to posed
questions. Take answers given via forums with a thousand
grains of salt.

All of these information sources flow downhill in that
hypothetical pyramid of knowledge. As you spend time in
the hobby, you amass a great deal of information. But as
with the LFS mentioned above, the hobby continues to
move. Do you?

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 D. Wade Lehmann

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