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Lose It or Build It: Trust in Blogsphere and Beyond

Lose It or Build It: Trust in Blogsphere and Beyond
by Guest Author Jean
View her Profile and 2 blogs

letters spelling trust

Trust is the glue that keeps us bonded to close friends and cherished family members.  Trust keeps a society from totally collapsing into chaos. Nearly every day, we have to trust complete strangers to follow societal rules to give us the right cash back when we buy something, for a  bank transaction or when we stroll across the road on a green light. But the onus is on us to be armed if possible, with the right information at the right time to check that a car will not run us down, count our money change or check our information sources. We learn to trust ourselves and gain confidence by having the right information for the right situation. Or do we?

With Internet and now, social media  information from blogs, Facebook and Twitter, our trust is continuously tested. I hope that sometimes we stop and reflect to question that information nugget we found in someone’s blog or via a tweet.

CEO, Matthew Harrington of Information Today, a multimedia publisher on information trends, consumer patterns and technology, notes that social media networking might alter the definition of “friend” as a reliable source of information.

There are consumers who still only trust the people they see every day as their “friends” or only a core group of friends on Facebook/another social network.  There are also those who trust all of their “social networked”/casual acquaintance “friends.”  With the growth/extension of casual circles and acquaintances via peer networks, it can indeed be harder for some to know whom to trust – thus diluting trust levels in “friends.” But with both groups, there are opportunities for brands. There is still a core group of influencers that can change how people trust and influence the actions of others; and consumers, whether they are close to them or not, will follow their lead.

In the area of business and news, he also felt  for news about a company, there were still some staple sources were deemed “reliable”. Based on an international survey:

Question:  Despite the reported drop, is trust in friends still the most trusted of all traditionally measured sources (eg broadcast news, newspapers, etc.)

Answer: Actually it is industry analyst or stock reports and articles in business magazines that held strong as the most trusted sources of information about a company.

When considering how credible each of the following is as a source of information about a company, the 20-country global total results for ages 25-64 are as follows:

  • Stock or industry analyst reports is #1 with 49%
  • Articles in business magazines is #2 with 44%
  • Conversations with company employees is #3 with 41%
  • News coverage on the radio is #4 with 38%

Notice that the survey results do not include a company’s website with equal ranking as other sources. But of course, a company website has some of the same published information sources such as stock or analyst reports.

The article does not note the number of people in the survey.  U.S. results yield similar percentage breakdowns.

letters spelling trust

Information overload – Personal Privacy

Nowadays what has clouded our trust, is information overload and our sense of personal privacy. Now  with social media networking barn doors flung open, the definition of personal privacy is challenged with  group-sharing, even verging on voyeurism in extreme cases, about our opinions, personal details and even about our own cherished in-person relationships –with strangers whom  we have never met yet.

It is not all bad. But now in Canada, there are folks who bristle at answering census information from our national census government agency.

They feel someone has invaded their  privacy. They believe their personal information will be misused. In a democratic society, if we cannot trust  like Statistics Canada, an expert national  government agency in statistical analysis and data handling, then who else can we trust?   Could some of these complaining folks be the same people flaunting their personal love life  and bodies on their blog, facebook or web site? I wonder.

letters spelling trust

Information literacy

This sorry state of affairs may reflect some lack of information literacy: understanding why the information is requested, how it is created, used, stored, protected, which parties are legally held accountable as information custodian  and how the information, stripped of personal names and addresses, can benefit many diverse groups both in non-profit and private sectors to develop products, services and programs.  I bet most people do not even realize there is federal law devoted exclusively to define the mandate and authority of Statistics Canada.

But rather than sigh over the confusion which is making national headlines, I hope that at least I will check some additional information sources when I write for any blog. I hope to give a link to the direct source of my information.

I use these tips below to help myself assess information:

  • Author(s)- Do they have any direct experience or knowledge on topic? Their organizational affiliation, employer(s)?  Their work roles?  How have they gained any ‘inside knowledge’.  Have they published  in other stable information sources that you can relocate in 1-2, even 10 years from now?
  • Year/date of publication
  • Organization– which published the information. Their mandate and longevity. Is there a listed address, phone number to contact them?
  • Version– Draft, final, revised, law in effect at this time? Is version clearly stated?
  • Geographic location of author(s) /organization
  • Purpose of blog, website:  Is it clearly stated? Who contributes to the information? Or is it a splog? How often does it seem to be updated?

