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Sorting the web wheat from the chaff
How can you tell a good web site from a bad one? With thousands of adoption web sites out there, can you trust what you read on each and every one?
The Internet is not a newspaper or magazine. The information is "unmediated"--there is no sage editor hovering in the background, checking the facts, balancing the opinions. The burden falls on your shoulders--it's you who must judge the value of what you read.
Here are some evaluation criteria to help you judge a web site.
Contact info: Author? Email? Regular mail? Telephone/fax? "About Us" file?
High quality information: Original articles, or copied from others? Clearly written? Good grammar/spelling? Archives? FAQ? Lots of links to other resources? Links that work? Recently updated? Consistent with what you've read elsewhere? Compare with adoption books and magazines, and advice from adoption support groups.
Objective information: Unbiased approach, presenting both sides of the issues? Does it inform, or try to persuade? An organization will project its viewpoint ... does it have a mission statement, so you know where it's coming from? Is the content influenced by advertising or the need to sell something? A personal web site ("How we brought our angel home from China") is subjective: valuable tips, certainly, but you can't take one person's experience to represent the whole of adoption.
Thoughtful site design: Organized so you can find what you want? Table of contents? Search engine? Small images which download fast? Easy navigation?
My main criterion for judging reliability of information is the source. Who is the author? An acknowledged authority in the field, a well-known institution? Then the odds are high you can trust what you read. Or is the author unknown, or a company pushing product? Ask "why is this information here?".
Beware the author too lazy to correct spelling mistakes, and stale information ("Last updated Dec. 1999").
Don't forget that although you can read information free on a web site, someone has to pay to put it there. (I'm not counting "free" personal web pages offered by some services.) Why do they do it?
If you ask me why I run my web site, Family Helper, the answer is: to give people information about adoption they can't find elsewhere, because no-one else, including government, has compiled the sort of in-depth information I have, and put it all in one place. I also use the site to sell editions of Adoption Helper and Family Helper, which helps pay expenses.
For me, the bottom line when I'm viewing web sites is the information itself. I'm not looking for entertainment, so spare me the fancy graphics--just give me well-organized, up-to-date information from a reliable source.
First published in Family Helper No. 42, The Essential Adoption Resource Book.
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