Category Archives: Information Studies

All the metadata

When looking at the quality of schools, I don’t want to know who the teachers are. I mean, I do, but I don’t. I’ll read former student’s and parent’s reviews. I want to know who the administrators are. The school board. The superintendent. They drive the long term objectives and they dictate the narrative of the teacher’s content. Who did they donate money to in past elections?

Great, you’re using these books as an information authority to teach our kids. Who are the publishers of the books? How often do they update their content, and why? Where do they stand on open access issues? Are they publishing for profit or because the content needs updating?

When I look for news sources, I don’t want to know who the authors are. I do, but I don’t. Looking at the publisher helps me understand bias. Who’s the editor? Who’s on the board of directors? Why have past employees left the company?

Wikipedia is churning out extremely high quality information on complex topics. They’re teaching me (and many others) a few things about the nature of information.

I remember how valuable my Microsoft Encarta DVD was to me. It meant access. It meant solving problems and understanding my complex world. But it, like books in school, suck.

They suck compared to Wikipedia. Books in school are on par with news media. What is the source of this information? Why is it here? Not “here in this article”, but here in between ‘this’ argument and ‘that’ argument. Who put it here? What else has this author written? What else has the editor edited, and manager, managed? Wikipedia solves a lot of this. Citation is a critical aspect to high quality information consumption and production.

It’s no longer acceptable to accept information as fact. Complex information, about people and organizations of people, doesn’t work that way.

The future of news media needs to learn from Wikipedia. Great, I see who “authored” the piece. But who’s funding it? Who’s editing it? What restrictions are placed on the authors and editors by the administrators?

Metadata matters. The NSA knows this. Metadata provides required facts in order to understand specific aspects of the story.

No, mass surveillance is still unethical and illegal (in the United States). But I completely understand why they want it. They want it all for the same reasons I want it. It makes me an informed individual in the ways I want to be informed. Ideally, holistically.

I’m not calling for the surveillance of news media organizations. I’m asking for their transparency because of how critical their public good is for society to act intelligently to complex events. The more that people are exposed to higher quality ‘anything’, the more they want it. The public needs high quality information.

News article titles are not trivial

Information is both meaningful and factual, or else it risks becoming something else: misinformation. Information, however short in specific contexts such as email subjects, news article titles, and Twitter posts, lays down a path for people to expand their knowledge in a targeted direction.

My overarching issue here is concerning the ethical use of information in these condensed forms. My arguments below attempt to demonstrate the impact of news article titles on three groups of people.

  1. None: People in this group have no background in any given story.
  2. Partial: People in this group know bits and pieces to a large story made up of either historical or current events.
  3. Exhaustive: people in this group have a highly extensive and diverse knowledge about any given story.

Why is it important to have high quality information in news article titles, or in any format where someone is presenting the theme of information content? I believe that high quality information should be as specific as possible, because details always matter when it comes to complexity. So, I’ll look at a specific example in this post.

“Top appeals court to hear why NSA metadata spying should stay or go”

An authoritative information source–like a news agency–has a responsibility to address all three groups of people. Like the author of the above article, I’m a member of the third group. The mass surveillance scandal has a great deal to do with the NSA, but it is not the whole story, and metadata collection is an even smaller part of the higher-level story regardless of the intelligence community’s tactics.

Narrowing in on Verizon, it is the only story hung out to dry by President Obama that is now being looked at by a court. The information “NSA metadata spying” is incredibly vague when juxtaposed between the larger story and the narrowly scoped story that’s titled above. Such ambiguity can negatively impact all three groups of people. Most legitimately, to the ‘none’ and ‘partial’ groups of people, it may lead those information consumers to believe that the entirety of the NSA’s mass surveillance practices are being looked at by an American appeals court, which would be false. Leading readers in this direction is unethical, because it means an information consumer may have a harder time understanding the content, because the initial indicators were presumed incorrectly. An authoritative information producer should know better and avoid this situation by being as specific as possible.

The ‘partial’ group of people have it the worst. Having only bits and pieces, they are the hardest to bring to a state of ideally-complete knowledge because their existing knowledge may be weighted by emotion instead of facts. The goal for a news agency, after all, is to help its readers attain as close to 100% information as possible based on what’s available, and in particular make available new information (factual, meaningful content) after investigating.

You never know what the ‘partial’ group knows and doesn’t know. A news article title should mimic its respective article’s content with specificity. Creating many and diverse logical links to the content via the introduction (the title) will allow the reader to realize more quickly what the scope of the information should be.

The ‘none’ group takes the most work, so it is easy to see why news producers fail to provide easy access to the larger picture. But as soon as an editor creates a vague, likely attention-grabbing headline, the information consumer has even more work to do.

The ‘exhaustive’ group should know better. When I came about the above mentioned title, I didn’t even bother to read the article because of the seemingly intentional ambiguity in the title. I know from extensive research experience what to probabilisticlly expect. I know that digital media organizations want clicks for ad money, so I go to sources that value respect over ad money. My example is extremely subjective and relative to many things– but the bottom line is that the people who know about the story beforehand, because they’ve already been exposed to said information, are not going to spend a lot of time reading something that’s redundant or annoying. Pre-existing knowledge is always going to alter the outcome of any information producer-consumer exchange, and information producers need to come up with more respectable ways of attracting consumers.

