Several days ago, a big story hit the news, and everyone was talking about it:
Internet Explorer users are dumber than users of other browsers.
I first heard the story at my hack job, in a meeting at work. We were talking about the need to test our software using various browsers, and the subject came up of the difficulty of certain IE browsers.
"You know," said one of my colleagues, "A study just came out that said IE users have a lower IQ than Firefox users."
Several people whooped and cheered, and we all joked about which ones of us were smarter than the others. (I was a dummy at work, and a smartie on my home computer.)
The next day, my colleague who'd first mentioned the study sent us all an e-mail in which he sheepishly told us that he'd unknowingly perpetuated a hoax. The study had apparently been done by a bogus company with a bogus website.
The person behind the hoax came clean, as I read today. As I read his "confession," along with his list of reasons he thought the hoax would be discovered before it went viral, I marveled that the journalists of CNN and other mainstream news organizations hadn't checked their sources before publishing the "findings." (Perhaps they are simply IE users?)
Anyway, the reason I'm posting all of this is to point to this post by Christopher Budd, which looks at the various reason the hoax--unlike the thousands of other hoaxes out there--took off like wildfire.
I thought this whole thing, and Budd's post in particular, might be useful for discussion in a unit on cause and effect.