It’s true: you can’t believe everything that you read on the Web

An oft-repeated cliché is that “you can’t believe what you read on the Web.” Of course, you can’t believe what you read anywhere: it’s up to individuals to assess the quality and reliability of information, regardless of the source. That said, it can be alarming to sit back and watch the speed with which errors propagate in cyberspace. Yesterday, I watched this unfold in a few short hours:

  1. I (and others) bookmark a link to a project called gpeerreview, hosted at Google Code
  2. A blog post (since corrected) states that the search giant has been working on a peer review tool
  3. My bookmark appears at FriendFeed, where we discuss the incorrect attribution of the project to Google
  4. Another blog post on Google Peer Review appears
  5. Links and comments about gpeerreview start popping up all over FriendFeed, some of which suggest it is a Google project

The great thing about the Web though, is that it corrects itself just as rapidly. With a few well-placed comments, some discussion at FriendFeed and the best solution – an email enquiry to the project developer (well done Richard!), the phrase “Google Peer Review” was consigned to the error basket.

I’m not pointing the finger or criticising anyone here. Unless you develop software, you’re unlikely to be aware of Google Code and the URL/site design do make it look like a “content owned by Google website”. Just be aware: when writing, to be sure of your facts and when reading, to critically assess and not blindly accept.

5 thoughts on “It’s true: you can’t believe everything that you read on the Web

  1. Ben

    The internet is like a giant game of telephone — with dire consequences to scientific integrity.

    it also goes to show how much influence you have, Neil ;-)

  2. Bora Zivkovic

    Q: why does a non-Google site have a Google logo? Why would one think it’s not Google’s in the first place, unless one is a really uber-skeptical cynic? What IS the relationship between Google and Google Code?

  3. nsaunders Post author

    Just to clear the confusion: Google Code is a Google website that hosts code. The code is not necessarily “Google’s code”. Any developer can store their project there.

  4. Maxine

    I just saw The Scientist blog post on this, Neil, by one of their editors. This post made both mistakes (Google and peer-review) saying explicitly that two other science publishers should watch out – (these publishers probably employ editors who read material first before writing about it). You have corrected The Scientist post, but it does not seem to make any difference – people are continuing to contribute there “as if it were true”. This is an internet phenomenon I’ve seen a lot – “I want something to be true so it is”. I find it strange that scientists are like this, but I guess they are just people like everyone else;-). The post has not been corrected yet, and the editor has not responded, that I can see.

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