Fake news – What is the real deal?

Fake news is the Word of the year for 2017, according to Collins Dictionary.

Facebook knows fake news is a real issue so how do we know what is going on? Can we trust the news media? Is the newspaper, if you still read it, worth the paper it is printed on? Can you trust Facebook not to be feeding you fake news to your profile?

If you turn to social media, you soon discover hoaxes spread virally across every platform. So where do you go for reliable news, and how do you know what you are reading is real? Who is telling the truth out there?

Time for the Truthiness Test

Is it up to date? Has it been verified?

If it has just happened, there may not have been time to verify events as they occur. Check at intervals throughout the day to see if further reports clarify the situation and read other news sources to see how they are interpreting events. Try if possible to get first person reports from people on the ground rather than sources from half a world away where the events may be misinterpreted. Some news agencies will republish or rehash old news that may not be relevant to the current situation until they can get the full story. If it was posted or published a while ago does it still stand up and add to the overall picture.

Who wrote it and why?

Every story is written with a different readership in mind. Why was this story written and for whom? Do they want to entertain or to sell you something? Is it free of bias? What does the contact us information on the website tell you about the organisation that published it and what they stand for? Does the website tell you about their writers? Are they qualified to comment? Try googling the author to see what else they have published. Is the story written in a way that is trying to sway you to their point of view? How do your own beliefs affect the way you read the article and how you interpret it.

Have you checked it?

Take a look at some other news sources to check if they have a different interpretation of events. Does the URL tell you anything about the source of the information? Is it from a trusted organisation government source or educational institution? Do they have links to supporting sources or does it look like speculation? If they do have links, check them out to see where they got their information from. If they don’t state their sources they may be being paid to spread this information. Is the story overstating the facts or using outrageous headlines to get you reading it? Is it a joke? Although sometimes truth is stranger than fiction it might be a satire or a joke, so take a look at the About us section of the website to be sure.

Try putting it through a fact checking website like Snopes or FactCheck.org

Try putting it through the CRAAP test and see how it measures up. Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose (see this PDF handout from California University).

Don’t trust me, check out IFLA for their on How to Spot Fake News and a great printable infographic to remind you.

How to spot fake news, IFLA infographic
How to spot fake news, IFLA infographic CC BY 4.0

Finally, read critically and impartially. Does the news ring true?

More about fake news and critical thinking


The last day of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival

IMG_07186pm on Sunday night and I am in my hotel room looking forward to the trip home tomorrow.  Auckland has been itself in that it has rained and shined, sometimes all at once. I have marvelled at all the people and the beautiful old stone buildings. The festival has been a whirlwind of facts, figures, stories, discussions, a bit of famous author watching and endless cups of coffee.  There has been no time for shopping and barely time to eat. All in all very satisfying indeed.

Today I started off with a visit to the 1920s through to the 1950s with Rosemary Mcleod and The Secret life of aprons. A lovely hour spent looking at her slides of aprons she has known, from the beautiful to the downright odd. It was a lovely slice of New Zealand domestic history which was very much appreciated by the audience.Rosemary’s droll wit was perfect for the occasion. The Art Gallery was looking great, and I had time for a quick trawl around the contemporary art exhibition, with a quiet nod to Jacqueline Fahey’s piece that I could look at with new understanding having heard her speak on Thursday. I also loved the huge hand-made flowers created by Choi Jeong Hwa that hung in the atrium seemingly opening and closing at will.

IMG_0721Next up was a free session, Fifty Shades of WTF. I was to be disappointed, it would seem the fifty shades phenomena has reached the festival and it was full half and hour before it started.

What the Internet is doing to you with the author Aleks Krotoski was often way over my head, but she was an author with a mind like a steel trap who could probably have talked all day. Her interviewer Toby Manhire only needed to ask a couple of questions and away she went! Her basic premise was that the Internet isn’t doing anything, it is what we are doing to each other that is the issue. The Internet will not destroy and neither will it revolutionise, it is just a thing….we are still communicating, the means are different but not what we are talking about. She touched on cyber-addiction and whether there is such a thing (there isn’t apparently), romance on the Internet, and is the Internet capable of serendipity. That’s where I lost her.  The book sounds very readable, and if she writes like she talks it will be entertaining and full of information.

Lastly I toddled along to Faction, a bit of a silly choice as it was about the film The Red house which I haven’t seen, however Annie Goldson and the Alyx Duncan who made the film did a great job breaking down what it was all about.  Alyx used her father and step mother in the film, it started out as a documentary about their lives that didn’t work out and ended up with them acting themselves, but to a script that included some aspects that were true and some that were fictional.  I enjoyed the session and hopefully the library will be able to get the DVD once it comes out.

Thank you Auckland for providing such a great festival. 13,000 people was the last tally that I heard had attended the festival, which is amazing, and certainly warms a librarian’s heart.  To all those authors who spend hours writing, usually in quiet isolation,  I thank you for coming out and sharing your craft, your beliefs and passions.

