When evaluating an Internet site, how do you determine if it is credible? How do you differentiate between truth, lies and opinion? And what about satire? Can you always tell when a site is just joking? Although a complete discussion of these important questions goes beyond the space allotted this column, today's sites are all examples of pranks, fabrication and satire. A few were specifically created as educational tools. Would you have been fooled by any of them?
"Everything you've ever wanted to know about every explorer who ever lived ... and more!" Maybe that promise about "every explorer who ever lived" might be a small tip off that this site is not all that it appears to be. Read the explorers' biographies with a critical eye, and see if anything strikes you as odd. To learn the whole truth, jump on over to the About page. Teachers and parents will find lesson plans, links, and a printable handouts. I like the first lesson: Just Because It's Out There Doesn't Mean It's Good.
Next up is a dangerous chemical compound. "Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is a colorless and odorless chemical compound, also referred to by some as Dihydrogen Oxide, Hydrogen Hydroxide, Hydronium Hydroxide, or simply Hydric acid. Its basis is the highly reactive hydroxyl radical, a species shown to mutate DNA, denature proteins, disrupt cell membranes, and chemically alter critical neurotransmitters." Have you taken high school chemistry? Can you figure out the DHMO secret? For the rest of the story, read the Press Kit. You'll find the username and password on the front page of the site.
They are so cute! Tiny little giraffes that can sit on your lap and fit in your hand. And you can buy them directly from the only farm that breeds them, the "world wide famous" Sokoblovsky Farms in Russia. On their front page there is a live web cam of the Bull Vladimir walking around the barn. Hmmm, I wonder what time it is in Russia right now? Is that daylight coming in the barn door? To figure out the real story, watch the two DirectTV commercials on the Photos page. What do you think now?
"There is no such thing as a safe Shards O' Glass Freeze Pop. We now agree with the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that eating glass freeze pops can be dangerous." My mouth hurts just looking at these pictures of frozen pops filled with shards of glass. Eww! Look at the sections titled Health Concerns and Product Facts. As you browse through the site, ask yourself the following questions. What is this website really about? Does this remind you of another product or industry?
"The Pacific Northwest tree octopus (Octopus paxarbolis) can be found in the temperate rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula on the west coast of North America. Their habitat lies on the Eastern side of the Olympic mountain range, adjacent to Hood Canal." This website is beautiful, well-written, and even has printable crafts and school activities. One of the ways you can check out a website is to visit the index page of the site (strip away all the folder and file names after the ".net") and see what you learn. What else is on the website? Who is the author? What is the nature of the rest of site? See any patterns here?