Expectations of Information Consumption

Sitting in my seat aboard a Boeing 737 from Seattle to Denver, I carefully opened my small bag of lightly salted peanuts. After securing a comfortably sized opening in the bag, I poured three nuts into the palm of my free hand when I thought to myself, why do I add the process of pouring peanuts into my hand before moving them into my mouth?

With a body mass index of 19.5, I don’t eat a lot of food for a typical American. With sometimes reading as many as 800 news articles in a single day, I think that I read a lot of news compared to the average American. I’m an expert at picking the foods that I think that I’ll like based on my expectations of appearance and food source, just like I’m an expert at picking the news articles that I want to read based on key words in article titles and the source of said articles. My expectations for both food picking and information picking have a lot of similarities. Both activities are governed by my emotions and by my self-defined rules for what is and is not acceptable.

I know how much of something I want to consume and what flavors or on what topics I want to consume. Both are based on my feelings and willingness to become satisfied.

Fundamentally, I’m sensitive to quality. I expect that the food that I eat and the news that I read are of “high” quality. Everyone has their own sense of quality. Some people base their notions of food quality on how cheap it costs in comparison to how filling it is, irrespective of its source or the process for which it was turned into a sellable product. Some people are willing to spend more money because they are careful and knowledgeable about any given aspect of a food system.

On the Internet, information flows more freely than water streaming from a hose. People have created relatively effective tools at filtering in or out information based on all kinds of criteria. Even when information is filtered, by either the information producer, sharer, reseller, or consumer, I have my own internal filter based on short-term emotions and long-term expectations.

While roaming Whole Foods Market, I am relaxed there because I place a lot of trust in the products that they’re selling or reselling. I don’t feel like I have to worry about that quality of content of the food because WFM doesn’t sell products that contain specific ingredients that I strategically avoid. When I go to Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyers, or Metropolitan Market, however, I have to look at every ingredient list to make a judgment call on whether or not the quality meets my expectations. In other words, I’m much more skeptical about the products that I consume at the places where food providers don’t appear to align with my paradigm for healthy food consumption.

I grocery shop at Whole Foods Market because of their biases. I don’t appreciate the use of chemicals, pesticides, or genetically modified organisms in food, and neither does WFM, so they don’t sell or resell that stuff to me.

I also watch Democracy Now! every weekday morning. Democracy Now! has biases against profit-motivated and power-grabbing news reporting.

I’ve starved before. During risky and dire living situations, I’ve lowered my standards–my internal security precautions–because something outweighed any given risk about the food that I ate, because I didn’t have enough.

On occasion, I’ll come across a news article with part of its primary information being the same as an ongoing story and part of its primary information being a brand new development. The last one that I have a vivid, emotional remembrance of is a Bloomberg article that purports that the NSA had been actively exploiting the OpenSSL Heartbleed bug for almost as long as the bug was introduced into the software package.

Being critically sensitive to the quality of information in any given news article, with my own set of tools to strategically apply qualitative and quantitative reasoning to better understand, I called bullshit on this particular Bloomberg ‘truth’ story. However, and even immediately after reading the article for the first time, I wanted it to be true. It made perfect sense, and I wanted another reason to stop the NSAs practices of unconstitutional, mass spying. And apparently so did a lot of other people on Twitter as the information spread like wildfire. The primary information about the NSAs operations was so rare that people acted like they were starving–like they had just eaten the only thing they could put into their stomachs.

I eventually figured that I poured the peanuts into my free hand as a form of control. I don’t want to eat too much, too little, or possibly make a mess in the process.

Consuming information follows some of the same patterns of eating. People are willing to accept a consumable simply based on paradigm alignment, which, in turn, becomes a subjective measurement of quality.

The Food and Drug Administration developed the the organic food certification in attempts to create a baseline for what is and is not acceptable when it comes to organically grown food. The organic certification process is thorough and it costs a lot of money to get verified, and people pay money for that level of trust.

The information available in the form of news articles has adapted itself based on legacy media, such as newspapers and magazines. One of the substantial differences between legacy media and digital media is the sheer amount of diversity that someone can expose themselves too, meaning that the risk of misplaced trust could happen easier and more often, especially with highly-polarized and highly-biased information structures. We need to develop better tools and better knowledge about the information that we consume, because information poisoning is something that we can develop a sense for to avoid. No one who consumes a balanced diet needs a reminder not to eat a moldy peanut.

Information strings and their use in understanding digital journalism

Oxford Internet Institute MSc in Social Science of the Internet research proposal by Christopher Sheats

Introduction. In his book, Information: A Very Short Introduction, Dr. Luciano Floridi defines the differences between five types of semantic information (5-TSI)—primary, secondary, meta, operational, and derivative. Floridi then tells a story and describes specific pieces as being “primary” in nature, or “operational” in nature, etcetera. I have adapted Floridi’s 5-TSI to create a framework that goes beyond focusing on independent pieces of information. My research links these independent pieces together to more effectively trace the focus of how the main topic or topics of a news article are being described to the reader. I propose that this linking of information-types becomes an information string.

