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  • Hi, I'm John Green and this is Crash Course, Navigating Digital Information.

  • So you know when you take a slice of pizza out of the microwave and it's extremely hot?

  • But you're so hungry that you decide to just fight through the pain and take a bite anyway.

  • Whereupon you confirm that you're basically eating hot lava and now your tongue is burnt,

  • and also you couldn't even really taste the pizza so you put it back down for like

  • 10 seconds, blow on it, and then try again.

  • And then you continue that cycle until your meal is actually cool enough to eat but by

  • then of course have no more taste buds.

  • Right. What I'm saying is that patience is a hard-earned skill for humans, especially when you're

  • really hungry.

  • And on the Internet, I at least am hungry for information basically all the time.

  • I want to know about the news stories I care about so much that I will scroll through endless

  • posts and wikipedia edits and even god help me youtube comments looking for more information,

  • and when I am done getting all the known information about that story, I will scroll through endless

  • speculation while I wait for more facts to come out, because I am incredibly bad at being patient.

  • But also, the architecture of the social internet tells you not to be patient--it tells you

  • that if you load more tweets or see more posts, there will always be something new, something

  • that could be very important, and the ubiquity of newness can make it difficult for us to

  • read an entire article that was published yesterday because uggg that is literally so yesterday.

  • So instead maybe I should just read the headline and then see if there's anything new on

  • facebook, which there always is, and then I'm scrolling and scrolling and ENOUGH.

  • Approaching the Internet this way has left me with a lot of bad habits that don't actually

  • help me find the answers I'm looking for.

  • So today we're going to learn a skill to help break that bad habit of impatience called

  • click restraint.

  • INTRO

  • During this series so far, we've talked a lot about what to do when encountering new

  • information online like before believing and sharing, we need to find out who is behind

  • the information and what evidence there is for their claims.

  • We also want to find out what other sources say.

  • One of the strengths of the Internet is that there are always more sources, so if you're

  • not sure about a claim, or you can't decide whether a source is reliable, then you should

  • try to find another reliable source.

  • But often, the problem actually isn't finding multiple sources to corroborate or verify

  • claims--because there are many, many, many sources for almost anything.

  • Like, if you search forFlat Earth Theory,” you will get like seven million results debating

  • whether the Earth is flat, and it would take you a lifetime to look through the all.

  • That's not a challenge, by the way.

  • Don't do that.

  • You have but one wild and precious life, my friends.

  • Spend it knowing that the Earth is roughly spherical.

  • My point is that understanding information is not about finding multiple sources; it's

  • about finding multiple reliable sources when conducting a search.

  • It's about learning what expertise is and when to trust it.

  • But when many of us search the Internet, we pick from among the top two search engine

  • results even though there might be literally millions of results to choose from.

  • But researchers from the Stanford History Education Group found that fact checkers,

  • who confirm facts and debunk myths for a living, spend more time on search results than like

  • everyone else does.

  • They typically scroll through the entire first page of search results, and sometimes even

  • check the second or third page, as they decide what looks most promising.

  • And they practice what researchers call click restraint.

  • Instead of immediately clicking the first thing they see, fact checkers /restrain/ themselves.

  • They scan results to check out their options, get a sense of what sources are available

  • and what information is on offer, and then, based on what they're looking for, make

  • informed decisions about which websites to visit first.

  • So obviously there's, you know, a lot of content to sift through on the Internet, and

  • a search engine's job is to sort all of that for you, but search engines don't just

  • like arrive on the web fully-formed.

  • There is no search engine stork dropping them on Silicon Valley doorsteps.

  • Humans create and manage search engines, so the results they produce via complex algorithms

  • are not somehow separate from human fallibility.

  • Algorithms are human products just as much as this table is a human product, and this

  • physical representation of a virtual representation of a physical flower is a human product.

  • What I'm saying is that algorithms are not objective.

  • There's always going to a degree of human influence, even if that degree is supposed

  • to be small.

  • Now before we go any further, I want to highlight a potential conflict of interest here.

  • This series is funded in part by a grant from Google, which is a search company.

  • As part of the grant, they viewed final scripts of these videos, but they did not write or

  • edit them.

  • The content of these videos was developed by the Stanford History Education Group, not

  • google, but I think it's important to reiterate here that Google did help fund the series.

  • Having said that search engines like Google are profoundly fallible and they are subject

  • to human influences, and they are shaped both by the people who work on those search engines

  • and also by the people who use them.

