With so much information - who do you trust?

With the Internet fast moving away from being the "the world's library" and towards "the world's information store" there is a new question to be answered - who do you trust?

The question should be asked from two, interconnected points of view - trust, what is it from the :
  1. readers point of view
  2. authors point of view
This post looks at the first, trust from the readers point of view, with the second being discussed next week.

Let's start with a situation we all have been in - getting a book out of the local library.
With a library you implicitly trust the content (books) you read. And by "trust" I do not mean "agree with" - I certainly don't agree with everything on the shelves in my local library :-)

But why do we trust that the books are what they claim they are?
Probably because the time and effort taken to get the ideas from the authors head and into a book in your local library is quite considerable. The effort, therefore, to actively engage in some sort of nasty business (e.g., writing a version of Harry Potter with a different ending) is prohibitive to most. We wander into our library implicitly trusting that the book we take out was indeed written by the stated author, published by the stated publisher at the stated time and is close enough to authors intent.

If we happen to pick up a laser printed pamphlet on the way out, we generally have a different emotional response to it and don't trust it quite as much.

However, with the Internet the time and effort to produce content is minimal and we have to devise other ways that gain our trust.
For instance, it's taken me 30 seconds to get started with this blog posting (log on etc) and, when I push the big 'Publish' button, it will take milli-seconds for the system to publish it to the whole world. If Harry Potter had existed solely in an on-line environment it may have been a lot easier for me to to "fake that ending".

The question for us on-line is - Who do we trust when it's so hard to judge? It might be even as basic as, "What do we use to judge?"

Some options are:
  • Recommendations from the real world:
    • Friends, colleagues, family ...
    • Organisations that have a real world presence
  • Sites from authors you've read over time
  • Sites from authors you can connect with (email, leave comments, talk to ...)
It's hard and I don't have all the answers - how can we trust information that seemingly springs up from new on-line services and websites, generates a buzz and then fades away just as quickly. And, of course, this is the WORLD Wide Web - how do I know that the Swedish research paper Google has thrown up is by someone with a valid and current reputation?

What do you use to judge if a website should be trusted - leave your comments on the original Groupings post ...

That, my trusting readers, is 'trust' from the readers point of view (or "information consumer" as we're becoming known because content on the Internet isn't just words but sound and video as well). With the next posting I will look at 'trust' from the the author's point of view - who do you trust with your ideas, business IP and memories?

Further reading about trust:


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This cross-posted at Groupings, the blog of Webguide:
... an online resource aimed at community groups, iwi groups, and not-for-profit organisations. It is intended to assist these groups in understanding how to use the internet to achieve their goals.

Comments

  1. You're right about effort. A book requires a lot of effort. Not only must it be written by someone, but it has to pass muster with a publisher and distributor.

    A laser pamphlet is near effortless to produce and requires less checks and balances to produce and distribute. Doesn't mean it's not as good as a book, but the lowered barriers introduce a cynicism not usually given to books.

    An exception to this rule is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

    As for websites, there are lower hurdles involved on all sides. Less risk. Freedom is the ability to say, what have I got to lose? While literacy still counts highly, but this is changing with the YouTube thing. People can BE without translating into a script.

    Trust is not absolute, only relative. Trust your relatives.

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  2. >Not only must it be written by someone, but it has to pass muster with a publisher and distributor.

    And lawyers.
    And it costs a lot more to pulp a book run than it does to correct an error online.

    Then again: http://travel.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/travel/news/article3746887.ece

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