Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Touching cloth. I mean base. Probably

I’m ridiculously busy at the moment. I have a million things to write in exactly no time. You probably think I’m exaggerating.  But the world turns, generating annoyance I have to complain about.  Here’s a quick digest:
1. “Up to”. Adverts, don’t do that.  It’s almost always entirely meaningless.  I saw an advert for teeth earlier. I don’t know whether they were selling teeth or products that do something to people’s teeth but they had someone in a white coat who was described as a dentist. She said that “up to one in two people” might get gum disease at some point. So the absolute upper limit (according to the advert, which provided no evidence at all) of people who might (or presumably might not) get gum disease is exactly 1/2.  Even if the number is accurate, it’s not a useful statistic. “Up to” is one of those phrases designed to be just complicated enough that people don’t think about it.  It sounds good in either direction. Up to 1/2 of people (might) have gum disease, OH NOES! Up to 87% of people say homeopathic biscuits cured their gout. AWESOME! It sounds kind of official and kind of scientific but a) it’s not and b) it doesn’t say the slightest thing about whether the product actually does what it says.  I hate “up to”. If there’s an actual proper study, quote the results. If not, stop selling products that claim to solve the problem you’ve probably made up out of whole cloth anyway.
2. ‘Clinical studies’ for stupid shit: 78% of 214 people said the product made them look 37 years younger. I don’t know what the advertising rules are for this sort of thing, but for fucks sake: they always ask such a tiny number of people and the percentage of people who agree is always surprisingly low.  Call me Old Mr Cynical, but perhaps more thorough research has shown that people don’t trust studies that are too conclusive: maybe 90-odd percent seems unrealistic. But it doesn’t matter because the claim is obviously meaningless unless we know about how the studies were carried out.  It’s well known that some companies – some cosmetic companies, for example – survey their staff rather than members of the public as they suggest.  This would explain why 214 people were surveyed instead of ten times that.  There’s also nothing to suggest that they didn’t cherry-pick the survey.  Perhaps they chose the 214 people from a larger survey who cumulatively gave the required figure of 78% in agreement because that’s what research indicated was the most credible figure. Wouldn’t be hard to arrange, would it?
3. “Wiki says…..” Which wiki? Do you live in 2004? There are countless wikis. How difficult is it to specify which wiki?  If you tell me to look something up on ‘wiki’, you should know by now what I’m going to do.
4. Cruelty. By definition, there’s no excuse for cruelty. Don’t do that. You don’t have to be all that nice, I’m not. But there’s no need at all to be cruel. Don’t be cruel.
When I was a kid in a Church of England school, I was taught that while the ten commandments are all very well, they can all be boiled down to “love god” because if you loved god you wouldn’t do any of those bad things.
By the same token, I think we could probably replace a shitload of commandments with “don’t be cruel”.Not being cruel requires action: it’s cruel to allow people and animals and possibly plants and fungi to suffer if you can prevent it.
So don’t be cruel. And if you make adverts for a living, you’re automatically being cruel to me.

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