Flagging where the information comes from….

When doing online research, knowing the location of the server is one of several bits of information that can and should be used in assessing the reliability of  information on a site. It is not the only criterion, but it is an important one. When you are using Firefox as your browser you might find this little add-on useful. It displays a tiny flag, showing where you are attached. The claims for this Firefox add-on:

Flagfox  Displays a country flag depicting the location of the current website’s server and provides a multitude of tools such as site safety checks, whois, translation, similar sites, validation, URL shortening, and more. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/flagfox/?src=search

Changes in Information Flow Require Changes in Research

There has been a revolution in information flow over the past few years, one that requires changes in the way we gather and use information. Traditional methods remain and cannot be ignored as some would desire, but emerging resources must be factored into any information hunt. Moreover the differences between the two must be understood.

While traditional information flows from limited media types such as the press, print, radio and television media, in the emerging information age there are many additional media types. These additional ones are often digital, portable and instantly available in contradistinction to the traditional ones.

Traditional media tended to be professionally produced; emerging media contain raw, unedited messages that are often produced by non-professionals. As a result, emerging media sources are unmediated in comparison to the more scripted, controlled, and even sanctioned messages of the traditional media. While the messages in emerging media are often produced by people whose identity and agenda are unclear at the best, and often unknown, the identity and agenda of those publishing in traditional considered reliable by many.

Traditional media generally rely on a formalized one-to-many standard whereas emerging media are almost conversational in tone and use a many-to-many formulation.

Using and understanding either traditional or emerging media requires a thorough knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of both – and an ability to differentiate between them in the real world, in real-time.


Analysis — a Starter Set of Questions

Determining what to believe, or what information is accurate enough to pass on to others, requires analysis. While collecting material, and when evaluating material that has been gathered, there are many questions whose answers will help you decide whether the information you have gathered is accurate and useful. Our three-page handout, Analysis Questions, gives you a running start to the process of asking key questions about the information you collected. AnalysisQuestions

Storage Systems — A Must for Researchers

Storage Systems
In addition to two computers, you should have at least one and preferably two large drives to attach to the computer. You will want to save your collected materials somewhere other than on the search computer. A large disk drive is the ideal place. But since drives sometimes crash and the information on them cannot be recovered, having two drives which are mirrors to each other is the safest and most professional route. As Navy SEALS say about virtually every piece of gear: “one is none and two is one.”
Some people in the field believe storing the files in the cloud is a better answer. Cloud computing – storing your files on a mainframe somewhere else – probably is safe and the stored material is backed up so there is relatively little chance of loss.
However, any time you store material with someone else you are sending it through a system where it can be intercepted and traced back to you. If you are gathering sensitive information – whether for government or a private concern – you want to reduce the chance of interception to zero. Cloud computing, for Open Source researchers, is less secure than keeping your collection of downloaded material on your own disk drives. Of course, to prevent loss through fire, flood, theft or other disasters you will want to keep your disk drives stored apart from one another.
The size of the external drives you select will depend on how much material you plan to collect and store over how long a period.Your storage needs will depend in part on what kind of material you are collecting. You will usually need less storage capacity when collecting text articles than you will need if you are collecting multi-media files, for instance. For most current collection needs, professionals find that external drives of 500 Megabytes to 5 Terrabytes are sufficient, These allow for growth of the collection over time.