Thing VI: Evaluating Internet Research

May 26, 2010

The last topic was about finding information on the internet. Today it is about checking to see if this information can be trusted. I’m actually going to do the hands-on activity for this one, since I can’t think of anything to write about myself.

The goal is to check out http://www.google.com/unclesam, http://news.google.com, http://scholar.google.com and http://wikipedia.org/ by searching for “violent crime” in each of them and see what types of sites you get.

http://www.google.com/unclesam gave me mostly “.gov” sites presumably all from the United States government. Some examples of sources that I picked up were the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Rankings, U.S. Department of Justice Fact Sheet and the Sex Offender Registry. Most of these sites look pretty official and since I’m not a conspiracy theorist or anything, I would trust most of the data I find at these sites. I don’t know how useful this search engine would be for anything non-government/police related however. Typing in “cartoons” did give me more than 76,000 results, but a disproportionate number of the links on the first three pages were about editorial and political cartoons.

http://news.google.com, of course, gave me a bunch of news sites. Example sources are Daily Review Online, USA Trends, New York Times, The Associated Press and the Christian Science Monitor. I’m a little more suspicious of some of the sources for this search engine. Although a lot of news sources claim to be “fair and balanced”, their reports are rarely peer-reviewed articles. Not being Christian myself, I might feel that the Christian Science Monitor articles are too biased to use for a college level research paper, for example. Although maybe not as professional as most of the sites obtained from the unclesam search engine, it seems to retrieve information on a larger variety of subjects and with many more points-of-view.

http://scholar.google.com is the search engine I am most familiar with outside of just plain google.com. It gave me mostly information from peer-reviewed journals. Some examples from the first page are Science Magazine, the American Sociological Review, The American Journal of Psychiatry, the European Economic Review, and The Journal of Legal Studies. I find these sources the most reliable so far. They seem to be less biased than the results found on unclesam and news. It seems to return a wider variety of subjects than unclesam, but slightly less variety than news, because most of the articles from scholar are studies or reports of some kind. The only downside to using scholar over the other two is that the sources tend to be a little older.

http://wikipedia.org/ is different from the google search engines, because it doesn’t search the web for different sites containing the search phrase, but searches its own database for the page with the same title as the search phrase. It only returns one article on the subject and this article is the combined effort of a bunch of anonymous people that may or may not be professionals on the subject in question. Its article on violent crime is relatively short and may not contain the information you were looking for on the subject. Although the article is the effort of many anonymous people, they do tend to leave sources for all the information they add to the article. It is then your job to look at the sources and see if they are legit and unbiased. I wouldn’t use Wikipedia as a primary research source, but Wikipedia has a wide variety of subjects to choose from and it may be a good place to get an idea of what the subject is about before searching for good research materials.

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Thing V: Internet Research

May 26, 2010

Today’s topic is about using the internet for research. I am sure we have all done it. I would not believe you if you told me that you had never tried to fill out a resource requirement with as much web sources as possible. This is because searching the internet is an incredibly fast and easy way to get the information you need. I have never gone to the library once since I entered college. That is because I have been using the schools databases, Google Scholar and Google Books to find all the information I need from professional sources. The practice of using the internet for research is so widespread that Wikipedia has its own article for it.

E-How has a page on how to get a job doing internet research. Apparently there are many jobs that require internet research skills and this article lists several areas where internet research can be applied in the job market. I also found “The Journal of Medical Internet Research: The leading peer reviewed journal for health and health-care in the internet age”  while researching for my first paper. This journal seems to specifically target those searching for health related topics on the internet. It has all of its volumes since it started in 1999 published online and although you can view the articles in html for free, you must pay $9 per download for the pdf or $4.92/month for membership which gives you the pdf for free. These are just some sites that recognize the importance of internet research. Although it is true that anyone can post anything they like online, there are ways of finding out if the information is legitimate or not. The internet allows you to access more information, faster. I hope to see more material posted on the internet for lazy college students like me in the future.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Thing Four: Wikis

May 24, 2010

Today’s topic is about wikis. I feel like I am more familiar with this topic than all the previous ones, because I actually use wikis pretty often and I don’t just mean Wikipedia. I have never really edited a wiki before this class, but I have certainly searched for and read several. I mostly use them for help with different videogames. Unlike other gaming sites like GameFAQS and IGN , wikis tend to get more in-depth about the characters and mechanics of the games since each one would have its very own page rather than a small section of a walkthrough.  One of the largest videogame wikis is Bulbapedia which now has over 16,000 articles all pertaining to Pokémon. Every single game has its own article as well as every single one of the 498 different Pokémon in seven different languages. This is an impressive amount of information about one franchise.

