DigitalAnalogues

The Future = Now x Acceleration

Web Search Posts Roundup

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Tanya (hellofancypants) brings up a great point in her blog post this week that Internet searches are a great point to start an information source but is often not always the best source — books and articles often give better results. There is not always the discussion of why, though.

I think people suspect the right reasons, but the simplest explanation is that books and articles are peer-reviewed. Even newspaper and magazine articles get this kind of review so long as their newsrooms have not been ravaged by downsizing too much. Books most certainly are, unless they are pop-culture trade books published to a consumer audience. Even then, a developmental editor works with the author to make sure that the author doesn’t embarrass the publisher or libel someone. The myriad of editors at papers and magazines employ personal BS detectors for much the same reasons.

A book or journal bears the names and reputations of everyone associated with it. There is an implied permanence to the information therein.

Internet sites must be scrutinized for their motives. Questions your should ask yourself (and actively seek the answers to) if you are considering using a Website as a source are:

  1. What is the purpose of the Website? (PR? Marketing? Pointless ‘blog?)
  2. Who contribute the information to this site and what is their motivation?
  3. Where do they get the information that they are publishing? Are they referencing hard sources or are they citing other Websites with sketchy or scant references to their info, or it is referencing trusted sources you can follow and research yourself?
  4. Do they site corporate or user-generated sites like forums or Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is a favorite flogging post for serious researchers and academics because anybody with any motivation can change, deface or vandalize any entry at any time with impunity. The Wiki community notes that such vandalism is “healed” almost immediately, but if you happen to be visiting at the time that it is defaced, they your information is tainted. Citations link back to information that can disappear over time.

Sharloh (sharloh) this week reminds of a cliche (an erroneous one by the way) that the older among us have to be shown how to use the Internet. I can tell you that the cliche is wrong.

The Pew Center notes that Internet adoption use by older Americans year-after-year exceed the growth in the younger demographic. I think the reason for that is that the older among us grew up at a time when to use a new tool meant learning everything you could about it or else you might use it incorrectly. Younger people grew up with broadband and mobile devices and take it for granted. (It’s human nature. I took everything I grew up with for granted although I was aware that my parents were older and did not experience the same youth I did – by a long shot.)

For evidence of the above, look at the reticence some students had for exploring GPG while others were eager to try it out. I am an amateur radio operator and in that community, hams who build their own equipment are looked at differently by their peers than others who just buy equipment, learn just enough about it to make it work, and then plug it into the wall and go.

Those people are derided as “appliance operators.”

Sara’s latest post (sarabaker7) was the previous weeks’ about privacy. She raises a good point about the patronization that the government takes towards us under the auspices of DHS. She’s right. We didn’t like it when our parents snooped into our lives and I don’t much like the thought of even a well-meaning government organization searching through my luggage.

I’m reminded (the more I research this topic) of the kid at the end of the street not bouncing his ball in time to the beating of the giant alien brain in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I remember reading that as a youth thinking, “I don’t ever want to be that kid.” And yet, here we all are. That kid.

Megan (meganvladic) struck on the Web search article, too. She raises the point that a good, general search is a good place to start. That is true.

Keep in mind that those articles are from 14 years ago. A general search was difficult to perform and the results not always reliable. The benefit to us nowadays is that we can see what sources ‘Net sites use and reference those ourselves. Why take the Web page’s word for it? Why not go directly to the hard copy sources the Web site references and get the information yourself?

One of my favorite editors would admonish us against using another publication’s information saying, “Why would you cite those turkeys? They could be complete morons!” In my journalistic career, I found that he was right 90 percent of the time.

Mark (shepardinfiltrator) doesn’t shop online because of the possibility of identity theft. I’ve been a victim of ID theft and let me tell you…. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Luckily it was a physical intrusion, not online hack that was the culprit, so the source was really easy to trace. Even though I eventually had a physical description, name and address for the culprits (they weren’t too bright) the most disturbing thing was that the police had no interest in pursuing the information further although it met the criterion for pursuit under state law.

I only got satisfaction when I contacted the postal inspector with my information. He was quite interested and, I found out, was building a case against these two individuals.

Krista (perkygirl5) notes the credibility gap in Web search which I have well-documented. But she hits the nail on the head when she notes the convenience in Christmas shopping online.

If you have an extended family that is far-flung like mine, shopping from sites that offer free shipping / gift wrap services is a godsend. We used to spend up to $50 a year sending things through the mail to just a few of our in-laws. Now we just buy and have them shipped directly to them. No fuss and the shipping is paid! It almost doesn’t matter what gift you send!

Cody (codyepp64comtech)  is at the same point I was a year or so ago with regard to the iPad. I thought my laptop and desk computer were enough, thank you very much.

Now you’ll pry my iPad out of my cold, dead hands. If you work like I do, it is a tremendous time saver and immediate convenience. It’s not for everyone, but when it is useful, it is tremendously useful. You would have the same feelings if I took away your smart phones and told you that, from now on, you would have to use the cord phone tethered to the wall over there… (points. –> )

Brandon (snowden25) notes that the older generations are teaching the even older generations how to stay connected with modern tools. I wonder what it would have been like to have been in daily contact with my grandparents. After we moved to Springfield when I was seven, I saw them at least once a week or so. But before that, only once or twice that I remember.

Constant access means that college students can be in daily contact with their parents. I remember the “weekly call” that didn’t get into too much detail about my inner life. I couldn’t imagine my mother (a world-class snoop) being my personal Facebook troll. Yikes! #EndOfSocialLife

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Written by digitalanalogues

October 11, 2012 at 6:32 PM

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