Disappointingly, I missed the Black Dog Ride this year, elusive starter motor gears having not yet arrived from the US of A. I did look locally but was informed I could only purchase a complete item. “They’re a non-repairable unit” suggested my friendly but not well connected local auto electrician. That’s not an uncommon issue in semi-rural towns such as mine. Luckily, these days there’s a massive resource inexplicably shoe horned inside my little phone. I posted my pondering on a well-known forum and within 24 hours a fellow rider inserted in their reply a link to the site, store, and part I needed: Magic.
Still, as far as internet forums go I’ll admit I’m gun shy. I’ve seen many genuine and knowledgeable people get shot down by a posse of unequivocally ignorant ‘experts’. And I’ve seen unsuspecting innocents take potentially catastrophic advice and run with it most enthusiastically. If you’ve ever read a forum ‘thread’ on exhaust, carb or suspension tuning, or even… err … the accuracy of online advice, well, you’ll know what I mean.
It’s not that I don’t like a debate (just try me in a manic phase). And yes, I recognise that our contemporary understanding of theories and technologies involved in motorcycling are in a constant state of evolution (works best in an Indian accent, I’m sorry, but it does). The problem, as I see it, is that there is so much variability in machine, user and environmental stimulus that online diagnosis is all too easy to mess up. Real, evidence based diagnosis is complicated by consistency, in both the provision and interpretation of inputs. “Garbage in, garbage out”, as they say.
I’ve experienced similar challenges in the mental health sector. My local GP as it happens is well versed when it comes to depression. But, from the time I make the appointment to the time I get in the surgery my description of recent and current states of tune can alter significantly. Add to that in the time before I speak with my GP I will have done my own online analysis, formed my own opinions and compensated for a symptom I might find embarrassing (and possibly even convinced myself I’d resolved it).
Sure, it doesn’t look like I’m doing myself any favours, but don’t get me wrong. No different to a tuning issue on my bike, I categorically want the problem resolved, and certainly have no deliberate intent to misrepresent the evidence. It’s just that the evidence is prone to variable interpretations depending on the perspective adopted. An auto electrician and a fuel injection specialist will each approach a potentially common issue differently but if you’re already convinced it’s a fuel injection issue you may not give the electrician the detail they need for diagnosis, simply because it’s not where your focus is.
So I was particularly interested to see some recent work of the Black Dog Institute and their focus on providing evidence based online support tools for mental health. The appealing thing about the Digital Dog, to me particularly, is the development of ‘apps’ that allow for the gathering of data in consistent and timely ways. Your input can then be used to direct you to the right kind of specialist tuner or information.
If the data says you need a fuel injection specialist you don’t want to waste valuable time mucking around with the auto electrician, no matter how talented they may be. What the Institute is doing for my challenged mind is not unlike being able to plug a motorcycle CPU into the factory computer diagnostics. Only it can be done from almost anywhere. Amazing what can be jammed inside that little phone. Just magic.