Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Just Because It Is On The Web Does Not Make It True

Today, I celebrate this blogs 10th birthday. Back on December 13, 1996, the MPLIC Tech Train was born and I have since seen over 1,000,000 visitors.

Is this true?

Well, over half of us would say, yes, it is true. Why? Because it is on the Web.

Stephen's Lighthouse points out a report that states that 55.2% of respondents say that most or all of the information found online is reliable and accurate.

This goes hand in hand with our survey on Wikipedia. It may have seemed like we were picking on Wikipedia, but really, verifying information is nothing new.

About 10 years ago when I was being trained in LINC, we had to answer some sample questions. A couple of questions in this long list were "trick" questions. They were trick questions because it was known by the trainer that LINC housed two sources that provided different answers to the same question.

Or there was the time a customer asked how someone could get a specific type of hepatitis. I ended up checking two sources (both books). The first source I checked stated that this certain type of hepatitis was contracted mainly by blood transfusions. The customer knew something was not right. He asked what the copyright date was on the book. The copyright was 1996. I checked the second source (more recent copyright), and it stated that procedures in blood transfusions had changed in the late 1990s and this type of hepatitis was now mainly contracted through shared needles. OUCH. Quite a difference. And this involved very reputable book sources.

However, the Web has greatly increased the number of sources available to us. The more sources you have, the higher the chance that the sources will provide different information, especially when these sources are updated in different time intervals and by different people with varying degrees of validity (or intentions).

Because there is no Collection Development Manager for the Web, we have to be our own individual Collection Development Managers.

  • Who is publishing the information?
  • Why are they publishing it (are they selling something)?
  • When was the information last updated?
  • What does the web page look like (seriously, if a web page is using bad color selections or plays annoying computer music when it is loaded, I tend not to trust it)?
  • Is the site organized and managed well (do all the links work)?
In the end, finding two reliable sources that say the same thing is a sure fire way to guarantee success. And, in case you were wondering, I believe Wikipedia counts as one.


Philb said...

As a training and illustrative aid I've recently put together a listing of some 50 fake or spoof websites that illustrate just how difficult it can be to tell fact from fiction on the web. You're welcome to take a peek at:

Kevin Dixon said...

Excellent examples. I will be including some of these in future trainings.