Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Trusting the Internet

Read an interesting piece in Sunday's Observer by Christine Odone about how difficult it had been to change an entry on Wikipedia. Apparently her biographer insisted she was born in Italy, which she wasn't. Or perhaps the other way round.

Anyway this blog deals with opinion not fact so find out the truth somewhere else. But how well should you trust the internet? Even its creator Tim Berners-Lee is now worried that there is more untruth than truth out there. I have used the web for research for a number of years now and offer these tips:

1. Multiple sources. Unless you are convinced a source is utterly reliable, seek confirmation from elsewhere. Be suspicious of any other source which has simply repeated words copied from your original site (or vice versa).

2. Check by email. Most sites have 'contact us' sections. Do so.

3. Check by phone and get a name. More time consuming but important if you need to be sure.

4. Acknowledge your source in your writing and any doubts you have.

5. Build up a 'feel', goodwill if you like, of sites which seem to consistently deliver what you need and badwill of those which regularly mislead you.

6. Treat each site like a person you are learning to trust. Your Mum told you not to talk to strangers but you do it all the time online. Build up trust slowly. I have met two people in person who I first encountered through the virtual world but they were both from the same area of professional interest as me. See who is faithful in small matters before giving them responsibility for large ones.

7. Don't libel. Writing untruths about people which damage their reputation can lead you to be sued. 'If in doubt, chuck it out' was the very poor motto of the insurance claims department I once worked at but a good one for writing articles.

Add more if you want to.


David said...

Not strictly relevant to this posting, but the link to your blog seems to have been removed from the Holy Trinity web site - have you upset someone?

St said...

Form a queue.

Anonymous said...

How true on building up trust slowly .. someone I 'met' in the virtual world actually helped reestablish my faith and has remained there for me for the last 2 1/2 years