From this day forward, Scott Rosenberg is an honorary librarian.
One of the things that librarians talk about a lot is how to evaluate a random web page — what signs and signals to look for that will give the unsuspecting student a clue as to whether or not they might want to use a particular web page in an assignment.
We talk a lot about the various W’s — who, what, why, when and all the rest. Who created the page, what does it say, does their appear to be any bias, is it current. There has been tons of literature on the subject and a very large number of online tutorials.
Scott Rosenberg’s latest blog post, In the context of web context: How to check out any Web page, is a great addition to the genre. It’s more geared towards journalistic uses of a page rather than scholarly or educational and as such I might quibble a bit with some of the details or emphasize some different criteria in my own sessions, but in general it’s very good.
He really concentrates on some nitty-gritty stuff that can be very handy to know. While many of his suggestions are standard in the librarian web evaluation toolbox, there are a few that I’ve always known I could do but had rarely thought of in terms of teaching to students. An example of this is his suggestion to check a domain’s entry in the Whois database to see who owns it.
Without further ado, here’s Rosenberg’s suggestions, with more details at the original post.
- What’s the top-level domain?
- Look the domain name up with whois
- How old or new is the registration?
- Look up the site in the Internet Archive
- Look at the source code
- Check out the ads
- Does the site tell you who runs it
- Is there a feedback option?
- What shape are the comments in?
- Is the content original and unique?
- Does the article make reference to many specific sources or just a few?
- Links in are as important a clue as links out
- Google the URL. Google the domain. Google the company name. Poke around if you have any doubts or questions. Then, of course, remember that every single question we’ve been applying here can be asked about every page Google points you to, as well.