Have Infographics Jumped The Shark? Episode 3
The Atlantic/Screen capture
A while back I asked Have infographics jumped the shark? At the time I was complaining primarily about how well they convey information and how easy they are to check since they lack hyperlinks. I alluded to some pretty strange linkbait. Then we, like a lot of other sites, got caught in the pure linkbait play Bikes Will Save You and the Planet (Infographic) which is still up for some reason. Chris responded to this with his post On Bike Infographics & Link Marketing, where he noted that even a good infographic can make us feel "icky" if they are linkbait.
Now Megan McArdle at the Atlantic is on the case. She is calling out the troops:
Now that Obama's dog has won the War on Christmas, or something, it's time to get down to a war that really matters: the war on terrible, lying infographics, which have become endemic in the blogosphere, and constantly threaten to break out into epidemic or even pandemic status. The reservoir of this disease of erroneous infographics is internet marketers who don't care whether the information in their graphics is right ... just so long as you link it. I'm issuing a plea to bloggers to help stop this plague in its track.
Before you pick up that infographic, give it a good, hard look. Is it from a site with no real reason to be publishing it? Do some quick mental math checks make the "data" look pretty unlikely? Have the sources been made deliberately hard to check? If so, take your hand off the mouse before you post it to facebook, your blog, or your favorite email list. Remember: only you can prevent viral media from spreading.
I will reiterate my own recommendations:
1. Check the source, and don't post it has no relation to the subject, such as our discussion of Greenwashed which was posted by a website called "getyourmarketingdegreehere"
2. More importantly, each claim should be numbered and referenced to its source, and each source should be hyperlinked. They don't have to sit within the infographic but should go below it or be repeated in a separate document. But any responsible blogger has an obligation to do a minimum of fact checking before they publish.