By Kari Tontarski
I bet you can think of at least a dozen reasons a reputable source is better than a disreputable source, because this is what immediately pops into my head:
Lack of support, process, knowledge and industry experience
You may just default to the well-known brands; Cisco, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard. And we can’t fault you for that because they do have the ability to refute concerns when making a purchase. But not everyone can afford them, I know I can’t afford a Cisco at home. So, let’s talk about how you can determine reputable sources.
The top qualities to look for during research (and why)
To appropriately assess the source of the information you’re reading, you must consider a few things about what the information contains, like when, where, and by whom it was published.
Look for when the post was made to determine if the information you are about to read, or have already started reading, is worth your time. If the page or website hasn’t been updated in 5 years, there is a good chance the point of reading the article is nullified.
I’ve read articles that were so old that the company didn’t exist anymore. Granted, I was looking after a very old environment so it wasn’t a waste of my time, but it really could have been if I were troubleshooting the same issue on a supportable environment or looking to improve my technological footprint.
Reading outdated information will skew your view and knowledge of the topic you are researching. You may want to know more about Server 2016 and its interchangeability with your current applications and environment, but if you’re getting results from 2011, you’re not going to get the information you need.
Barring simple grammatical mistakes (a comma instead of a semicolon) or differentiation of spelling (i.e. American color to Canadian colour) you may want to dismiss information that contains spelling, grammatical and obvious proofreading errors. Consider validating the accuracy of information provided in a post that appears unpolished or unprofessional by doing more research. Typically, you can trust a common consensus.
If there are hyperlinked articles to back up the article, author, or product, try searching for the information on your own before clicking on any hyperlinks.
If you’re reading an article that is blatantly incorrect, for example, an article that says AdBlock isn’t available for Edge, then there is a good chance the article is outdated, misinformed, or uninformed. Whatever the situation, you probably shouldn’t keep reading.
Keeping a keen eye on the depth and breadth of what you are reading is a clear indicator if you should keep reading it. If what you’re reading is going from one topic to another, trying to maintain a certain point, it’s likely going to create confusion and miss key points of your discovery process.
By sticking to an article that doesn’t have a focus on what you’re researching, you’re risking your time for misinformation. You may learn things you never knew, but what is the chance you’re sticking that information in your reference vault and never verifying the actual information? I know I’m guilty of the reaction, “Oh, neat. I’ll keep that in mind.” But when the situation presents itself, that “neat” piece of information is not only incorrect but can lead you seriously astray.
Technologies do relate to another, so if the author is offering links to other articles based on a quick notation or comparison, you can look further into that topic if it relates to your technological assessment. If the author does this repeatedly, it can be very distracting, and you can likely find a better written article elsewhere.
An informative piece on the internet is almost always posted with an author, and if it isn’t, you’ll want to consider the information with a little “salt” because it’s come from either an anonymous source or a commercial source. Either way, the underlying intention of the information being provided to you isn’t as forthcoming as they would like you to believe.
The more credible the author, the less “salt” you’ll need to add to the information being provided. So, the easier it is to find this authors website, LinkedIn, or biography on their employers’ website, the more credible they can appear. But make sure you’re reading through these pages. Is the author qualified to make the statements in the information piece posted? Can you easily identify where the qualifications came from? Is the author available for inquiries?
The less credible the author, the less you want to consider reading. If the informative piece you’re reading seems to contain a bias, ask why. Are they a competitor or a provider? Is their opinion based on experience or hearsay? Bias and opinion can compromise any information, yielding it ineffective and untrustworthy as not all opinions are informed.
If Andy Anonymous says Cisco is bad for <blank> use and with <blank> as an explanation, there is a good chance that Andy has ulterior motives. If a blog says, “here are my vetted notes on every printer problem I’ve ever come across in my five years of service desk support”, there is a chance that this person wants to prevent some suffering in the world. If a company releases a new product, but never posts the issues they have encountered and overcome, don’t buy it because they either aren’t being honest with you, or won’t support you when you need help.
Keeping current, accurate, objective, and authoritative information at hand will ensure you have reliable, reputable, and effective tools to assess the solutions you need and want for your organization.
Last tip I can impart is to ask. Ask a Managed Services Provider, a friend, a colleague, and a forum (if you’re desperate). Remember that you have a community, so if you’re not finding the results you need to make an informed a decision, reach out.