One of my personal favorite wikis is Golden Sun Universe  dedicated to the videogame series Golden Sun. It is a lot smaller with only about 1,000 pages, but I found it slightly more extensive. Taking the page of one of the main characters of the game and pasting it into Microsoft Word gave me 24 pages of text! Those are some dedicated fans! Looking at the history for the page I can see that the article was the work of around 20 different people. The little booklet that came with the game only gave the main character two sentences.

Golden Sun Universe is hosted by Wikia which operates using MediaWiki software. According to their “About Us” page they are the largest user-generated media company and a top 100 web property. On their main site they show categories for wikis about entertainment, gaming and lifestyle which take you to a list of the top wikis for that category (or subcategory). I think wikis are the best for finding information about media of any kind. Official websites are often small and not as extensive as wikis and forums are harder to navigate. I like how fans all over the world are able to edit and add to pages without having to jump through hoops and go through much hassle. It certainly makes finding information a lot easier.

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Thing Three: Social Networking

May 24, 2010

Today’s blog post is supposed to be about social networking. The hands-on activity for this one didn’t offer a lot to write about, but I did get some inspiration from the readings of the privacy rights for social network users as mentioned in that section. So, today’s blog post is going to talk about the concerns of privacy when using social networking sites. As you can imagine, privacy is a rather big deal when it comes to social networking. On very few other sites do you give out so much personal information as you do on sites like Facebook and MySpace. A lot of the time the personal information doesn’t stop at your name and age, but pictures, addresses and phone numbers are often given out for the entire community to see. This is not to mention controversial opinions and anything else you wouldn’t want your boss, teachers or boyfriend/girlfriend to see. According to the Daily Tech, one in three people who have posted on social networking sites regret doing so and I can understand why.

According to Top Tech Reviews, the Wall Street Journal recently conducted a report in which they found that many popular social networking sites including Facebook, LiveJournal, MySpace, Digg, Xanga, and Twitter were sharing personal information with advertisers. This wouldn’t be such a big problem if it was just statistics it was sharing. These sites could easily obscure profile ID numbers as well as usernames, but they don’t. In fact, Facebook not only gave out the username of the person’s profile, but also information on the people viewing the profile and anyone who clicked on the add. People were angry, not just because advertisers were given powerful tools to target them with, but because personal information that they thought was protected was now being shared with possibly thousands of strangers. It just goes to show that nothing posted on the internet should be considered private.

Information Week gives us a study given at the second ACM SIGCOMM Workshop on Online Social Networks in Barcelona, Spain which is even scarier. According to the study, these social networking sites are not only giving your profiles to advertisers, but could be leaking your entire internet history to them. I am a little fuzzy on how it works. It has something to do with header identifiers and cookies, but the point is that advertisers or whoever else the information is given to can find out everything you do online. Although most of these sites admit in their privacy statements that they give out non-identifying information, very few people realize that your identity can easily be derived from information that is supposedly non-identifying. Even if you don’t give your name and address on your profile, these things can be found out through your daily internet activities. You may talk about privacy settings on certain networking sites, but here is a quote from the Information Week article, “Many social networking sites provide privacy controls to limit information disclosure, but the report found that between 55% and 90% of users — Wills suggests it’s closer to 70% on the lower end — of social networking services keep the default privacy settings for allowing strangers to view profile information and 80% to 97% keep the default privacy settings for viewing friends.”