Identifying information strings allows one to analyze semantic information by qualifying and categorizing information to determine what is and is not present in any given article. My area of interest concerns the quality of information of politically motivated online news articles. A diverse and relevant range of information strings makes up a news article’s informativeness, which is a metric that can describe how high or low the quality of information is. My objective is to determine the quality of any given set of information, which may or may not indicate aspects of informativeness, misinformation, and disinformation.

Hypothesis. In order for my hypothesis to work, I had to invent an information-string system. The notion of “primary” information is the smallest, least complicated “tier” of information which I call a “first-tier” information string. Operational information concerning a news article topic is “primary-operational” information, or, a second-tier information string, because it is operationally describing the primary information. Each sub-tier is always a complication of its respective higher-tier information string, be it secondary, meta, operational, or derivative. I propose that every information string in a stand-alone news article should start as primary-“something”, because information in any news article should focus on or support a main topic.

I hypothesize that information strings can be logically and visually mapped in such a way that will enhance news aggregation websites.

With any given news article topic or topics (the primary information), there should be a substantial amount of related information already available online. With the release of new information by journalists, politicians, whistle-blower release sites, encyclopedia developments, and social media participants, the nature of how that primary information will evolve. Over time, primary information strings change depending on a multitude of factors that affect primary’s sub-tier information. Through analyzing the nature of the information string change, trends should emerge to help identify those factors.

What I expect my research to support is the premise that information string evolution will dramatically shift based on specific sources, including individual journalists, individual political speakers, entire news agencies, or entire political organizations. Tracking information that has a high probability of being deceptive via the application of information strings should allow me to visually represent the change of information over time to better understand the consequences of using low-quality information.

Methodology. With the help of my research mentor, Dr. Floridi, I will select a topic in news media to analyze. For example, in a public blog post, I looked at an NBC News article alleging that US officials claimed that the Iranian government was responsible for cyber attacks against the US government. Through the application of information strings, I was able to provide evidence that its low-quality information was later being referenced in follow up articles by the same and other news agencies, leading to systemic low-quality information and probable deception. Information strings can become dependent on false information that allow the generation of all kinds of information strings in other, stand-alone, online news articles.

Surveys will need to be developed and administered to a wide range of participants to gauge the informativeness of the use of specific information string diversity and order. Survey questions will depend on the development and application of my information strings framework. The following questions were developed to better shape survey questions:


  1. Is it feasible to track the behavior of information in semantic media using the 5-TSI?
  2. How persuasive is one information type, of the 5-TSI, over another?
  3. What type of the 5-TSI affect the trend of semantic media the most? The least?
  4. Is objective information composed more of one of the 5-TSI over any of the others?
  5. In semantic media, can the 5-TSI be broken down into percentages and graphed?
  6. How does subjective information and objective information affect the 5-TSI? Vice-versa?
  7. Is it possible to identify the gaps between data and information in semantic media, depending on the type of information, either biological information or the 5-TSI?
  8. Is it possible to automate the detection of the 5-TSI present in a piece of semantic media?
  9. To what degree does biological information affect the 5-TSI?
  10. What types of the 5-TSI persuades a user of that information to ask more questions rather than make more assumptions? Vice-versa?
  11. Is it possible to use one or many types of information to strategically develop information warfare operations?
  12. Do the 5-TSI change in perception by a biological entity that is limited to biological information?
  13. Does understanding the information type affect one’s ability to understand information in a more objective sense?
  14. How do we extract wanted information from all perceived information, of the 5-TSI?
  15. How do we extract primary information from secondary information? Or vice-versa?
  16. What percentage of the 5-TSI create more perceived information entropy, information, and/or contradictory information? Can the 5-TSI be broken down into these categories?
  17. Do various types of the 5-TSI create any more or less information entropy?
  18. Does the diversity or order of the 5-TSI affect information entropy?
  19. Does information entropy shift as one learns more?
  20. How does information entropy change and how is it affected by biological information and the 5-TSI?
  21. Does semantic information have strong relationships with biological information? Can it be understood using complex adaptive systems analysis?
  22. Is there a dualism to Floridi’s 5-TSI?
  23. Is it feasible to minimize or maximize the use of meta information, except when in support of primary information, to better produce disinformation? Or any of the other 5-TSI?
  24. Is it possible to systematically or systemically organize meta information as primary information, or secondary information as primary information, etc?


Conclusion. Depending on the probability of informativeness and the ever present risk of deception in political news articles, a news aggregator such as Google News could eventually achieve two things. One, it could make targeted suggestions to information consumers that present the least amount of content to consume while achieving the greatest amount of informativeness based on open sources. Two, because there will eventually be a database of historical trends based on information string change, a news aggregator could strategically suggest information that will best support probable information changes.

