Usenet as an Information source: Example
Recently, on the Usenet group rec.arts.sf.fandom, someone posted a detailed account of the history of a GM electric car called the EV1, produced in the 90's and then abandoned; the account was based on the poster having seen a preview of a documentary. The obvious implication of the account was that the car had been suppressed by a conspiracy between GM and Chevron, although GM's motive for suppressing it was left rather vague. I was suspicious of the account, which fitted better into the political ideology that the poster seemed to have than into my view of how the world works, but didn't know enough to judge if my suspicion was justified.
Today, there was a response—by someone who worked for the division of GM that produced the car. The response debunked essentially all of the original post, in detail. A few samples:
General Motors lost two billion dollars on the project, and lost money on every single EV1 produced. The leases didn't even cover the costs of servicing them.
The range of 130 miles is bogus. None of them ever achieved that under normal driving conditions. Running the air conditioning or heater could halve that range. Even running the headlights reduced it by 10%.
Minimum recharge time was two hours using special charging stations that except for fleet use didn't exist. The effective recharge time, using the equipment that could be installed in a lessee's garage, was eight hours. ...
NiMH batteries that had lasted up to three years in testing were failing after six months in service. There was no way to keep them from overheating without doubling the size of the battery pack. Lead-acid batteries were superior to NiMH in actual daily use.
It struck me as a wonderful example of a point I made in an earlier post—how useful Usenet is as a source of information. Once you find a newsgroup with a reasonable number of smart people having diverse positions, you get to watch both sides of an argument, for free, and end up with a reasonable idea of what the best case is that can be made for each.
And, of course, the thread is still going, so we get to watch and see if there is a persuasive rebuttal to the rebuttal.