Sunday, February 5, 2012

The 5wh's Cyberspace harvesting Who What Where When Why and How

Knowing What's What and What's Not: The 5 Ws (and 1 H) of Cyberspace
The old formula used by police, journalists and researchers - Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How - can be applied in cyberspace to help identify credible online information sources.

Ask yourself the following:

Who is the source of the information?

  • Has someone taken responsibility for the content of this Web site?

  • Is information about the author or organization clearly stated?

  • Are there any links to in-depth information about the author or organization?

  • Can you contact the company or author through a real world postal address or phone number?

  • Can you confirm that the company or author is a credible, authoritative source of information?

  • Can you verify the authority of any of the site's content that is attributed to other sources?

What are you getting?

  • Is the information biased in any way?

  • Does the site rely on loaded language or broad, unsubstantiated statements?

  • Is emotion used as a means of persuasion?

  • Does the site offer more than one viewpoint?

  • Are there links to other or alternative viewpoints?

  • Does the site's information seem thorough and well organized? 

  • Does the site clearly state the topics that it intends to address?

  • Does it follow through on the information it has promised?

  • Does the information seem complete and consistent?

  • Is the information well written and easy to understand?

  • Does the Web site offer a list of further in-depth resources or links to such resources?

  • What's the copyright status of material found on the site?

When was the site created?

  • Is it important that the information you're looking for be absolutely current?

  • Is a reference date provided to show when the material was put online, or when it was last updated?

  • Do the links work?


Learn to deconstruct a Uniform Resource Locator (better known as a URL or "site address"). Let's use the Media Awareness Network URL as an example:


The "http" notation indicates that this is a hypertext document (as most online documents are). The "www" is short form for the "World Wide Web," where all Web sites reside.

The second part of a URL contains the domain name of the person or organization hosting the Web site - in this case, media-awareness. The ".ca" which follows indicates that the site is hosted by a Canadian institution.


The last section maps out the pathway of directories and sub directories leading to the page you are on. For this particular page on the Media Awareness Network site, "english/" indicates that you are on the English part of the site. The final URL entry ("teachers") indicates the name of the page or document you have arrived at. "cfm" indicates the code or format the page was created in (in this case, Cold Fusion Markup).

~ Sometimes you might see a "user" reference or tilde (~) symbol in a subdirectory, followed by a name. This indicates that you may be on a personal Web page that is being hosted by an ISP (Internet Service Provider).

The type of organization behind a Web site can give some clues to its credibility.

.gov  In the US, .gov applies to federal departments. In Canada, provincial governments use .gov followed by a provincial or territorial abbreviation and .ca.


The federal government in Canada uses .gc in its domain name and in the domain names of many of its departments, such as Industry Canada and Canadian Heritage. However, some government Web sites, such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission (, opt for just .ca.


The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is the non-profit corporation responsible for overseeing and keeping a registry of the ".ca" Internet country code domain for Canada. Schools, educational organizations, libraries, museums, and some government departments may be registered under a 2-digit country-of-origin code, such as .ca, .uk or .au. However, it's important to remember that any Canadian organization can obtain a .ca domain. 

.edu  The United States originally created .edu to indicate American colleges and universities offering 4-year degree programs. Most Canadian universities tend to use .ca.

.org          .com          .net

Back in the early days of the Web, .org indicated a wide assortment of groups, including non-profit organizations; .com indicated commercial organizations; was intended for organizations directly involved in Internet operations, such as Internet service providers. Now, anyone can apply for, and use, these letters in their domain names. For example, the YWCA site in Oakville ends with .com, in Vancouver, it ends with .org, and in Montreal it ends with .ca.

Why are you here? 

Before you saddle up and ride out into cyberspace, it's a good idea to stop and consider whether or not the Internet is even the best place to go.  Ask yourself:

  • Can I get the information faster offline?

  • Does the online material I'm finding suit my needs?

  • Am I able to verify this information?

How can you tell what's what? 

  • When in doubt, doubt.  Scepticism should be the rule of thumb on the Net.

  • Apply the five Ws of cyberspace to the Web sites you visit.

  • Double-check your facts and sources - and then check them some more!

  • Use Meta-Web information searches to assess the credibility of Web sites. This can be done by entering the author's name into a search engine to conduct a quick background check. Or you can find which sites link to a specific site by going to a search engine like Alta Vista and entering a "link:" command in the Search box, followed by the page's URL.
Sent from my iPad 

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