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Why you should generally sit back and question the amazing advice you get on the internet

April 30, 2014

OK so I give advice and so yes, I am including me in this little mini-post / rant about mis-information and rubbish.

Giving advice is part of my job and yes sometimes that advice doesn’t always work out to be 100% correct – it isn’t always easy to imagine a customers formula in your head then make suggestions of how to fix their particular problem using only a limited range of ingredients that have to be natural or organic.  I do try my best though.

I generally don’t give advice on topics that I have little to no commercial experience of.  Either I’ve  either been hands-on at my laboratory counter trying to do exactly what you are describing or have been in a factory watching or taking part in it happening.  I’ve also learned that factories are magical places where everything you though you knew about formulating is wrong.  Well, maybe not wrong but not quite as super-duper as you had hoped.  Oh and there’s also that thing about commercialisation – insuring the dollars make sense. I am generally thinking with my accountant chemist head on and thinking ‘that thing better be viable. Don’t want any money left on the table’.  It’s hard to imagine all of this or learn it from a book. In fact is isn’t hard, it’s blooming impossible. You just HAVE to go there, see that, feel that pain and learn.

That said I’ve not been everywhere and done everything so I keep an open mind.

Time after time when I’m googling or searching for information I see pieces of formulating wisdom thrown about and can tell that the info came off one web page or out of one persons mouth and onto or into another. That is how viral marketing works and the internet is the perfect ‘word of mouth’ marketing tool be it products, lifestyles, celebrities or chemical formulating knowledge that you are trading.  But we do have to be careful.

Wizard of oz

As a consultant I don’t have to know it all but I do have to know the difference between what I do and don’t know. To understand the implications of all that and to help fill the gap for people if asked. Often my advice includes telling people to ‘get it tested’ which might mean stability testing, preservative efficacy testing, micro testing, efficacy testing or assaying your product for actives. The reason I advise that people spend a little money on some testing is to give them some primary research or information to go off rather than just hearsay, personal anecdotes or testimonials or finger-in-the-sky luck.

My job as a business owner and person who makes some money from dishing out opinions is to actually put my money where my mouth is and produce some primary research so that when I say ‘you need more antioxidant’ or ‘your preservative probably isn’t working’ I know and can show you why, how and when. This is one reason why owning a consultancy isn’t so much a licence to print money, more that it is a licence to drive yourself mad with all the interesting projects you just HAVE to do, the research data you can’t help but pay for, the hours you spend pouring over patents, white papers and other research documents. You have just gotta love it.

So how do you know what information to trust?

You go back to the source and do a bit of fishing.

If the author dishing the info can’t explain how, why, where and when then there may be a problem.

If the author seems closed to comment and brushes your questions aside as rubbish then either a) your questions are rubbish or b) they don’t want to be questioned.

If the author can only explain their solution in one way or with one example then there is a problem.

So there you have it!

Let’t not create any false gurus, you only have to turn on a reality TV show to realise that the world has enough of them already.

Amanda x

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