There are people who have spent a large chunk of their  careers on teaching information literacy:  educators,  librarians and more. I am one of these people.  Such folks also include lawyers, judges, doctors,  who are concerned that the public are getting the right legal or medical information.   There is ongoing exploration and debate for these folks to determine how to teach and alert people to pay attention to the right sources of information.  Equip people with some tips.

As for fostering trust, information sourcing and dealing with people:  yes, I’d  rather meet some people directly if we have read and discussed each other’s content among ourselves and with others for a long period of time.

There are ways to limit your scope of trust but still engage in a lively, thought provoking and respectful discussion in a safe manner –either in person or over the Internet.

letters spelling trust


  1. Do you have several good friends who are experts in certain areas and can help you filter Internet information in an emergency situation?
  2. What sources of information do you rely heavily for news, financial, services and programs? Is it all from the Internet?
  3. Name some trustworthy blogs or websites that you use.  Why are they trustworthy to you?  Or do you care?
  4. What do you do to  make yourself trustworthy as a blogger/ as a blog information source or social media participant?
  5. How did you develop your skill to distinguish between good and unreliable information for your blog? For other areas of your life?  Which expertise areas do you trust yourself to have the strongest knowledge to write and speak at length to others?

By the way, I did cite a Statistics Canada census information for a blog post. It is the best and broadest source of statistical information to help us understand general population characteristics and changes in socio-economic trends for residents in Canada.

Let’s discuss this further.

Further Reading:

Berkman, Robert. “Trusting Our Friends Less?  Edelman CEO Answers Questions.” In Intelligent Agent. Mar. 17, 2010. Published by Information Today.

Galloway, Gloria. “What the census feud is all about”. In the Globe and Mail, Jun. 19, 2010.

Richards, John. “In defense of the long census form”. In Vancouver Sun, Jun. 20, 2010.

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8 thoughts on “Lose It or Build It: Trust in Blogsphere and Beyond

  1. May I politely ask people here: Do your family members know you have a blog? Do you allow them to read it?

    Most of my family members know and have read my blogs. One sister hasn’t yet (not both, maybe 1 blog) because she doesn’t have a computer at home yet. She’s limited by lunch hr. what she can see on Internet on a work day.

    And my parents don’t use the Internet. They don’t have computer. They don’t know I blog. I’ll be darned to try to explain blogs, etc. They are not literate in this way at all. That’s ok. They still ‘trust’ me for the essence of me and for what I’ve become. So reality of a solid person, sometimes still is the final evidence vs. any electronic word.

    I also think “trust” and how we define it, can be, not always, heavily influenced by the quality of trust we have had in human face-to-face relationships starting from childhood onward.

    • None of my other family members blog. Yes they do know about my blogs and they are all computer literate. I believe some may read my blogs from time to time. I have been cyber stalked so my family and friends and I agreed never to blog about our private affairs or share them anywhere online.

  2. Even if a person blogs for fun by simply commenting on a personal situation, a problem in the world, etc., I’m more interested in reading blogs that have a coherent opening paragraph, supporting middle paragraphs and ending. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but there is a story line that is clear. It makes me at least ‘trust’ the person is thinking with some clarity even though I may not agree with their viewpoint.

    Though my profile, does not say it out right, I have been a librarian for a long time plus other things. Word just conjures up certain stereotypes and barriers to understanding what librarians are actually doing in the 21st century and in the electronic info. world.

    A real challenge in blogsphere and in general on Internet, is remembering that we are so influenced by what we think is important by where we live geographically and our linguistic comprehension. We are limited by our geography to properly appreciate the 360 real experience of living in another country, another part of the continent. We are limited by English language blogs and English language Internet…if we only know English.

    This struck me when I went over to Europe last month and visited some countries with deeper bicycling cultures. Even reading about this at home in Canada, does not at all compare to actually experiencing it by visiting. Blogsphere, Internet (ie. YouTube, Skype, etc.) can only help you comprehend trends somewhere else in certain subject areas.