This research will allow for the development of automated systems to best support the actions of an information consumer based on high-quality information, rather than wallow in a bunch of unstructured, seemingly random news with no qualified risks of misinformation or disinformation. If my research is successful, I have every intention to push this research in the OII’s DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences program.

Henry Markram of the Blue Brain project, founded in 2005 to attempt to create a synthetic brain, was quoted in an interview from 2008 as saying, “So much of what we do in science isn’t actually science. I say let robots do the mindless work so that we can spend more time thinking about our questions.” The internet has extraordinary capacity to meaningfully inform its users. We need better information management systems to help us ask the right questions when it comes to consuming information online.


NSA denial statement analysis shows no new information

“Reports that NSA secretly intercepts data infuriate Google and Yahoo” by The Guardian:


My analysis attempts to better describe the nature of the information contained in the NSA’s response to the Washington Post’s news article using a framework derived by Dr. Luciano Floridi’s work in the philosophy of information that I’ve solely developed. My framework attempts to develop information “strings” that aim to isolate what is and is not being said. My analysis only breaks down the information on a sentence-by-sentence basis, and does not collate the information as a whole, as I haven’t gotten that far in my framework’s development. However, my qualitative analysis reveals areas that should require further explanation. Most of these identified areas are perceivable by people when reading this content. However, my aim is to attempt to analyze systemically and systematically.

The claims of information being “not true” while not being directly addressed is deception. From John J. Mearsheimer’s book, Why Leaders Lie: The Truth about Lying in International Politics, Mearsheimer explains in the very beginning of chapter 1:

Truth telling is when an individual does his best to state the facts and tell a story in a straightforward and honest way. Every person invariably has limited knowledge about the details of any case and biases as well. Memories can also be faulty and it is impossible to relate every fact one knows when telling a story. The key point, however, is that a truth teller makes a serious effort to overcome any biases or selfish interests that he might have and report the relevant facts in a fair-minded a way as he can. Deception, in contrast, is where an individual purposefully takes steps that are designed to prevent others from knowing the full truth–as that individual understand it– about a particular matter. The deliberate aim, in other words, is not to provide a straightforward or comprehensive description of events.

Irrespective of information such as this being held back because of national security interests, very recently three-letter agencies (TLAs) have been releasing even more formerly-classified documents to avoid blame. The TLAs have stated that they are doing so because the public interest is greater than the interests of security. Either way, these people in power are dictating what is important and what is not, and their language in these types of explanations are far from the public’s interest and far from the desired facts. The public is telling them to stop their activities and explain themselves, and both the White House and the TLAs respond with deception.

The content:

The primary information includes:

  • “NSA”
  • “Google”
  • “Yahoo”
  • “secret actions”
  • “data and information interception actions”

NSA has multiple authorities that it uses to accomplish its mission, which is centered on defending the nation.

Before I talk about each information string for this first sentence, I want to point out that this is so uninformative, that it is not actually information. It requires secondary information to understand adequately, which is a shame that the NSA would expect so much of its informees. Why would they want you to start out so uninformed?

  • primary-operational: “NSA has multiple authorities”

Two subsidiary organizations? or the NSA is controlled by two or more “authorities”, such as authoritative laws? High ambiguity increases the risk for deception. Authority is not defined (third or fourth tier information is missing), which forces the informee to speculate the facts. The worry here is that the NSA may be intentionally, subtly, shifting blame, since the informee is unable to produce accurate understanding. An informer should always avoid multiple meanings in order to produce high-quality information.

  • primary-operational: “…that it uses to accomplish its mission”

Does the NSA share mission responsibility with two or more authorities or is the NSA’s liability owned by two or more authorities? A problem with providing low-quality information is that latter information is even more confusing. Again, high ambiguity increases the risk for deception.

  • Primary-operational: “…which is centered on defending the nation.”

The ambiguity in this first sentence is kind of insane. It requires preexisting knowledge to auto-fill missing information, and in this case, the likely possibility that what they want you to auto-fill with is that the NSA does a good thing, in general, by protecting you. Of course, they don’t explain how. Trust them.

The NSA appears to be shifting responsibility around, or creating unnecessary complexity by avoiding detail or providing basic definitions, in order to avoid negative ownership, but attempts to claim positive ownership.

The bottom line for this first sentence, based on the above information strings, is that there are clear information strings that are missing. There is zero primary-derivative information which indicates a “take my word for it” approach.

The Washington Post’s assertion that we use Executive Order 12333 collection to get around the limitations imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and FAA 702 is not true.

The exterior systems that are Executive Order 12333 and FISA directly describe the nature of the primary information. They are whole, independent systems in and of themselves. It is very specific and important information to have, for if it were not present, all of this content would be even more questionable.

Primary-meta-operational information in this response by the NSA would describe how the primary-meta information works according to the NSA, however, the NSA does not bother to describe how it actually utilizes them. Had they, this would contain higher-quality information. It remains very low.

  • Primary-operational-operational: “The Washington Post’s assertion…is not true”

The NSA is operationally describing (not true) the operational description of the NSA (the assertion(s)) made by the Washington Post. In order to provide higher quality information, there should be primary-derivative-operational-operational information, which might be the NSAs direct response to specific claims made by the Washington Post (the derivative information being the information contained in the Washington Post’s article, or the publicly released top-secret information).

