Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Fighting BS on the Web

I've been a denizen of the Internet for quite a while.  Long enough that I've developed the level of cynicism you need to hang around here.  I'm at that point where if someone says something, if it's not in my carefully indexed memory of useless facts and trivia I'm looking it up. It's nothing personal.  I do this to everyone.  If you've ever heard me say "Hmm, I'm going to have to get back to you on that." I'm pretty much saying I don't trust your information and I need to verify it.

Yeah Batman, I'm right there with you on that.

You'd be surprised how much bad information is out there.  To the credit of the human race, most of the time this bad information is shared out of concern for one's fellow man.  There is however a huge chunk of that time where people are just being dicks.  The huge difference between when this happens online and in our actual everyday lives is context.  When you can't see someone's face or hear their voice or even know who someone is it's really hard to derive context from what someone has shared with the world.  Here's an example.  "When you work hard to do something right, you don't want to forget it."  It sounds like a decent enough quote, but if you clicked on that link you'll see who actually said that. 

It all comes down to showing some responsibility for your own knowledge, because while everyone is entitled to their own opinion everyone is NOT entitled to their own facts.  So today I'm going to arm you with a few tools for helping you fight BS on the Web.

General Information

Here's a source you need to take with a grain of salt.  Most general information can be found on Wikipedia.  The open source encyclopedia has been storing useful information for years.  The downside: It's open source.  That means ANYONE can edit, delete and change information there.  Fortunately the site is policed by thousands of users but it's mostly the most researched topics are the most well guarded.  I can tell you some interesting stories of when I used to guard the St. Thomas wiki entry.

For everything else, there's Google.  If you go that route though, make sure you check several sources and not just the first one that pops up for your search.

Movies & Television

Here's some common trivia fodder.  Your best source for factual information on the web is hands down the Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDB.  This is most useful when someone tries to convince you that a certain movie is in production.  Alas I haven't been able to find something as extensive for music, but the AllMusic comes pretty close.


Perhaps the one category where people will lie to you, not even know it and won't believe you once you've disproved the lie.  The partisan divide is more polarized today than it's ever been so you'd best arm yourself with non-partisan data.  My go to sites for researching politics are Politifact and

"Urban Legends, Folklore, Myths, Rumors, and Misinformation"

That's in quotes for a reason.  It's directly from Snopes.  This is one of my favorite sites because it seems like almost every day I get a email forward with some ridiculous claim.  Recently I got one regarding using egg whites to save burn victims from permanent scarring.  It was total BS.  Another good site to visit is's Urban Legend Directory.


One of the best engines of scams and falsehoods I've seen since the days of Internet Relay Chat.  I don't think I've gone a single day on Facebook without someone falling prey to a rouge app or a scam giveaway.  One site that does a great job of keep track of all this junk is Facecrooks.  No doubt you've seen me post links to this site quite often.

Words & Usage

Words With Friends has sparked a small resurgence in words, their meanings and how they can be used.  I say go with a name you know.  I always refer to Webster's Dictionary.  If you can't find what you're looking for there though, isn't a bad alternative.

Everyman Explanations

Trying to wrap your head around something?   I mean figuratively (if you don't know what that means I've already provided a link for that). is a great site that gives everyman explanations on things like cell phones, the legal system, photosynthesis, tax evasion, blah blah blah yakety schmakety.

That's all I got for now.  If I think of anything else I'll be updating this entry.


  1. i want to hear/ read stories of when you guauded the St. Thomas wiki entry

  2. There's a section on the page for famous people from St. Thomas. You wouldn't believe how often I had to edit that section almost every day. Delusions of grandeur abound.