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The Question of Source Evaluation

Bob Utech <bel454@wiktel.com>
Powder Visions, Baudette, MN

One of the tremendous difficulties of the Internet (message board) is learning how to evaluate sources. How does one assess the value of readings on the message board when one is new to the field or has little knowledge in the field? How do we establish a clear separation between ideas and production of a product or service for sale? The Internet message board has given a voice to many who have been denied an opportunity to articulate their views. In my opinion, this aspect of the Internet is its most important advantage: I can get information that has generally been unavailable to me before. But the Internet is also a haven for the ignorant, the vulgar, and the mean-spirited. As one who adds technical information, we need to enrich the offerings of the Internet as well as teach our colleagues and/or customers how to find the valuable and useful sources of information.

The difficulty arises because the Internet message board means so many things to so many people. To some readers, these messages reflect the writer's judgment as to what the most important readings on a subject are and the assumption may be that these readings are the best available. In today's networked world, teamwork is more than just a laudable goal--it's a required skill. If you're going to create a truly collaborative environment, you have to model, repeat and reinforce the sharing of ideas.

Many times, we learn better from our peers and with so many new and changing technologies, even you can't be the only expert in every detail. Let others become teachers as well.

When ideas are freely circulated, they become more powerful (and valuable) in direct proportion to the number of people who are exposed to them. In this way, ideas will be judged on their own merits, and not how well a product was marketed or produced.

The best-fit ideas compete among themselves for survival, and cross-pollinate among themselves to create better ideas. This theory only works if ideas and information are shared, and works better the more they are shared.


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