The assertion that we collect vast quantities of US persons’ data from this type of collection is also not true.

  • Primary-operational: “we [do not] collect vast vast quantities of US persons’ data from this type of collection”
  • Primary-operational: “we collect vast quantities of US persons’ data”

This is interesting. There are two distinct yet same information strings in this sentence. For one, the NSA is arbitrarily stating that they do collect vast quantities of US persons’ data, just that in the manner that The Washington Post explicitly describes is false–which is not to say that the NSA does collect exactly and implicitly in this manner, just not in a wording that the NSA appreciates. It appears that because of the nature of this information game, the NSA was backed into a corner and had to attempt to sound direct even though they’re not being direct at all.

  • primary-derivative-operational-operational: “The assertion…is…not true”

The primary-derivative-operational-operational information that is “not true” has a very high probability of being disinformative. To state that someone is saying an explicit lie is to state something contrary to reality; however, to state that something is not true is to implicitly state that it is not in a specific interest’s (the NSA’s) reality. This is a substantial concern.

If it was my job to craft this sentence, I wouldn’t have made it at all. Unless, of course, the NSA is attempting to squash every allegation ever made against it with regard to… with regard to what? “[T]his type of collection” is insanely ambiguous, because the NSA wouldn’t dare define it and then be liable for explaining its direct opinion of what is drawn on that napkin.

To juxtapose (primary-secondary information), the Washington Post claimed: “By tapping [Google and Yahoo] links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans.”

Te NSA could very well be denying the two words “at will” as if they, by choice, copy information from Google and Yahoo. It could be that the “will” is removed because of the automated nature of the NSAs system, which allows them to claim the entire content is “not true”.

In order to claim such a statement, in order to provide high quality information, and to re-establish trust, the NSA should explain why it is not true. But it does not.

NSA applies attorney general-approved processes to protect the privacy of US persons – minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention and dissemination.

  • Primary-operational: “NSA…protect[s] the privacy of US persons – minimizing the likelihood of their information…”

The NSA just agreed with the Washington Post here. The NSA does collect information on US persons, just that it is “minimized”. Primary-operational-operational information would be prudent here–like, quantifying “minimize”. The Washington Post claims “…many of them belonging to Americans.” So what is the NSA attempting to deny?

NSA is a foreign intelligence agency.

  • primary-operational

The NSA isn’t negating that it’s not a domestic intelligence agency, which it is known to work very closely, or even for, other domestic intelligence agencies including the US Secret Service and the FBI (primary-operational-secondary information: the NSA directly assists domestic intelligence agencies). The issue here is that the NSA is trying to lead the informee away from the idea that it has any interest in domestic affairs, which is known to be a matter of fact.

And we’re focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only.

  • primary-operational: “…we’re focused on discovering…valid foreign intelligence targets only”

Again, the NSA is distancing themselves from domestic intelligence gathering. There are so many different types of information that the NSA could include here to legitimize their claims:

Primary-operational-operational: The NSA could describe how they leverage their Google and Yahoo hacking. They could describe what they do to focus on foreign versus domestic intelligence targets. They could describe how US person’s information gets caught up in their efforts. But they do not.

Primary-operational-derivative: The NSA could describe how other foreign intelligence agencies deal with this time of misuse. The could describe how domestic intelligence agencies leverage the type of information that Google or Yahoo generates. But they do not.

Final thoughts

Additionally, “Google”, “Yahoo”, and “secret actions” are all primary information yet they are completely absent from the NSAs information. Is it disinformation? There is a high probability that it is. The risk for concealment (deception) is high because a large majority of the primary information were not directly addressed. Not discussing primary information does not make it not-primary, for the slippery slope of information that started with Snowden, disseminated by the Washington Post, and responded to by the NSA, requires direct response to remain high-quality.

Disinformation is not actual information–it exists when an informer directs an informee away from the ideal, whole nature of the informational content. Disinformation exists when an informer performs some manner of deception, which can include lying, concealment, or spinning. It is very easy to conceal information by focusing on the ideal nature of your interests. Spinning, it seems, is more of an art than a science in order to detect. Lying is only detectable when you have an abundance of supporting, secondary information.

Due to the nature of the NSA, misinformation is not likely–an intelligence agency, priding itself on “knowing”, shouldn’t be mistaken to accidentally deceive. In tandem, is it wrong for the American public to expect the NSA to provide high-quality information in their responses? Snowden is responsible for shedding light on what is being perceived as unconstitutional actions by the NSA. This is a serious issue requiring serious responses from its stakeholders. High quality responses out of shear respect for your country takes priority, not pride in your faith for your work.