I’m not posting this to scare people away from social networking sites. I just thought it was interesting (and a bit scary) to know exactly how public your “private” data can be become.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Thing 2: Microblogging

May 19, 2010

For our hands-on assignment in class today, I was asked to sign up for a Twitter account. I am not a particularly social person in the real world and even less of a social one online. I did not have a Twitter, Facebook, MySpace or even a regular forum account and I didn’t have a blog until it was required of me to make one for this class. I don’t really have much to say to people and I don’t really do anything particularly fascinating in my day-to-day life that I feel needs to be shared with others. However, for this assignment I have made a Twitter account. My username is evilblob, but I don’t plan to post much if anything on it. I am following NASA‘s Twitter account as the institution the activity asked me to follow. I’m actually not that interested in NASA, but I am not really that interested in anyone.

Now for the third part of the activity: search for a topic and report on my blog what I found.

– Google Chrome is planning to release their own web store for web apps to rival Apple’s AppStore (I’m interested in this stuff):

http://blog.chromium.org/2010/05/chrome-web-store.html

-It has been leaked the Apple’s new iPod Touch will have a 2-Megapixel Camera: http://mashable.com/2010/05/19/ipod-touch-camera/

-Just recently a Japanese couple have been the first couple to be married by a robot as reported by Orange News on May 17th:

http://web.orange.co.uk/article/quirkies/Couple_are_married_by_robot

I kept my searches to technology, because they returned less pointless opinions on the topic and more actual headlines. As you can see, I found out some pretty interesting stuff that might not necessarily appear in a news feed, but I still feel that randomly typing things into Google search would return a lot less unrelated comments and give me the full headline rather than a truncated, barely readable snippet.

I could tell you what people thought about the topics, but most comments were something like, “that’s hilarious” or “I’m saving up to buy a new iTouch right now!” For the news about Google Chrome’s app shop, I just found a bunch of users who posted the same headline and no real comments on it. I suppose the point of Twitter is to read the opinions of your friends and anyone else your following on what is going on in the world, but I don’t really get the whole “it feels like reading a book of a person’s life” feeling. I just found it kind of annoying and boring.

I guess the other side of Twitter is keeping track of what people have to say about their day, but if their life is so fascinating that they need to tell the world about it, I would much rather hear about it in full on LiveJournal or on a (non micro) blog rather than in multiple, short, unreadable sentences.

Categories: Uncategorized.

Thing 1: Blogs

May 18, 2010

For my first real post on this blog, I decided to do the “hand’s-on activity” given under Thing 1: Blogs of the CPSC 104 class blog at http://theinternet.umwblogs.org/.

Step one was to go to Wikipedia’s page on “blogs” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog) and find three things that I learned about blogs from reading the entry.

-For one, I knew that in 2002 U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was forced to step down due to accusations of racism. These accusations apparently came about due to comments he made praising some of U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond policies which included racial segregation. What I didn’t know was that these comments by the former Majority Leader and accusations against him were only given media attention after bloggers first broke the story and got the internet community talking about it.

-Second, I did not know that Israel was one of the first national governments to set up an official blog. The  Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has apparently set up both a political and video blog as well as have a Twitter account on which they held a worldwide press conference on the Israel-Gaza Conflict.

-Third, apparently people have been sued on defamation and liability charges for stuff posted on their blogs. According to the article, by 2009 U.S. payouts related to blogging totaled $17.4 million.

Step two was to find a club or organization that has an up-to-date blog at umwblogs.org and write down the name of the club, the URL of the blog, and a brief description of the blog.

-Well, I found a club whose last blog post was April 27 which is pretty up-to-date. It’s the Geography Club’s blog and it is surprisingly (to me) extensive and informative. Their blog is at http://geographyclub.umwblogs.org/. It has separate pages for descriptions of the club, the duties of the club’s officers and a symposium schedule. Their latest posts were about receiving the club t-shirts and who the newly appointed club officers were.

Step three was to see if I could find three blogs that seem to have an impact in an area associated with my major and to give the name and URL of each. Since I am a Computer Science major, finding blogs dealing with my major was not very hard.

-Tech-Tips: http://www.techtipsblog.com/

-Coding Horror: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/

-Computer Science Teachers Association: http://blog.acm.org/csta/

This activity wasn’t particularly hard and it was pretty informative. I would suggest others give it a try if you want to know more about blogging culture and how it relates to you.

Categories: Uncategorized.

May 18, 2010

From: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/143/358007257_f0f2396460.jpg CC BY -NC 2.0

Categories: Uncategorized.

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