SURFING THE NET….The Britannica Blog sure is weird. For example, a couple of weeks ago contributing editor Gregory McNamee decided to write ten rules for separating the wheat from the chaff during online searches. This is an extremely worthy topic, and McNamee started out with a fine suggestion: don’t always trust the first result from Google. Check out a few other results too. But then comes #2:
Interrogate your sources as Detective Sergeant Joe Friday would interrogate a hippie….And interrogate the facts themselves, relentlessly. Spend a portion of each day asking, Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I don’t know, but I do know this: In 1960 humans consumed 6 billion chickens. This year the number will be around 45 billion. And since the 1930s chickens have doubled in weight while eating half as much feed. This has implications. Think chemicals.
Whoa. Dude. You’re, like, blowing my mind. Later (suggestion #8) McNamee advises “condensing facts to their most essential form” and offers this:
Here, by way of example, is the shortest fact I know: fish fart.
I can do better than that. How about: “I am.” Maybe you don’t consider it a fact, but I sure do. Certainly a factoid at the very least.
But this did get me thinking: McNamee’s list is a little too Delphic for my taste, but it really would be a service to humanity to provide some sound advice about the pitfalls of doing research online and how to avoid them. The best answer, of course, is to go to college and then read widely for a couple of decades so that you have loads of context and background you can use to evaluate what Google turns up. Lacking that, though, a Top Ten list of pithy prescriptions about Internet research would be good too. Maybe we should come up with one.