Why You Should Always Double-Check Your Sources

Automation is great. Not having to look things up because your phone finds them out for you  can be very helpful. But remember: information without a source is not information you should trust.

I was reminded of this point by a post on Google Operating System noting how Google's increasing tendency not to show sources for the information presented by its Knowledge Graph can lead to unexpected and inaccurate data. The example given? If you type "hardware wars running time" into Google, it confidently returned "60 minutes" over the weekend. This is incorrect; Hardware Wars (a Star Wars spoof) is a short that runs just 13 minutes.

Why did Google get it wrong? Because the info box on the Wikipedia page for Hardware Wars incorrectly listed the time as 60 minutes — something evident in the sidebar on the search, but not in the confidently-presented answer.

The intro text on Wikipedia always gave the correct time, the info box has since been updated, and I imagine Google will eventually catch up. However, the mistake wouldn't be evident if you simply trusted what Google said and didn't check the source.

The lesson for IT pros is twofold: meta data often contains errors, and sources should always be questioned. Acting on the first result you find can lead you down the wrong path.

Google No Longer Mentions Data Sources [Google Operating System]


    And the concept of trusting Wikipedia is also an interesting one...

      That's no longer true. Most things on Wikipedia that have been relevently cited are actually very accurate; but you should always go back to the original scource if you plan to use the info for an opinion, an essay or university

        The fact that something is cited does not make it accurate, particularly if the cited article is not accurate, incomplete or quoted out of context. If you have read about the disputes and gatekeeper problems on Wikipedia you would know that many articles are inaccurate because of biases and agendas of authors who effectively become owners of the pages and silence dispute from others. Wikipedia does contain vast quantities of good information but you still need to be careful.

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