Low-quality information about Tesla car accidents may affect stock, not the actual accidents

Another Model S fire, Tesla stock tumbles” by Tim Haeck:

This article appeared to be sensationally written when I first read it, not just from reading the article’s title, which is a play off of recent, popularized headlines about a Tesla Model S igniting after hitting a large chunk of metal in Kent, WA. As I will describe, the reasons for appearing to be sensationalist are not subtle.

adj. Sensationalistic; tending to sensationalize; characterized by sensationalism (the use of exaggerated or lurid material in order to gain public attention).

(from Wiktionary)

Information in Haeck’s article appears to be subtly exaggerated, and I will explain why using my developing framework derived from aspects of Dr. Floridi‘s work in the philosophy of information. The primary information of Haeck’s article concerns the financial health of a specific American car company, and in such a way that causes an emotional-state change in the informee, firstly due to secondary (lack of) information, and secondly due to the lack of 3rd and 4th tier information.

To review

We have five types of information, primary, secondary, meta, operational, and derivative. My developing framework is used to analyse semantic information by qualifying and categorizing information in order to determine what is and is not present in any given article, and attempt to determine the consequences. My objective is to determine the quality of any given set of information, which may or may not indicate aspects of informativeness, misinformation, and possibly disinformation.

Information in news articles, where an informee is generally learning something substantial about his or her world, should exist to be valid and truthful. My framework groups specific pieces of information together and labels them, with the goal of being as specific as possible about what type of information it is in relation to the primary information. Primary information can usually be gathered by simply reading an article’s title, but not always.

“Primary” (without sub-classifications) information is 1st tier information. Using Haeck’s article, our primary information in focus is about Tesla Motors Inc,  the notion of a car accidents, and notion about the lessening financial value of a public, for-profit company.

“Primary-operational” (one sub-classification) information is 2nd tier information, because we are talking about the operating nature of whatever the primary information is. A specific example is the current and past stock prices of a publicly traded company, because it generally describes the increasing or decreasing health of, say, Tesla Motors.

“Primary-operational-derivative” (two sub-classifications) information would be 3rd tier information, and a specific example might be a stock market analyst’s opinion about Tesla Motor’s financial health.

The actual content

Tesla Motors stock has taken a tumble (…) after another report of a fiery crash involving the company’s Model S electric car.

Haeck’s article states that Tesla’s stock value dropped, which I presume must be true qualifying information, but only insofar as providing two points of quantified information: the updated closing cost of one share of stock for Tesla Motors and the percentage of the drop from the previous day.

To accurately reform an informee to avoid despair, Haeck should provide additional primary-operational information, which could include any number of truths: Did the stock jump back after the reports of the Kent, WA accident? How often does a 4% drop happen?

(…) has taken a tumble, again, after another report (…)

This “again” is primary-derivative-operational information. The cause and effects involved with an incident such as this–that sometimes affects company’s stock prices–happens, and this derivative inclusion is meant to support and directly tie the cause and effect of one event to another.

As an informed reader, I know that the Kent, WA incident affected Tesla Motor’s stock price because of a YouTube video that went viral (over 3 million views to date), and because a stock market analyst downgrade. Primary-derivative-operational-derivative information is needed, likely by a qualified professional, to justify this logical connection. But there is none.

Tesla shares fell four percent Monday to close at $162.86.

Alternatively, is the 4% drop even related to the Merida, Mexico accident? Qualifying primary-operational-derivative information would improve the information quality, like validating from a reputable source that:

  • this is a substantial (or not) drop in stock price, and/or
  • if the Mexican incident affected the stock price.

Another main contention in this article is that Haeck states that the Mexican accident occurred on Thursday, October 17. However, his reported stock price occurred on Monday, October 28. What’s missing is any form of primary-operational or primary-derivative information to explain this gap. The first interesting drop happened on Monday, October 21, which is missing any qualification.

TSLA closing prices:

  • Thursday the 17th: $182.80
  • Friday the 18th: $183.40
  • Monday the 21st: $172.60
  • Friday the 25th: 169.66
  • Monday the 28th: $162.86

The use of the primary-operational-derivative information is exaggerated because it’s the informer’s responsibility to provide high-quality information, and in order to do that, Haeck needs to fill in substantial gaps of information.


The Merida, Mexico incident leaves the informee emotionally weakened about Tesla. The article provides zero supportive arguments of its stated, most-affecting, primary-operational information. The existing primary-operational information is misleading because it is very specific, but Haeck doesn’t logically connect (justify) the provided information, which is a major indicator of low-quality information.

Haeck’s article contains low-quality information, which is a sign of deception (specifically, concealment) but is not always the case. With this article, there are many obvious pieces of information that are not present, which an informed reader should expect from a high-quality news source. Most readers are not economists, but a company’s health is usually gathered by longer-termed trends than single day, or single week, rises and falls. Unless, of course, a major event happens that affects public stock options, but Haeck doesn’t justify this issue, and leads informee’s on to believe that it does using random facts. Haeck’s article appears to be misinformative, and it arguably appears to be disinformative because of the substantial amount of missing information. A publisher of information should never want to appear to be providing either, irrespective of being completely truthful.