    Also some areas of Europe, regular North American cyclists still don’t know because the marketing travel information from those areas are very limited in English or in scholarly/obscure journals that the general public has no clue, no interest to wade through. This is why it’s great if locals from those non-English countries, do blogs in English to reach us about where they live, work and play.

    I am happy that blogsphere exists but like to think it complements STILL one part of reality. So I trust it only to that extent: a blog gives me a reality sliver which hopefully the author has tried to paint through the prism of their experience. It helps the author at least reveals in some general way, their interests and geographic location.

    I try to limit my cited sources, if the blog should require some –up to 3-5 sources. I know alot of readers don’t care. But there are others who are curious: you can see which article reference links are clicked in by a reader on one’s blog.

  3. 1. Do you have several good friends who are experts in certain areas and can help you filter Internet information in an emergency situation?

    I’m a former librarian and paralegal researcher. I think I’m capable of locating reliable sources of information and those with the required expertise both online and offline. So I can answer “yes” to this question. Thank goodness I have friends and family who have expertise in many different areas.

    Skipping to 4. What do you do to make yourself trustworthy as a blogger/ as a blog information source or social media participant?
    5. How did you develop your skill to distinguish between good and unreliable information for your blog?

    I do my homework. I research before I write. I consult all leading sources of information and deliberately look for contrary viewpoints as well. I also test and try tools over and over again until I have experienced them over a prolonged period of time before I blog on them. I do not retweet any links to any articles I have not read and do not consider to be worthy of sharing with my readers. I always cite my sources.


  4. @Jean
    Your commentary gives us your personal perspective in light of your well written post. Thanks again.

  5. Jaco, for myself, anything that is work/career-related I try to keep information disclosure to being truly business oriented. So I “trust” like-trained colleagues like myself within the scope of our work experiences and the work-related information that we read. It means I keep my comments on their blogs short as well on work-related Internet forums. It is extremely rare I respond to Internet listservs for exploratory discussion in my line of work since people are busy and bombarded with incoming information and information requests. These would be librarians, records managers and knowledge management professionals. These are folks working heavily with electronic information daily. These folks tweet alot too but it’s just not useful from my perspective to bombard with minor/trivial excitement/information. Alot of these electronic groups are international and the networking worldwide is strong and can be deep.

    There is occasionally in non-work related Internet forums, mention of my own level of experience/non-experience in certain areas of life, that can be useful and provides context. But that level of trust only happens after participating in an Internet forum for ..several months /years in order to understand the tenor, biases and culture of the forum’s membership.

    To be fair to readers here, since I did pose some questions for others to respond/ponder, I will answer the lst question. And then shut up, because it’s useful to learn from other readers here:

    1. Do you have several good friends who are experts in certain areas and can help you filter Internet information in an emergency situation?
    In certain specialized areas, yes. And I have called upon expertise from family members and long-standing friends for areas of: medicine and health care, engineering, business practices and law. These people are formally trained, licensed and work in these areas.

    I feel incredibly lucky.

    That’s all for now.

  6. Jean

    What a great post! You raise so many interesting, and crucial questions. I am personally very leery of sharing personal info with social media sites. The Internet scares me at times by the amount of info that is gathered, and stored. Knowing who to trust and not to trust can be tricky business. Sometimes one can find it difficult to trust someone in the real world, and then to try, and trust in cyberspace…well, I would argue that it may at times be “mission impossible”

    1. Do you have several good friends who are experts in certain areas and can help you filter Internet information in an emergency situation?
    I think I may have one person I call friend who may help me in this area if called upon.

    3. Name some trustworthy blogs or websites that you use. Why are they trustworthy to you? Or do you care?
    At this point in my blogging career “onecoolsite” may be my most trusted source, just feels like home.
    I am visiting other blogs of authority in the niche, but onecoolsite was the first blog I landed on and holds a special place for me. I find it trustworthy because TiTi is without any question a prolific blogger, and her knowledge more often than not is undisputable.

    4. What do you do to make yourself trustworthy as a blogger/ as a blog information source or social media participant?

    I’m completely honest with my readers even if exposes my inexperience as a blogger who is writing a blogging tips blog. I also link to my original sources linking to blogs, and posts, which have more authority, and higher page rank than my own post, and blog.

    Thanks for this informative post, and for raising reader awareness about an all too important issue.
    Best to you Jean.

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