ICT & Computing in Education

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Unreliable information is worse than no information

I will never understand why so many people think that Wikipedia is OK to use for serious research on the grounds that it is mostly reliable. Mostly? Some years ago I posited the idea of a wiki timetable, in which people get to edit train timetables how they like. Some of the information displayed on the electronic noticeboards would probably be accurate some of the time. Useful, eh?

This is better than misleading information!Yesterday I had the dubious pleasure of being subjected to just that sort of timetable. Well, the sort of results such a timetable would yield, at least. Here’s what happened.

I had to be in a school Birmingham for 09:00. The Transport for London website suggested that the journey to the mainline station, Euston, would take 41 minutes. I allowed myself an hour.

When I arrived at my local station, I discovered that the next train would be in 25 minutes’ time, owing to unfinished engineering works, left over from the weekend. Not only that, I had almost no money on my Oyster card ( a prepaid journey card). That was my own fault, because I’d forgotten to top it up. But the ticket office was closed, meaning that I would be subjected to major hassle at the other end. There was nothing for it but to run (literally) to the next station along.

The ticket office was open there, I topped up my Oyster card, caught the train just in time – and missed my mainline train by 1 minute.

Fortunately, I had taken Elaine’s advice (men should always listen to their wives, they usually know best), and bought an Open Return, so that wasn’t too much of a problem in terms of money at least.

At Birmingham, the connection was late, according to the electronic noticeboard, and was even later than indicated. And it came in on the wrong platform too – fortunately only on the adjacent platform, so not much running and puffing involved there!

Astonishingly, and ironically, I arrived only 20 minutes late and was one of the first to arrive.

But no thanks to incorrect information which gave me a false sense of security. And, to be scrupulously fair, I didn’t check the section of the TFL website that deals specifically with engineering works. Next time, I will check all the relevant sections of the website, and double-check on another website, or by phone. It’s always good to triangulate!

Looking on the bright side, at least I had a bit of exercise!

The article I referred to above is Wiki Timetable.

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(c) Terry Freedman