In addition to providing more, and better connected information, Haeck (and many like him) need to explain why the informee should or should not feel emotionally weakened about Tesla when so little information is provided. This doesn’t need to be accomplished by (laughably) stating so, but by providing alternative primary-derivative and primary-operational information meant to educate. This could include many things, including the nature of car accidents, and nature of the stock market, or the history of Tesla’s value. There are so many things that could increase the validity and quality of this article.

Lastly, there are no links to the source. Did Haeck travel to Mexico to cover this? With this little information, I sure hope he copied this from somewhere else.

A Critical Look at a Facebook “Like” as Free Speech

From a Al Jazeera America news article:

“Liking a political candidate’s campaign page communicates the user’s approval of the candidate and supports the campaign by associating the user with it,” Chief Judge William Traxler wrote for a three-judge panel of the Richmond, Va.,-based appeals court. “It is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech.”

From a Bloomberg news article:

The appeals court reversed a lower-court judge who said that simply clicking the “Like” button on a Facebook page didn’t amount to “a substantive statement” that warrants constitutional protection.

I wholeheartedly agree with the U.S. Circuit Court’s ruling. But their interpretation is lacking foundation from ideas shared in the philosophy of information.

The act of clicking a “like” hyperlink on Facebook or Facebook application, such as a “like” button on a news article web page or political figure campaign website, demonstrates knowledge of the primary information contained in the subject matter that can be “liked” in a web browser.

The sub-classification that is important here, the act of “liking” said primary information, is that from a neutral, third-party position, “liking” the main idea or an aspect of said primary information is primary-derivative-operational information.

Primary-derivative-operational information

Operationally, Bobby Bland demonstrated his knowledge and approval of the primary information by clicking the “like” hyperlink on Facebook. This operational information is, of course, derivative in nature, being that it is subsidiary information when juxtaposed to the actual content of the primary information.

Another common act that is considered free speech from a third-party observer that is also primary-derivative-operational information is carrying a sign at a strike or demonstration of some manner. A demonstrator is showing his or her approval or disapproval of some aspect of some primary-information. Again, the act of agreeing with primary information is derivative in this context. Facebook doesn’t support a “dislike” hyperlink, but if it did, someone who shows (shares) that they have knowledge of that primary information (content contained in a Facebook post) and, operationally, demonstrates their agreement by clicking a supporting hyperlink, should be supported by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Liking, re-tweeting, etc, demonstrates:

  1. having some knowledge of the primary information
  2. showing support of some aspect of said primary, primary-secondary, primary-meta, primary-operational, or primary-derivative information

Performing both of the above two items is a requirement to verbalizing support for a political candidate, which is also protected under the First Amendment.


Spearheading a Wikisource repository for political speeches

How did President Obama think about a politically-sensitive topic that concerns you a year before his presidency? How about 5 years before his presidency? 10 years? How far back in his public service does his opinion matter?

Politicians talk a lot. Everyday. Their public speeches should showcase their absolute and relative opinions about how they think Government should affect you. Where can you go to see what they said? How compassionate were they about the issues that matter to you? Did they lie? Did their opinion change? Why did it change? We can’t even begin to answer these questions unless we document them.

This project aims to have citizens use their cell phone’s video recorder to document the speeches of local, state, and national representatives. These videos will be uploaded to, openly licensed using the Creative Commons, and transcribed so that search engines can index these important words.

The goals of phase one:

  • Develop a standard Wikipedia-modeled framework for properly documenting public political speeches
  • Spread the word to everyone so people know to record their representative’s public speeches
  • Spread the word to netizens who wish to transcribe and verify the transcriptions
  • Spread the word to journalists and researchers to constructively use this data
  • Wiki 1,000 political speeches within a one-year time span

Example: Remarks by the President on Osama bin Laden


Welcome: Society for the Philosophy of Information

I’d like to welcome the Society for the Philosophy of Information into the world. I’m so excited about the formation of this community that I became a Supporting Member and donated $50. Sadly, the lifetime membership was not an option when I signed up, but I guess I can do that in 2014.

SPI has released a CC-BY-NC-SA book, The Philosophy of Information: a Simple Introduction. According to the discussions going on via the email distribution list, a revised edition will be coming out soon, and the license may even be changing to CC-BY-SA to be compatible with Wikipedia.

Low-quality, high-entropy information incites war

This article is practice for my ongoing and developing theory of fundamental information classification. I do this for fun.

From the SANS NewsBites Vol. 14 Num. 76 email:

The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) has issued a warning to US financial institutions to be alert for cyberattacks following outages on the public websites of Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase. There are reports that several banks are being targeted by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, but the others have not been named. The warning from the FS-ISAC comes just two days after the FBI issued a fraud alert warning that cyber criminals may be launching attacks as a distraction from attempts to conduct fraudulent wire transfers. National security officials in the US now believe that Iran is behind the attacks on the bank sites, and they may have been launched in retaliation for US sanctions on Iranian banks.

Source-provided link: Officials see Iran, not outrage over film, behind cyber attacks on US banks

The primary information of this specific article includes: “Iran” “attacks”, and “US”. Information classification has been discussed here: Information entropy has been discussed here:

All possible facts aside…

A group of purported hackers in the Middle East has claimed credit for problems at the websites of both banks, citing the online video mocking the founder of Islam. One security source called that statement “a cover” for the Iranian government’s operations.

