Find Good Web Sites and Weed Out Bad Ones
- Use Google. PageRank(TM), the interlinkage popularity ranking method helps keep "random" sites off of the top of the list. Sites appearing high on a Google search will be either famous and heavily cited, or infamous and heavily cited.
- To see if the site is famous or infamous, find out who links to the site and why. Look for patterns. To do this in Google, type link:sitename.com. [ Example: link:www.BonsaiKitten.com ]. Then click on the various items in the results list.
- Use http://www.betterwhois.com to find the name of the person or organization to whom a Web site is registered. Often, the revealing information is in the Name Server line, but if you see an actual name, you can investigate it. Run a Google search on either the name server site or the owner's name.
- Take the site's URL and remove the last one or two sections of it, if the URL is long. This will usually get you to the home page of whatever organization produced the site. Try this for the Popcorn Chromatography site.
- To see how recently a site has been updated, you can use the InterNIC's Registry Who Is (see #3) if that information is not included on the site itself. Knowing how recent a site is is particularly important for medical, scientific or legal content.
- For a very interesting list of sample sites showing the kinds of spoofs, random cranky people, slick sales pitches disguised as information, etc. that exist on the web, take a look at Internet consultant Phil Bradley's "Fake Web sites and spoof Web sites."
- Other things to check:
- How good is the use of language?
- Are there a lot of misspellings?
- A lot of of words with very emotional content? (might be good for making you feel a certain way, but would it help convince a disinterested, skeptical friend?)
- Does the site quote experts to support its "facts"? Other than just more people in the same organization as the site authors? Check bibliographies.
- Do the authors seem to be trying to sell some product? Commercial sites may still be informative, but they may not give complete information.
- Is the site a .com, a .org, a .edu a .net or a .gov site? This doesn't always tell you too much (anyone can get a .com or .org site) , but it does tell you whether or not a site is produced by the U.S. government or someone at an educational institution.
- Email: if you want to know if the email warning you got about a nasty virus is real or a hoax warning someone accidentally passed on to you, check F-Secure's virus site. For other kinds of email warnings and possibly-true email rumors and stories, check snopes.com.
For more information, email Rachel Brekhus, Ellis Library Reference.