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Facts vs Fiction vs Article vs Blog vs WTF?!

July 12, 2009

For the history course I mention in my earlier post (Restoration and Realisation of Self) one of the main requirements of the work is that everybody teaches everybody else. We have a syllabus and at the end of each class, we split the topics of the next class amongst each other and each person goes away and do the research to teach everyone.

To be honest, if it wasn’t like this, they would have lost me a long time ago, I’m fickle like that, if there are no expectations on me, I find it way easier to slip out of things.

The difficulty for me is this, I love the internet (LOVE!), its the couch slouch’s dream, I need never go anywhere to find out about anything….except….it makes it harder to tell fact from fiction from opinion!

I use a lot of wikipedia links in my posts, too many to be honest, but wikipedia often proves to be the easiest link as most of what you want to communicate is there in one place. But wikipedia is a series of opinions based on fact presented in a factual way, and that is dangerous. When you’re trying to learn about something for the first time, if wikipedia is your only source, you’re just gonna get something fundamental plain wrong (I’m trying to use it less in my posts, but it’s just so…there!).

The other issue are blogs. As I blogger, I love me, no problems, but there are blogs set up where people play the part of a historical figure and fictionalise real events, or the blogs have better search engine ratings (usually from menitoning the search term more times) than the more reliable sources, meaning they show up on page 1, but the thing you need to rely on is on page 17. So how do you know what’s what?

Well I’m being drawn back to the library! Remember those? Building, lots of books, bit smelly, dodgy lady keeping an eye on you? Yeah, those. Problem is that libraries these days are full of Jackie Collins, Harry Potter and trash books (no offence). Actually finding the books on my reading list is proving difficult, not least because many of them are written by black scholars or contradict populist history books.

So I’m gonna have to get academic on this, get my lists, go and join lots of libraries and do a thorough hunt in the hope of finding reliable material, I don’t exactly know where I’ll find the time, but I’m gonna try.

Also, I’m gonna use Google Scholar more often as this is a repository of published papers rather than just weblinks. Some of them aren’t free, but you get a synopsis and know what you’re looking for.

Have you guys tried out Wolfram Alpha yet? It’s a Google style search for facts, figures and stats. For example, put in your birthday and it will tell you exactly how many days, minutes you’ve been alive, what interisting things happened on that day and what time the sun rose and set! Geek heaven! If I was still in school, this would be my dream right about now…*sigh….

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Shubby Doo permalink
    July 12, 2009 7:42 pm

    i love the internet. i use wiki too but some of it is written by people who have way too much time on their hands. It’s like the layman reading the ‘da vinci code’ and taking all of its so called historical notions as facts…not true cos if you know some key facts about the various subjects it touches on you can see the flaws straight away

    The problem with some libraries is that books contain the fundamentals but say for a topic like politics, the source material is not current enough so you have keep an eye on the news reports…subscribe to a reputable journals etc…

    When I was in school, three or four sources (internet, books, newspapers, journals etc…) to verify the facts was ok…now I’m not so sure that is enough!!!

  2. akaBagucci permalink
    July 12, 2009 8:13 pm

    Maybe having access to a cross referncing service might help to double check a few of the 'facts'

    One of my Profs went to WikiPedia and intentionally changed a 'fact' just to prove to us that it was possible to misled. Problem tho is the chap can't remember exactly what he changed anymore!

  3. Jaycee permalink
    July 13, 2009 2:14 pm

    Ooooohhh I'm about to check te Woolfram Alpha thingy…sounds interesting!

  4. leggy permalink
    July 16, 2009 10:10 pm

    wiki is noce but cant be quoted as a reference because anybody can put anything on there/

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