Is Everything on the Internet True?

9 Replies

Is Everything on the Internet True?

Posted by Harry Rowe on Jan 21, 2019 9:06 am

The last few days I've been pondering a question: How can one be assured of the accuracy of information about Quality topics dispensed on a forum like myASQ?

Surely we are all past the "Everything on the Internet is True" meme. (For a fun take, Google "State Farm commercial boyfriend French model".) Clearly, everything on the internet is not true. In fact, I read on the internet that half the things you read on the internet aren't true.

Especially in today's world of "search engine optimization", "content marketing", and "click bait", not to mention "fake news" and state sponsored deliberate misinformation campaigns, we should realize that we must be very careful in what we trust.

Librarians at the Meriam Library at Cal State University at Chico have developed (I'm not kidding) the "CRAAP Test" for evaluating sources. The acronym stands for Currency, Relevancy, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.

https://www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf

To evaluate Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose, they suggest the following questions:

Authority: The source of the information.
- Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
- What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
- Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
- Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
- Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
  examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.
- Where does the information come from?
- Is the information supported by evidence?
- Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
- Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
- Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
- Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.
- What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or
  persuade?
- Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
- Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
- Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
- Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

In some cases, we are able to "outsource" some of this validation work to others. In the case, for example, of peer reviewed articles in scientific journals, we can rely on the editors and peer reviewers to have verified the credentials of the authors and the rigor of the work. Similarly, with technical publications from mainstream publishing houses, we can can rely on the editors and proofreaders to have verified the qualifications of the authors and the spelling, grammar and consistency of the manuscript.

But what about the "wild west" of contributed information on a computer forum? What can we trust? Every business that has a web site is creating "content" designed in one way or another to sell their products or services. For example, most of the posts on the ASQ LinkedIn group are from individuals trying to promote their products or services. (And yes, I have a business web site on which I post content for these purposes.)

Google was founded based on an algorithm called "PageRank" that ranks the "importance" of web sites based on the number and "quality" of links to the site from other sites. This is somewhat analogous to the ranking of scientific papers based on the number of times the paper has been cited by other papers. Yet Google also allows advertisers to bid for favorable placement of their ads in search results.

Wikipedia is a very useful tool for research which depends on individuals having unrestricted access to edit any article. By and large, it functions well, but there have been a number of well-publicized cases of malicious editing of pages by people with an agenda.

Many forum or bulletin board Question and Answer sites (such as myASQ aspires to be) have developed different algorithms by which individual "responders" (people who answer posted questions) are rated, either by the questioners, by other readers or responders,, or by the frequency of their activity.

While ASQ members, which most registered myASQ participants are presumed to be, are generally well intentioned, they are not necessarily experts in every topic discussed. And there are periodic problems as when individuals (or bots) create accounts with the intention of posting advertising content. This problem can only be anticipated to get worse.

So how do we facilitate the exchange of "authoritative" and "accurate" information on myASQ?

Can some information be "certified" as having been through peer review or some similar editorial process? (This will require controls on who can post information in certain areas.)

Can the "leaderboard" be used to highlight individuals who have a reputation for legitimate "thought leadership" rather than counting numbers of friend requests and posts welcoming new members?

 
Harry Rowe Certified Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence ASQ Senior Member

Re: Is Everything on the Internet True?

Posted by Amanda Foster on Jan 21, 2019 9:13 am

Harry Rowe‍, very interesting questions you raise. Currently I would not advocate the leaderboard as a standard for thought leadership as the model for attaining the higher numbers has more to do with activity quantity as opposed to quality. I wonder what it would take to create a leaderboard that would do what you suggest...
Amanda Foster, ASQ CQA

Re: Is Everything on the Internet True?

Posted by Gretchen Peterson on Jan 22, 2019 12:19 pm

It's not yet Valentine's Day and Harry Rowe‍ has sent an early gift to the librarians of the world!  wink
I think that I can state with some authority that most, if not all, librarians love to discuss the importance of source evaluation.  Prior to working at ASQ, I worked at a small college.  In addition to my librarian duties, I taught many (many, many) sections of a introduction to college research skills course.  How to evaluate sources (and the importance of doing so) featured prominently in the curriculum.  