A “…source…” existing at all is primary-derivative information, because the primary information would exist without the support of this derivative information — in other words, the information network(s) that this article is, is bettered by the inclusion of this derivative information.

All in-network information (having to do with the primary information) should start out with a “primary-” indicator. All in-sub-network information, or, information concerning supportive information (secondary, meta, operational, or derivative) should start out with a “primary-[secondary,etc]-” indicator. Dependencies should always be explicit when identifying information classifications and information network definition.

“One [ ] source…” is low-quality primary-derivative-operational information. It is “operational” because of the defined rule of there being one and only one source, from which the primary information is presumed to be based, creating a low-quality primary-derivative information dependency. The stakes on this dependency is high and the explicit nature of one-and-only-one, lacking diversity or specificity, can only get lower one more time (zero sources). Information entropy = high.

One “…security…” source is low-quality primarty-derivative-operational-meta information. It is “meta” (purely: an indication about the nature of non-meta information and not definitive enough to be operational or derivative, yet attempts to be operational) information in an attempt to support the “…source…” operational information, being that “security” has multiple (non-related) definitions that are dependent on third-party and/or non-communicated ideas. Information entropy = high.

Observational note: the inclusion of “…security…” to describe the “…source…” can go both ways in terms of supporting information or disinformation. It may be that fourth-tier information (primary=1st, -derivative= 2nd, -operational=3rd, -meta=4th) will always have this “either-or” effect. Or, perhaps, because it is dependent “meta” information.

“One security source called that statement “a cover”…” is low-quality primary-derivative-operational-derivative information. It is “derivative” information, in support of the operational information provided by the “source” (priamry-derivative) information. Due to the dependency on the upper-tier information (derivative and derivative-operational) and the stark “take my word for it (by an unknown actor)” play, information entropy = very high.

The attack is described by one source, a former U.S. official familiar with the attacks, as being “significant and ongoing” and looking to cause “functional and significant damage.” Also, one source suggested the attacks were in response to U.S. sanctions on Iranian banks.

“…[B]y one source…” is low-quality, primary-derivative-operational (see above) and primary-derivative-operational-derivative information. The additional, fourth-tier information classification (-derivative) is evident due to the fact that the language used distinguishes this source from the former source in the article. It is not “meta” information due to the fact that it is supportive in understanding the article’s supportive presumed-information. This additional information classification is further supported by the (still low-quality) primary-derivative-operational-operational information, or, the operational information that specifies that this source is “…a former U.S. official…”. Information entropy = high.

Observational note: Information can and likely always has multiple classifications.

“…[F]amiliar with the attacks…” is low-quality primary-derivative-operational-meta information. It is “meta” to the “…one source…” because it attempts to describe how well the source should understand the nature of the primary information of this article. It is implicit information, meaning that it is lacking any supportive information, yet is being used as supportive information for dependent upper-tier information.

Observational note: “implicit information” needs further definition. Perhaps it is simply high-entropy information, which requires an explanation, or it simply represents the nature of “meta” information.

“Also, one source suggested…” is low-quality and follows the same logic outlined above. This appears to be a third, unknown source. Information entropy = high.

The former head of cyber-security for the White House testified Thursday that “we were waiting for something like this from Iran.

“We” is low-quality primary-derivative-operational-meta information. It is “meta” because “we” (more than one, including s/he) is not supported by any explicit information–the sentence implicitly suggests close ties with the White House. It is attempting to support the third-tier operational information, or, the act of said group (second-tier derivative) expecting (third-tier operational) an attack “like” this. There is a disconnect here. At first glance, “we” reads as if explicit derivative (fourth-tier) information. It is very easy for me to read this sentence and presume that “we” is explicit given the implicit context of the quote. This portion of the article could be substantially bettered by the addition of derivative (fourth-tier) information. Information entropy: very high.

“…[L]ike…” is a huge red flag. This is low-quality primary-derivative-operational-meta information. Qualitatively, there are so many things that an “attack” can be like. US intelligence for government requires specificity. Information entropy = very high.

Retrospectively, all primary information networks that have dependencies on these  primary-derivative pieces of information have high to very-high entropy, meaning, the likelihood of misleading and/or disleading information is high to very high.

Information that is intended to conform an informee to an idea(s) can be dangerous. In the United States, citizens are often[1] exposed to information that compels an informee to generate information networks (knowledge) that align with the possibility of war between the US and Iran.


This analysis of this single source is still dependent upon the likely existence of “secondary” information (the absence of primary information) and/or the likely existence of supportive (meta, operational, or derivative) information or misinformation.

UPDATE 2012-SEP-23

Some support my findings:

“Iran has not hacked the US banks,” Head of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization Gholam Reza Jalali told FNA on Sunday.


UPDATE 2012-OCT-03

Some more support my findings:

…none of the five experts interviewed for this article had any evidence to support claims the attacks were sponsored or carried out by Iran…