The absence of hope or the habit of heroism?

Anthony McCarten signs books at the Schools ProgrammeAnthony McCarten’s Schools Programme session from Festival Thursday: I’m sitting looking at my notes, and trying to figure out where to start. Turns out my notes resemble real life in the digital world: fast, furious, and full of brightly intense images and words that flash by even before I can process them properly. So I’m going to take the easy option and do the ‘stream of consciousness’ thing at you.

If you were there, this will hopefully help you remember, and if not, come and find me and I’ll show you my scrawlings! (In conversation afterwards with Mr McCarten’s publicist, she says she might be able to get the full session notes from the man himself, so hopefully we will be able to give you a better report soon – watch this space!).

After a brief introduction from the MC (with the best instruction EVER to an audience, who have gotten into a terrible muddle with no information from the venue about how and when to move between sessions : What are you all DOING? Sit down and be quiet, or I’ll come down there and beat you …), we are off with the opening lines from Anthony, who freely acknowledges that as a 51 year old he knows far less about the internet than they do, but that they need to think of him as a huge fan who is offering constructive feedback about a loved one.  And now the thoughts come thick and fast:

One piece of advice – be nice to nerds. We old folk are now living in the equivalent of Vichy France, occupied in our own country by supposedly benign dictators.  We are saturated with newness, looking at the Kindle-ing of literature (how’s the book? Great – I’m 32% of the way through it). Told to want things we don’t need, and that New is always better than Old, no matter what. Imagine Gutenberg had invented the iPad in the 1400s and that Apple was publicising its brand new invention the Book today.

We are nearing 1 billion Facebook users – the industrialisation of friendship. Alice is in Cyberland. An online life is better, faster, with instant feedback and greater rewards – why wouldn’t you want to live there all the time? The internet today is like drugs and alcohol was to previous generations. BUT when international studies show that teenagers are even losing interest in sex, then clearly we have a problem.

References to Columbine, Virginia Tech and Norway lead to studies on video games and violence, BUT with studies finding no direct causal link between virtual violence and real-world should we worry about games like Doom, Counterstrike, BlackOps or Modern Warfare 3?

Is what we are seeing the Absence of Hope?

The internet allows us to lie, escape reality, hide behind a mask, never grow up, explore every kind of degeneracy, be less innovative, more docile, blind to new ideas, predisposed to be followers and copiers – Log in, imitate, and cop out.

BUT it’s not all bad – technology allows us to do the things we always wanted to do but couldn’t – the internet allows us to travel the world, talk to people everywhere, improve our lives, save the planet: witness the Arab Spring and revolution via cellphone. Computer games teach us co-operation, problem-solving, and the habit of heroism.

It’s too late to turn back the clock, put the genie back in the bottle – like the Industrial Revolution, we can only go forward from here.

We are all nerds now.

Music on the interwebs, or down the rabbit hole we go

Neil Gaiman Press conference
Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman

Yay for New Zealand Music Month, and yay for live performances, and for hearing new musicians and old favourites!   On TV! On the radio!  In libraries!  But also yay for the particular brand of musical insanity that can be found on the internet.

A friend and I recently spent a few nights emailing each other bizarre and fantastic music clips from YouTube.  It was so much fun, not to mention distracting – every clip we found led to dozens more.  Which is the coolest thing about the internet; it just seems to go on forever.

Much like me, in fact.  Because what I really wanted to share with you today is a wee project I discovered through Twitter.  It’s called the 8in8 project, and was organised by a few of my favourite people.

Superstar author (and my ultimate superhero) Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer (of Dresden Dolls fame) recently got together with Ben Folds and Damian Kulash (from OK Go), and attempted to write and record 8 songs in 8 hours, as part of Boston’s Berklee College Rethink Music event.  Described by Gaiman on his blog as being the ‘world’s least super supergroup’, they were initially inspired by Kulash’s question:

“Can the album cycle actually be reduced to a single day? If the recording industry is supposed to be a means of connecting musicians to music listeners, well, then, here it is – spontaneous and circular.”

They nearly managed it – 6 in 6 being the eventual output, all presented on an album called NightyNight, which you can buy online, with all proceeds going to charity.

The songs are crazy and funny and charming, and witty and sad and clever, and get stuck in your head like the best kind of earworm.  And the icing on the cake?  Because they ran the whole project through Twitter, hundreds of people online got to have a say on possible song titles, AND THEN hundreds more went straight off and made music videos for all the tracks.  My favourite so far?  The Problem with Saints, I think, but I also loved I’ll Be My Mirror.  Ooh, and Nikola Tesla and …

So while you’re waiting for the next New Zealand Music Month performance at your local library, jump on our free internet computers and search Twitter or YouTube for “8in8”, then sit back and enjoy, and then tell me your favourite!

Denis Dutton

Professor Denis Dutton – philosopher, academic, skeptic and creator of intelligence on the web ( Arts and Letters Daily) has died in Christchurch.

