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Essential Internet Appliances
June 30, 2009 10:29 PM   Subscribe

Crap Detection 101 Howard Rheingold offers a fairly in-depth primer on media and internet BS detection. Lots of links to resources for enabling critical analysis of various information sources included.
posted by telstar (17 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sturgeon's Law
posted by Rat Spatula at 10:55 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Worthington's Law
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:23 PM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Simple test:

1) Is it in the media?
2) Is it about politics or a contentions political issue?

Then it's very likely bullshit. If you know someone's biases, then you can sometimes correct for them. But everything you hear should be examined for unsupported claims and bias, especially when it's about an issue where there is a great deal of benefit for some people in others being mislead.
posted by delmoi at 11:27 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wanted essential Internet appliances.
posted by Monochrome at 12:21 AM on July 1, 2009


Cool, now I can figure out if femme fatales really do mooch free lunches off hardworking IT contractors.
posted by crapmatic at 2:15 AM on July 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, sure he does.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 2:58 AM on July 1, 2009


If you've ever suffered through Howard's They Have a Word for It, it's easier just to add a zeroth test to delmoi's list:
0) Did Howard Rheingold write it?
posted by scruss at 4:17 AM on July 1, 2009


Rheingold says, in that essay, that in educating her on the perils of internet information:

I sat down in front of the circa-1999 computer with my daughter and explained that most of the books she could get from the library could be counted on to be factually accurate.


That's news to me.
posted by jayder at 5:05 AM on July 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


You think that library has a bible?
posted by spicynuts at 7:02 AM on July 1, 2009


Has anyone seen whether basic search engine query writing skills units are showing up in primary education yet? I think they should be and, of course, result set interpretation needs to be there, too.
posted by bz at 10:37 AM on July 1, 2009


I sat down in front of the circa-1999 computer with my daughter and explained that most of the books she could get from the library could be counted on to be factually accurate.

Yet in his first paragraph he states that the term crap detection was coined by Hemmingway half a century ago.

the number of people who bookmark a source can furnish clues to its credibility

Apparently 50 million Frenchmen really can't be wrong.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:50 AM on July 1, 2009


...the number of people who bookmark a source can furnish clues to its credibility...

But not very useful ones. Consider, for example, how many links are on the order of "can you freakin' believe this horse shit?"
posted by lodurr at 11:47 AM on July 1, 2009


"Unless a great many people learn the basics of online crap detection and begin applying their critical faculties en masse and very soon, I fear for the future of the Internet as a useful source of credible news, medical advice, financial information, educational resources, scholarly and scientific research."

If you're fearing for the future of the internet, you're doing it wrong.
posted by mhjb at 4:23 PM on July 1, 2009


bz, i used to teach basic computer skills at a small private college, back in the '90s, B.G. [Before Google]. I taught searching and result-set-interpretation back then. My wife addresses it in her composition classes now, and more so when she teaches the freshman orientation classes (which she doesn't get to do much anymore, as she's supposedly a pure composition teacher now). But she's alone in that, more or less, among her peers, and the kids are pretty egregious in their sourcing. My stepson is pretty good, but that's mostly because he's smart and critical, not because anybody taught him. (Learn from his mother? Please! Well, maybe he conceded to pick up a bit.)

So short version is that I don't think internet information skills are really being taught so much as being picked up on the street. And as much as I distrust most things I hear from Howard Rheingold, he's got a (broader) point about that.
posted by lodurr at 6:06 AM on July 2, 2009


So short version is that I don't think internet information skills are really being taught so much as being picked up on the street.

On the contrary, I took some online coursework from a local state university and a prerequisite for entering the program was an extensive course on online sourcing. Having been out of academics since the usenet days, the course was very useful to an old fart like me.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:44 AM on July 2, 2009


lodurr, thank you for your comment. I am also interested if anyone has seen SE teachings directed at the primary levels of education, those grades, say, 2,3,4 or so. Maybe a reach but I am imagining that these skills are becoming fundamental and for more reasons than just formal sourcing but for general life.
posted by bz at 8:53 AM on July 2, 2009


Pollomacho, well, that's a good jumping off point for another point. Internet sourcing is covered in the comp curriculum at my wife's college, but their comp program is a little messed up about actually evaluating stuff like argument and citation. Anyway, sourcing is not quite the same as assessing quality, and you may be bringing more to the conversation than you're aware of. I mean, the baseline bullshit-detection requirement for being taken seriously on MeFi (as you are) is quite a bit higher than in most other areas of life. So you might be getting stuff that other students didn't.

An old prof of mine used to like to posit provocatively that 'nobody ever teaches anybody anything.' I.e., people learn, they don't get taught. Some people learn more from the same experience than others.
posted by lodurr at 10:12 AM on July 2, 2009


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