Being a good digital citizen means sharing quality information

“Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him.” - Ernest Hemingway, 1954

One very important skill when online is the ability to critically consume information. Not everything you
will read will be objective or accurate. In fact, sometimes the source will be deliberately obfuscating
information to serve an ulterior motive. It's your job as a good digital citizen to identify this for yourself and others.

Here are a series of questions courtesy of The Open University that you can use to evaluate the worth
of an online source:

  • Who is speaking or writing?
  • What is their point of view or perspective?
  • What ideas and information are presented and how were they obtained?
  • Are there unsupported assertions?
  • Are relevant reasons or evidence provided?
  • Is the method used to find the evidence sound?
  • Is the evidence correct or valid?
  • What assumptions have been made?
  • What is fact and what is opinion?
  • What are the implicit and explicit values?
  • Are there unreasonable generalisations?
  • What has been omitted?
  • How was the conclusion reached?
  • Is the conclusion reasonable?
  • What other perspectives or points of view could there be?

I would add:

  • Is this information an advertisement in disguise?

Also highly recommended is Skills in Accessing, Finding and Reviewing Information (SAFARI), an in-depth
tutorial also from The Open University. SAFARI does a wonderful job of guiding users through the steps of critical
information consumption from start to finish.

Next: Bill Keller (a case study in crap detection)