  • So when you enter a keyword into any search engine, it doesn't spit out a list of sources

  • ranked by trustworthiness.

  • Instead they sort links based on a variety of factors using an algorithm -- a set of

  • rules or operations a computer follows to complete a task.

  • And those algorithms, to reiterate, are created by people.

  • Now, the exact algorithms search engines use are secret -- that's why they remain in

  • business.

  • But roughly -- and I mean roughly -- they didn't like tell us any secrets, Google

  • returns results based on (1) How relevant it thinks a page will be to what you searched

  • for and (2) The quality of the site, based on Google's

  • own definition of quality.

  • A page might be relevant to your search if it contains multiple instances of the keyword

  • you searched.

  • Like, if you searchGolden Gate Bridgeit may surface the official website of the

  • Golden Gate Bridge because it says Golden Gate Bridge like 12,000 times in key places,

  • like the page title.

  • Quality is a bit more difficult to nail down.

  • One parameter search engines use is how many other sites link to a result, and whether

  • those sites are of high quality.

  • Some search companies also pay individuals around the world to rate the quality of the

  • pages it finds in search, which...is google hiring?

  • Because I would love that job!

  • I feel like I would be good at it because I spend a lot of time on the Internet and

  • I have very strong opinions.

  • Google raters do follow a set of guidelines of course.

  • We'll link to them in the video description.

  • But also search results aren't a one-way street.

  • Like web content creators know roughly how to try to ensure their websites appear higher

  • in search results.

  • This is called search engine optimization.

  • To use a basic example, keywords are important to search results, so if you make a site about

  • doggos and puppers but most people are searching for dogs and puppies, you'd be better off

  • including dogs and puppies in the title.

  • And since linking to other sites can impact search results, some creators even create

  • websites to link to their websites.

  • Now, that's considered spam but it's still very common.

  • Why?

  • Because many of us click those first couple links of a search result, getting your site

  • into those spots can be extremely valuable.

  • And research has shown that students interpret the order of search results as an indicator

  • of trustworthiness.

  • As I already mentioned, that's not actually the case, but it benefits a website to appear

  • trustworthyor a YouTube channel for that matter.

  • Okay, so the first step of click restraint is /not clicking./ Alright?

  • Take a deep breath.

  • Count to ten.

  • Or, I don't know.

  • It's the Internet.

  • Count to three.

  • Send your friend a search time selfie

  • I don't…

  • whatever you have to do to not instantly click the first link of your search results.

  • Then scan the result titles and URLs of that first page of results..

  • Are there names of major news organizations or blogs you've never heard of?

  • From the title you can also sometimes tell whether a page is

  • a news article, or if it's presenting an opinion, an op-ed

  • piece, or if it's just like irrelevant to your search.

  • Next you should scan the snippets below each title.

  • The text under the URL will hint at the webpage's content.

  • This alone could point you towards the information you're looking for.

  • Once you've compared these results you can try some lateral reading by opening a couple

  • results in new tabs.

  • You know what.

  • Let's just try out this whole process in the Thought Bubble.

  • Okay, my friend told me that the Chinese government is buying Walmart.

  • I had not heard anything about that, so I decided to Google it.

  • I typed indid China buy Walmart.”

  • And here are the results.

  • The first is calledChina Buys Walmart, Will Rebrand as GreatWallMartand it's

  • from thefinaledition.com.

  • Now I've never heard of The Final Edition, and that pun does sound too good to be true.

  • On the other hand the first three words are, “China Buys Walmart”.

  • A few results down I see stories from Forbes and Business Insider, two business websites,

  • suggesting that the Walton family that owns Walmart has been selling its shares.

  • The seventh result is Walmart's own website,

  • then comes its Wikipedia page,

  • and a CNN article about Walmart buying a stake in a Chinese retailer from two years ago.

  • From this group of results, Walmart's own website is probably the best place to start.

  • While I wouldn't always trust a company's website to tell its own story impartially,

  • I do think they probably know who their owners are.

  • The company page explains how the Walton family came to own Walmart.

  • And then in 2016, they teamed up with Chinese e-commerce company JD.com to form what they

  • called a strategic alliance.

  • Actually, if we go back to that CNN story, we can confirm that Walmart bought a 5% stake

  • in JD.com.

  • So, no, China did not buy Walmart, but the retailer did do business with a major Chinese company.

  • Just for kicks, let's go back to that first Google result about the GreatWallMart

  • since that was the only source that even hinted at China buying Walmart.