One "easy" way to increase the authority or credibility of a response in this forum may be to cite a source (another thing librarians love) or share references for additional reading, research, and learning.  While following APA style probably isn't necessary, providing an author, date of publication (if available) and a link could be really helpful to post readers and community members.

Gretchen 

PS. I would probably get kicked out of the librarian club if I didn't speak up against trusting Wikipedia entries for important information without doing some double checking.  That being said, Wikipedia entries with robust cited sources and see also references are a bit more trustworthy. 
Gretchen Peterson, MLIS Research Librarian 414-274-2225 gpeterson@asq.org

Re: Is Everything on the Internet True?

Posted by Amanda Foster on Jan 22, 2019 12:29 pm

I think we've seen Gretchen Peterson‍'s passion spot! 

These are good tips and I have seen several contributors on myASQ following them.
Amanda Foster, ASQ CQA

Re: Is Everything on the Internet True?

Posted by Gretchen Peterson on Jan 22, 2019 1:25 pm

It's the librarian version of quality assurance! laugh

Gretchen
Gretchen Peterson, MLIS Research Librarian 414-274-2225 gpeterson@asq.org

Re: Is Everything on the Internet True?

Posted by Dan Burrows on Jan 23, 2019 12:49 pm

Harry Rowe‍ , You can trust everything that I post on myASQ.  I am not a robot.  Beep, bop, beep - ha!

Seriously, the questions you raise are very important.  If ASQ is to continue to pursue a membership for a fee model and have things like myASQ behind a pay wall, there must be proven value to it.
Dan Burrows ASQ Reliability & Risk Division - Chair

Re: Is Everything on the Internet True?

Posted by Jerry Rice on Jan 23, 2019 8:03 pm

Harry,

Your post is pertinent to the times with some great advice. However, based on what I've observed, the only stuff on the internet that is true is the stuff I want to believe is true. No matter the source. That is what we have come to. We went straight from the information superhighway to the information twilight zone. While your advice is good, I'm not sure how to reach enough people on a macro scale to make a difference. I'm hoping future generations figure it out. 

As far as the credibility of the information on MyASQ goes, we need to ensure accuracy and challenge content we don't feel is accurate. It is OUR community. We don't necessarily need to take down content you or I feel is less than accurate. We can tactfully challenge it in comments and generate a constructive discussion about it. We should question sources and probe counterpoints. That is what I see as the real value of MyASQ.

These discussions will build knowledge and learning amongst peers. While experts are great and QMD plans to seek out an exploit our expertise for our members, as you point out, experts aren't always right. They don't even always agree with each other. Its no more evident that in Quality Management. We have folks that live and die by Baldridge type models, while other swear by ISO 9001 based models, and others see the Shingo prize model as the "right" answer. There's even folks that still hold to old school TQM. My hope is we have "experts" arguing the finer points of each. 

As for blatant ads... I would think we tag it as objectionable and have it removed. There is no doubt that as MyASQ grows it is going to attract people that will try to use it as free advertising for their business.

Anyway, MyASQ is our community and it is up to us to protect it from being infected by stuff that isn't true.

Jerry 

Re: Is Everything on the Internet True?

Posted by Luigi Sille on Jan 24, 2019 7:13 am

Jerry Rice‍ , I totally AGREE ! It's our community, so We have to protect it.

 

Re: Is Everything on the Internet True?

Posted by David Harry on Jan 26, 2019 1:14 pm

"Don't believe everything you read on the Intranet about Quality"
- Abraham Lincoln 
Best, Dave Harry, PMP® CSSBB LBC, The Process Whisperer®, Greeneville, TN

Re: Is Everything on the Internet True?

Posted by Amanda Foster on Jan 28, 2019 8:41 am

Jerry Rice‍ excellent points. I, for one, am grateful for all the information people like you have put out here on myASQ for people like me to learn from. I cannot begin to tell you how valuable it all is. I hope to see more and more of "experts arguing the finer points" of these quality methods, theories, and systems.

For those of us who haven't been around for the changes in the quality profession, and the pre-transformation ASQ, it is important that those with expertise and information present a clear picture of the benefits and concerns surrounding these things. I love ASQ and I have derived such a benefit from my membership. I want to see it grow and succeed, and I want to have accurate information to help me do my part!
Amanda Foster, ASQ CQA