The Internet is a great place to get lots of information. In fact, if you aren't careful you might get information overload! When we use the Internet to get information, it's necessary to remember some very important things.
- Anyone can put anything on the Internet, and anyone can say they are an expert, even if they aren't. How can you protect yourself from the fake experts and get information from the real ones? One way is to pay attention to the URL of the website you are visiting. A website that ends in .gov, for example, is a website that belongs to the government. The state of California website (www.ca.gov) ends in .gov, as does the website for the federal government (www.usa.gov).
- Another website ending is .edu, which stands for education. The website of City College of San Francisco is www.ccsf.edu. My website, which comes from City College, is fog.ccsf.edu/~lfried. You can see that my website comes from City College, an educational institution, but my name is attached at the end to show that it is my personal page. Note, fog.ccsf.cc.ca.us/~lfried also goes to my website. That ending stands for Community College, California, United States, but edu is easier to remember.
- Another common ending is .org. At first, .org (for organization) was for non-profit organizations or non-commercial groups, but more recently this is not necessarily true.
- In the same way, .com was originally set up for commercial use.
- There are now many additional domains that people can use to make their URLs. (.info, .tv, other country domains, as well as many more)
- Some free sites let you make a webpage and store it on their site. They usually have a lot of advertisements on the page too. An example of this would be the geocities.com site. Someone might say they have some expert information, and while it might be true, I would probably believe it more on an .edu or .gov site than on geocities or a similar site. It might be great to use some ESL Exercises on a site at geocities, but it might not be the most reliable site to find out about the side effects of medications.
There are many search engines that can look for information on the Internet. All of them are useful, but I like Google (www.google.com) the best, so I am going to use that as my example. I like Google because, in my experience, it has been very good at putting the exact site I'm looking for at the top of the list of sites. It uses a special way to decide which sites are the most popular and the most linked by other sites, and it uses that information to help decide which sites will show up first.
When you search for a site through Google or through other sites, there are also some things to remember. First, always look for the sponsored links note at the top or to the right on the results page. A sponsored link is there because a company paid some money to the search engine to appear on the first page. I usually skip the sponsored links.
- When you search for something, the more precise the information you put in the search box, the better your search will be. For example, if you search for San Francisco in the Google search box, you may have 184 million hits or matches of webpages that have the words San Francisco in them. If you really wanted to find out about San Francisco Libraries, you could put that information in instead, and you might have as many as 58.1 million hits. With more information, the search engine does a better job of finding what you want.
There's another way you can limit the number of hits. If you put quotation marks around words, it means you want the search engine to find the words together in exactly that order. Therefore, if you put "San Francisco Libraries" in the search box, you could get a result of 187,000. If you put "San Francisco Libraries" and "Richmond Branch" in the search box, you could get as few as 777 matches. (Note: The search engines are always checking out the Internet and cataloguing webpages, and the number of hits you get on one day will usually be different than on another day.)
Another helpful way you can search for something is to use the + or - signs. For example, if you search for Mexico hotels, you will get a list of hotels in both Mexico and New Mexico. But if you search for "Mexico Hotels" -New, the New Mexico hotels will be removed. (But some Mexico hotels with new furniture might be removed too!) You could also search for Mexico -"New Mexico" so that you could see the Mexican hotels with new furniture.
- If you click on a link to a long page but you can't find the words you were searching for, you can hold down the Ctrl key and push F (for find) (command and F on a Mac), type in the word and search for it on the page.
- If you can't find what you are looking for, try putting in a different search word to see if that works better.
One of the websites that often comes out at the top of a search is Wikipedia. A wiki is an on-line discussion that different people can participate in. Each person can make changes and improve whatever is written in the wiki. Wikipedia is an on-line encyclopedia that uses this method to correct and gather information. In general, the information in Wikipedia is as correct as the information in an encyclopedia.
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