One of the things I truly enjoy about having a whole Internet’s worth of data at my
fingertips day and night is the quantity of information it offers up at a second’s notice. Want
to know who won the 1947 Melbourne Cup, but can’t quite place it? It was Hiraji. Can’t
remember the names of The Commodores aside from Lionel Richie? They were Thomas
McClary, Milan Williams, William King, Ronald La Pread and Walter Orange.
Need to know, for reasons that need not be specified, the name of the world’s largest
earthworm? That would be Australia’s own Gippsland Earthworm, but I won’t link to the
video of them you can find on YouTube — you might be eating.
Not all information is created equal, though, and it’s worth keeping in mind the bias
behind anything you read online, not to mention the context it’s written in. For example, I
recently hit an online news story in which April 11, 1954 was stated to be “The most boring
day in history.” For the record, I can’t state that myself one way or the other with much
certainty, as it’s a little bit before my time.
Boring’s an astonishingly subjective term, though. Personally, rather like a somewhat
overused cartoon cat, I’ve always found Mondays somewhat on the plebeian side, but
April 11th, 1947 was a Friday, according to a quick net search. So what makes that
particular day so stupendously stupefying?
The story was seeded by a company called “True Knowledge” (http://blog.trueknowledge.com/2010/11/most-boring-day-in-history.html) as something of a
publicity stunt, with the key criteria being not so much how engaging the day in question
was, but how many events of world significance actually took place. I’m sure if you
happened to be born on April 11th 1954 you probably found it pretty interesting, although
the distance of time may have faded your memories of the day somewhat. Sadly, though,
unless you happen to be Turkish scientist Abdullah Atalar, your birth wasn’t seen by True
Knowledge as being significant enough to be worth noting down. It’s also worth noting
that the tagline of it being “the most boring day in history” is somewhat undermined by
the fact that it only covered days in the 20th Century. Admittedly historical knowledge for
the preceding centuries does get a little thin the further back you poke, but it’s well worth
keeping in mind.
Despite the veneer of objectivity, this is still fairly subjective information; in this case
it’s subjective to what you find engaging. No doubt billions of fascinating things actually
happened on April 11, 1954 if you happened to be there, and many more tedious things
happened last Thursday. Just because you’ve got a wealth of facts at your fingertips
doesn’t make the context of them any less important.