Regarding evaluating information online, I am reminded of an experience I had in the public library I work in where an elderly man asked for help with scanning and emailing a document. Once I saw what he was trying to scan I realised that the documents he had were personal identity documents and he was attempting to reply to a phishing email he had received which promised him a large amount of money. Having to try to explain to this man why he should not trust the emails he had received made me think more about who we trust online.
When looking at websites online and wondering what to trust, I will look at things like the overall professionalism of the website, the root of the url (whether it’s a known organisation and also looks genuine or whether it’s a page hosted on a university student page). Whether the author of the page is known, do they have educational acronyms after their name, are they representing a known organisation, what other articles have they written. Whether citing links go to external, valid websites or just point to other pages on the same site.
When my children were babies I joined an online forum in which all the participants had babies born in the same month. I found this really useful to talk to other parents with babies the same age, going through similar developmental stages. Although of course the parents weren’t experts in a educational sense, they had the benefit of experience. It’s also true that the experience of having a newborn can be isolating for people who feel they don’t want to bore their childless friends with constant harping on feeding and toileting, so being able to talk to their hearts content with people who understand what they’re going through can be a god-send. Even now that my children are far from the newborn stage, I remain online friends with some of these people (migrated now to Facebook) even though I’ve meet almost none of them in real life and they are scattered across the country. My main network for finding information these days is Facebook, with friends I have never met IRL, people I often run into and also good friends I talk to regularly offline. I, and my friends, often will post queries to see what expertise is hidden in our friend network. This could be from people’s vocations, hobbies or general experiences. With regards work related queries there are a couple of email groups I am part of with specific areas of expertise. Also, my work colleagues at my library jobs are, of course, good sources of information.
I certainly do see the value in sharing information online as I have on numerous occasions solved a problem or gained an important insight based on specialty forum posts and replies. I don’t feel I have any specific expert information to share but will certainly answer my friends’ queries on Facebook whenever I can.