In many ways, the Internet and conversational media are a little like the Wild West. People can say whatever they like and readers have to sort out the truth for themselves.
As such, many people form “relationships” with particular blogs and bloggers that they grow to trust and with whom they share similar opinions. Still, it is hard to get an accurate picture of who you are talking to online.
I still remember when I realized that Shel Isreal, who wrote Naked Conversations with Robert Scoble, and Shel Holtz, who wrote Blogging for Business, and hosts a twice-weekly podcast, For Your Information, were not the same people. In that ah-ha moment I was shocked and a little embarrassed too. I had been corresponding with both for a few weeks and there was no intentional deception, just a misunderstanding.
To muddy up the waters a bit, there are character blogs and sites. These can take many forms, but the most common are:
1.) Corporate characters: (Pink Panther)
2.) Television characters: (Big Love character Margene)
3.) Virtual Reality Sites: Sites that have entire characters and societies that are meant for entertainment value, such as Second Life
4.) Pretenders: People pretending to be someone, or something, they aren’t.
The last category is the most damaging and the hardest to detect. LA Times reporter Michael A. Hiltzik, whose blog Golden State was suspended last week because he used the names Mikekoshi and Nofanofcablecos in comments on his and other blogs in order to say stuff he didn’t want attributed to him, is one example of this abuse of trust.
So, how do we sort all this out? One of my colleagues recently said to me, “How do you figure out who is and isn’t credible?”
It is a good question. Blog readers need to be aware that not everyone is who they claim to be and the facts presented must have strong substantiation, usually in the form of links to recognized sources and a long history of reliability.
I can appreciate why many top managers and CEOs are hesitant to jump into what amounts to shark infested waters. But I also appreciate that it gives companies a unique channel to speak and hear both negative and positive thoughts about the products and practices (see GMs Fast Lane blog).
My question is as follows: How do you decide if an online source of information is credible?