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The Trouble With the Internet as a Research Tool

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by PatB, Dec 6, 2007.

  1. The Internet is a fantastic tool for all sorts of purposes. It allows access to immense quantities of information by anyone with a PC and a phone line. Overall, it's hugely useful.

    But (and I realise this is not a new whinge) does anyone else find it irritating that good information is swamped by dross?

    This has been brought home to me by a couple of discussions right here on Netrider. Having limited time and opportunity for research elsewhere, I've turned to the "information superhighway" for information to bolster a point, only to find a dearth of untainted data.

    Example 1.

    When discussing 9/11 conspiracy theories, I went looking for information on the collapse of steel framed buildings.

    I know such information exists and existed long before 9/11. I first came across references to the subject 25 years or more ago and those references indicated that knowledge of the phenomenon was old then, with a number of citations for further study by the reader.

    However, even the most intense googling with many keyword variations simply turned up several million 9/11 conspiracy theory sites and an only marginally lesser number of anti conspiracy theory sites. The whole subject of the collapse of steel framed buildings is, in the on-line world, now viewed through the prism of a single event, with almost no acknowledgment of anything prior to September 11th 2001.

    Example 2.

    Hunting for something to back up a claim that single volcanic events have measurable effects on the climate at huge distances from the event.

    Again, I've seen this stuff decades ago before climate became a fashionable issue. I'm 99% certain it exists and that it's not the goblin in my head talking.

    Again though, every reference I could find online (admittedly with limited time available) was on a site with an axe to grind one way or the other in the climate change debate. In the end time constraints led me to settle for a site that was, at least, from an academic institution but which was still less than ideal.

    Yes, I know that there are on-line sources of academic papers but all those that I've found so far charge a fee and I'm sufficiently mature that "winning" an argument isn't worth so much to me that I'm prepared to pay cash to achieve that end :grin: .

    Now I know that none of this leaves me any worse off as regards access to information than I was 15 years ago when I'd have had to toddle off to my local university library or similar to obtain academic texts, but it pisses me off that the potential of the net is being wasted on p0rn, shopping and pub-talk (not that I'm averse to any of those, particularly if motorcycles are involved in the latter two :grin: ).

    It's just sad that good and useful information is submerged beneath the wackos and the barrow pushers.
  2. Pat, you can also put in minus signs to exclude words.

    e.g. if you googled "steel frame building collapse" -911 you might start to focus your hits.

    I'm actually turning off google lately. If I search on widgets, I expect widget.com or the official website of widgets to be the first hit... not some other site that has the most references to widgets.

    I often use yahoo and other search engines along with or in lieu of google... but still call searching the net, googling...

    Googling has become the equivalent of xeroxing or hoovering...

    Hope that helps.
  3. Can i play!!!!! :grin: :grin: :grin: :grin:
    i copied and paste your question"
    the first result from google was:
    The Effects on the Atmosphere of a Major Nuclear Exchange (1985)
    Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications (CPSMA)
    or here

    google that.. ding ding

    answers ..lots of them especialy if you don't skip the first answer, which is in Google BOOKS., with previews from published books, not 9/11 crap..

    like here

    I find google very helpful. The more info, the more difficult to find BUT you can find it at home... But, i always keep the local library (and the state one) as a back up.....
  4. Well that was embarassingly easy :oops: .

    I could swear that useful stuff like that has been absent from my search results.

    It's a conspiracy I tells ya :p .

    Seriously though, thanks guys. Particularly gentlemanly of Rob seeing as it was, I seem to remember, him amongst others who I intended to whack with the steel framed building stick :) .

    I'm aware of the - trick but tend to be careful with it as -ing common words like eg September might exclude something useful.

    It might be just me, but Google seems to have gone downhill of late. I used to use Beaucoup, which seemed to work very well but carried more and more of what appeared to be paid ads masquerading as hits until the first few pages of any results were marketing dross. Google appears to be going the same way, with (if searching company names) pages of useless rubbish like Ferret.com, or (if looking for brand names) a zillion hits on out of date Ebay auctions.
  5. But this is a poorly vetted source of information and can very esaly be wrong.
    i use it a lot, but you have to be carefull.
  6. Agreed. It's a very handy quick reference but I wouldn't rely on it in court :grin: .
  7. +1

    If any of my students use wikipedia as their main reference and some use it as their sole reference then they have to redo their assignment.
  8. No probs. Like I try to keep telling people... it's just cut and thrust on a forum. :) Disagree agreeably.
  9. I had the same policy when I was tutoring first years in some subjects, if i had seen that they referenced it at all, they would have to redo it. It is however a valuble tool to getting to good material, usually wikipedia references are useful, but poorly cited.
  10. The internet works perfectly to reasearch the information it was designed to allow access to...nudie pictures! :LOL:
  11. But most of them are probably inacurate representations of the truth as welll.
  12. Wasted? WASTED???? :shock: :shock: :shock:

  13. I would hate for all the information on the net to be correct, how could we keep up flaming wars without misinformation! :LOL: