Separating Welding Fact from Fiction
Being able to separate fact from fiction over the online sources of welding information is hard, particularly when it comes to text based information. Some of it may be emphatic, and emotionally convincing arguments over some point of welding while others make for a dull, dry read, best digested after a couple cups of coffee. A lot of it can be found on welding forums with vigorously guys debating the proper method. Here are a few steps to take to ensure the information you read is not only based on fact, but is also helpful to the reader.
1) Identify the original source of information. Is it from a respectable source? Just as with written books, a well-documented article citing sources of other writer's works helps lend credibility to the article. If the person is making a convincing argument and citing from his experience only, watch out. Though the writer may be correct in what he is saying, do a search by cutting and pasting full sentences into a search engine such as Google and see if you come up with anything. Always try to verify the information this way and collaborate it with other sources. There's over a 70 years of modern welding history here in the US. At one point or the other someone has had something to say about nearly every aspect of the subject. See if you can confirm the information though other online sources, then its much safer. The AWS is a good source for information and is considered the official independent governing agency for welding in the US and much of the western hemisphere.
2) Look at the writers's credentials? Is he some guy who is fresh off a night course at the local high school? Or does he have a few years under his belt with some training to go along with it? Does the writer even mention his experience and background. A lot of welding sites try to filter personal information and stick to the facts. That's ok, as long as it is from a respected source such as a manufacturer or a governing body of welders such as the AWS...But when it comes to welding forums and small sites with one-off articles be careful.
3) What kind of article is it? Is it argumentative or informative? Argumentative tones usually indicate that there is some dissatisfaction with the current method or form. While new ideas are certainly welcome in the welding industry, it can be used to misinform. After many years of welding a lot of processes and methods have been tried and proven. A new argument for a different technique or method should be taken very lightly, especially by people not on the fore front of welding. Tried and true WILL work. The higher the tenor and tone, and the greater the pull on the emotions, the less likely it will be good to use as a source of learning and is of little practical value. If the article is there to inform, and brings in empirical charts and data, its likely a scholarly article. Visual aids do help in learning retention. However, too much scholarship can take away from the practical application. Look for articles that discuss theory and then boil it down to practical terms for the reader. Not all articles do that, and leave the reader wondering how he should go about making use of that information.
Whatever the source of information, take a look at it to see if it conforms to other article information. Search around for conflicting information and see if there is indeed a majority consensus of opinion. Not all information will be relative and not all information will be valuable to practical application. Cross check information at your local welding supply store, especially regarding gas and consumable selection. Also many books are in print that are considered golden sources that can be bought online. Lincoln publishes their "Welding Procedure Handbook", commonly referred to the welding "bible" for guidelines on methods and procedures at a reasonable price and textbooks on welding can be bought that have the goal of training welders or improving technique. Other sources such as Miller offer pamphlets of copyrighted material that they have gotten from well-known resources or written themselves. Many of these can be downloaded for free or bought in paper form for a minimal cost. Whenever you are looking for this type information, realize that someone wanting to "sell" you their personal secrets or welding information may not be worth the time, when there is a wealth of well respected information at a reasonable cost.