"Popularity" Ratings & The Book
November 20, 1996
Wow. Time flies by some months, and crawls other months. This month has flown by, no doubt in part due to almost a week I spent in Phoenix, Arizona at a professional conference. Nice to get away from the winter weather and enjoy the very nice temperatures and sun of that city. I didn't know what to expect from Phoenix or Arizona (never been before), but I was nicely impressed.
Thanksgiving is upon us in America, and this is the one time in the year we should all pause to really give thanks for the kinds of lives we lead, no matter how miserable we may feel. We live in a relatively nice country, with a lot of freedoms not guaranteed in other countries. All of us have some family or friends (especially online!) who care about us (whether we realize it or admit to it or not). It's silly how we take so many things for granted. Electricity. Food. Transportation. All available to us in one form or another, at very inexpensive costs (compared with other countries). Let us give thanks for these things.
But more importantly, let us give thanks for those us who love us and who we love in return. Those who support us year in, year out, many times without very little acknowledgment or thanks. Those who live with us, cry with us, laugh with us, and are there for us when we most need someone to listen. It might be a lover, a friend, an online buddy, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, or some other soul who has become entangled within yours. It is all too easy to take these people -- who mean so much to us in our lives -- for granted. We live for these people, we are alive because of these people, and we love them. Take a moment out of your day and let them know.
Take a moment to think about what you say to someone else, or write online or in e-mail, before doing so. All too often we too quickly write our thoughts and feelings down on this computer screen without sitting back to reflect on our thoughts and feelings. Reflection adds perspective and can enhance communication between individuals. We surely don't do enough of it online (I too, suffer from this problem). If we remember that the person we're responding to is another live human being with feelings and thoughts of their own, I think we could all get along a little bit better online and in the world in general. It's hard to do that sometimes, but I'm going to make a better effort to do it.
So I'll try and say what I'm about to as respectfully as I can! A popular mental health site online, for which I have the utmost respect, has recently decided to start publishing what it calls "popularity" ratings. After a little testing though, I discovered that the numbers they cite are anything but accurate. To get these ratings, they use the powerful AltaVista search engine. You can try this for yourself to see the problem I have already written them about (but which I still have not received any reply!)
Jump to AltaVista's advanced query area and see how many results it pulls up for the "Grohol Mental Health Page" (the number will be between 1000 and 1800). Now see how many results it pulls up for Internet Mental Health (likely a number between 1000 and 1400). Press on the two links above a number of different times. You will get a different count each time! How can this be an accurate measure of anything?
Worse yet, because the Web site popularizing these ratings hasn't done much research into all the domains or valid URLs for a given Web site (using only those they are familiar with), they are missing counting a lot of links. As any good researcher knows, your results should be replicable. Not only are they not reliably duplicated on AltaVista, another powerful search engine capable of producing the same statistics gives us different numbers altogether. Check out the results produced by Infoseek Ultra:
What's my point? The ratings are meaningless! Please don't place any weight on them at Internet Mental Health. Instead, ask them to either refine their measures (using multiple search engines and better search techniques) or drop them altogether. They add nothing of value to understanding whether a resource you're searching for is useful or not.
As you may or may not know, I'm in the midst of writing a book for mental health professionals about online resources, which will be published in mid-1997. The book pretty much needs to be written by the end of the year. While I am working on it every waking moment, that means some other things are going to have to give a bit... Which is why you may not see another editorial until around Christmas-time. The New Year will hopefully bring me some more time (like 26 hour days, perhaps?) and a renewed energy to devote to my mental health resource here.
If you want the whole shi-bang of over 4,100 separate resources that have to do with psychiatry and mental health online, then you might want to visit Psych Central. It's the largest and most comprehensive site of its kind in the world and we're looking to build upon it in the upcoming years, acting as a super guide to mental health online. If you didn't find what you needed here, look there next!
That's it for this time... As always, keep in good mental health!
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jan 2007
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.