The Art of Crap Detection

Crap Detection

In the book “Net Smart” Howard Rheingold brings up a point, that due to the democratization of information and facts it is now up to the individual to figure out what is misinformation and what is factual. The rise of the internet has put many past news authorities out of business (Check out this article on it). The internet has also now made everyone a journalist in some sense. When events happen that are breaking news it is on the internet that most people hear about it. This leads to issues with authenticity. On the internet when things are happening it is now up to the reader to determine the validity. This is a totally new concept that was put to the test during the 2016 elections. From what has come out so far it is obvious that we as information consumers need to better understand where it comes from and what agendas it might be connected to.

To help with this I have compiled the list of tools and recommendations that Rheingold brings up in his book. To start Rheingold mentions Dan Gillmor’s “Five Principles of Media Consumption”

  1. Be Skeptical
      • The basic concept of not believing immediately what is either told to you or you read on the internet.
  1. Exercise Judgement
      • At some point you have to make a decision and it isn’t helpful to question everything.
  1. Open Your Mind – avoid echo chambers
      • Avoid Echo chambers where you get only one side of the story that fits with your world view. This locks you from being able to see other points of view.
  1. Keep Asking Questions
      • As simple as it sounds keep looking for more information and researching the topic to better understand it.
  1. Learn Media Techniques
      • Learn how media creation works and what techniques are used to build audiences and hold attention.

Below are some tools that came from Rheingold as well as some that I have found my self.

Crap Detection

  • Check endings of website urls, are they .gov or .edu? If so, these come with a requirement of the organizations be connected to official government organizations.
    • Allows one to search a domain name of a website to find out the organization behind it.
    • Check date the website was first published.
    • Use the wayback machine to check past pages on a website to see if they have changed their facts over time.
    • Great source and debunking or confirming political statements.
    • Provides tools for checking certification of health resources
    • Debunks rumors and common old wives tales.
    • Provides information on businesses and their investors

Gateway Sites

A place to start gathering information but not always the best source to rely wholly on.

    • Provides factual data on countries around the world
    • Random factoids
    • Noted that these facts were not always supported by any references or links.
    • A site with many sub sties that provide info on a multitude of subjects
    • A crowdsourced encyclopedia good for a first look into a topic before going further.

Additional Informational Sites


3 thoughts on “The Art of Crap Detection

  1. Excellent resources — thanks so much.

    There has been really interesting conversations about conventional media literacy (an individual applying a checklist to ascertain if a single piece of information is credible) may not work in this era of information overload and some reliance on collective recognition of expertise may be more important. Here’s one argument from someone who has been studying the internet for some time:



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