Denis made an enormous contribution to the intellectual and cultural life of Christchurch and internationally. He had a critical success with his 2009 book The art instinct: beauty, pleasure and human evolution . He was also involved in founding Climate Debate Daily.

My personal experience of Arts and Letters Daily when it first began was overwhelming. I found such online riches that I had to give up reading it because I would never get anything else done. When there is so much dross on the internet and other media it was refreshing to find the best written, most intelligent news and reviews laid out from around the world.

Go to Arts and Letters Daily now and you will see the most tanatalising array of story teasers – “Martin Peretz is a born belligerent.”, “Fat Kat had a knack for guns, drugs, and gangs; also, it turned out, for being a prison librarian” , “Happy birthday to the suit, now 150 years old. The uniform of capitalism was born out of revolution, warfare and pestilence.” and so on.

Appropriately Denis Dutton lives on via the internet – you can view his talk at the famous TED conference in February 2010.

The upside of down time

A cheery note on my broadband usage meter recently informed me that usage limits had been doubled until mid January. So while the servers and the towers may have been down recently, there was a definite upside!

You can guarantee that some of my bonus bandwidth will be spent on the most recent addition to the library’s  Christmas page – NZonScreen’s Christmas collection. There’s everything from Gliding on to Outrageous Fortune to Shortland Street – it’s quite a mix.

Remember, if you’re are worried about hitting your broadband limit, come and use the internet at your local library! There’s plenty of film resources in the collection as well. And while you’re at it, tell us your favourite end-of-year TV special. Is it something that gets you singing while you do the dishes, or a movie to fall asleep to?

The amazing internet

Joyce and I have both mentioned Richard Dawkins and his fantastic session last night. I wanted to add a post script.

The experience was made possible by the massive KAREN network, whose members include libraries, universities, research institutions and schools. KAREN connects to the JANET network in the UK.

The Dawkins presentation was high-definition video over the internet, and it never missed a beat. The size of the internet pipe? 2 Gigabits / second, Paul Reynolds tells me. With technology like that what wonderful discussions we can have – and it could have been a worldwide broadcast – if someone was prepared to stump up for the bandwith…

Wouldn’t it be great to have a broadcast event at the next Christchurch Writers festival??

Watching you…

Search Engine Optimization Bible
Search Engine Optimization Bible

Google is the most popular search engine, even being promoted to verb status, but which search engine is number 2? According to Comscore, it’s YouTube with Yahoo! coming in third by .2 million hits. According to a study by Ellacoya Networks, YouTube videos now makeup 10 percent of all Internet traffic!

Interested in getting your content onto the 2nd most popular search engine? The library has an electronic subscription to the Search Engine Optimization Bible by Jerri Ledford, choose “View Online” to start reading. You just need your library card and pin number to access this, you can get a Pin by contacting us, and yes we do IM.

A Panoply of Pop-Ups

Teach yourself visually
Teach yourself visually

Yesterday I opened the internet to look up a database, but instead of my normal home page I saw a page offering me free tropical holidays and star cursors. Hmmm…I thought…I know, I’ll close down the window and – as you may have guessed by now, if you are technically minded, closing down my window only resulted in more windows springing up and propagating; all offering me animated smiley faces, astrological love calculators and all manner of dodgy goods. LuckiIy I was at work, so I called IT and my computer was back to normal within minutes. But not everyone can have a help desk on call and that’s why I’ve listed some of the resources I rely on when my computer at home stops working and I can’t call the help desk to come and fix it.

1 – My husband (but I’m not telling you his phone number so you’ll need to rely on number 2)

2 – The sites on the Library’s internet gateway. These include PressF1 and annoyances.org

3 – The library’s collection of computer books which include the excellent Teach Yourself Visually series, this series has step by step instruction illustrated with screen shots and big red arrows telling who what to move where. Its motto is “Read less, learn more” and, even for a librarian, it’s hard to disagree.

Music makes the people come together

I’ve been absent from the blog for a little bit, but I’m inspired again after reading Net, Blogs and Rock ‘n’ Roll : how digital discovery works and what it means for consumers, creators and culture.  David Jennings offers a thoughtful view of how technology is changing the music scene, especially  the way music is found and shared.  He uses the term TLC (Trying out, Links, Community) to identify the three main elements that aid discovery. These could roughly be described as the chance to sample new stuff;  links and recommendations to similar artists; and the sharing and suggesting with other fans or members of your community.  Of course, I couldn’t help but relate it to my work and it was interesting to think how we do this in the library (and how we could do it differently).

Jennings draws on his own experiences finding new music, along with interviews and anecdotes from listeners and industry experts.  There are tons of references in the book, thankfully Jennings has put them on his website Net, Blogs and Rock ‘n’ Roll. The book is packed with information, but he writes with wit and makes a potentially dry subject very readable, with an appeal beyond music fans.