Have you played Wordle?
The aim of this New York Times word game is to guess a five-letter word in six attempts or less. When you enter your prediction, the program lets you know which letters are in the word for that day and whether they’re in the correct place.
Wordle was introduced to me by my friend Moya and has become part of my regular daily routine. I enjoy it so much that I’ve recommended it to many people. A few days ago, while one of my friends was working towards solving that day’s puzzle, he remarked he wasn’t doing very well. In his first two guesses he hadn’t discovered any of the letters needed.
On the surface that comment may have seemed true. But in reality, getting it completely wrong twice, was providing him with a lot of useful information.
Information is used to explain, inform, verify, and make decisions. It plays a vital role in just about every aspect of modern society, even if the knowledge you uncover wasn’t what you were expecting or hoping to find.
Information is more than just statistics and raw facts. That’s data. Information results when you organize data and interpret it within a context that gives it meaning and relevance.
If we go back to the Wordle example, two completely wrong guesses reveal 10 letters that you can eliminate from your pool of possibilities. That knowledge is valuable.
People are constantly seeking more and better information, although they may not be conscious of doing it. It happens with almost every conversation you have, news broadcast you watch or listen to or website you visit.
For many people, the purpose of information gathering is to support choices they’ve made, or beliefs they hold. They hope by uncovering more facts and opinions that they can reduce their feelings of uncertainty. This helps them believe they’ve made a good decision or that their belief is valid.
Certainty requires a fine balance. Too much causes boredom while not enough can make you feel unsafe and vulnerable. Sometimes seeking more information in an effort to feel more certain can result in the opposite outcome.
People who go online to assure themselves that the health symptoms they’re experiencing are nothing to worry about, may well come away with increased anxiety. They’re likely to discover a myriad of reasons for their headaches or wheezy breathing.
Because data can be interpreted in a number of ways, there’s a level of subjectivity involved. Statistics can be skewed to fit with personal beliefs or specific perspectives. For that reason, it’s important to ensure your sources are trustworthy. Are they interpreting the numbers in an impartial way or trying to support a specific viewpoint? There’s more than one way to interpret any set of data.
Another valuable aspect of information is how you use it. Do you store it away, or do you make changes based on your discoveries? A company who realizes their customers aren’t happy with the service they’re receiving can ignore that knowledge or make changes.
Like so many things in life, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. You get to choose whether you use the information you discover, ignore it, or store it away for another day.
There are as many uses for information as there are individuals, problems, and questions in the world. View whatever you discover with an open mind. It may not have been the evidence you were hoping to find, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.