Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Verification Handbook -- one you should read

Fellow SearchResearchers... 

I don't often recommend a book, but when I do, you know it's a good one.  

The Verification Handbook is a collection of short chapters about how-to-verify-social-media-information.  It's edited by Craig Silverman of the Poynter Institute (an organization you should know about) and the creator of the blog Regret the Error.  

Each chapter is a story and guidelines about how to verify the information you see flowing past on social media.  

While it's intended for professional reporters, there are a LOT of lessons in here for us in SearchResearch.  I'll be walking through some of the chapters that are especially relevant to SRS in the weeks ahead, but I wanted to give you a pointer to a book that I suspect most regular readers will find fascinating.  

The book covers the basic guidelines for ensuring that what you see is actually what's going on.  A couple of examples:  

Chapter 4, "Verifying Images," discusses getting EXIF data from an image, as well as using other corroborating information such as weather conditions (was the picture actually taken on the day claimed... did you know it was raining that day?)

This chapter includes two well-known case studies.  

Case Study 4.1: Verifying a Bizarre Beach Ball During a Storm.  (A giant beach ball appears in downtown London. Was the Tweetpic real, or fake? Answer: Real!)  

Case Study 4.2: Verifying Two Suspicious "Street Sharks" During Hurricane Sandy.  Sharks in the streets of a flooded New Jersey town.  Really?  (Answer: No.)  

There's a free PDF download of the book.  (Thanks, Poynter Institute!)  Get it.  You'll enjoy the read.  

And if you're really interested:  The Poynter Institute’s News University offers a three-hour online course entitled “Getting It Right: Accuracy and Verification in the Digital Age." Craig Silverman, the editor of Verification Handbook, examines how and why errors occur in journalism, and looks at the best ways to find facts to support your story.  www.newsu.org/courses/verification  (3 hours, $30.  I haven't taken it yet, so I can't vouch for the quality, but I suspect it's pretty good.)  

Read on! 


  1. Thank you, Dr. Russell. The book looks very interesting and if you recommend it, more. I'll add it to my library.

    Having your blog on Google Now notifications is great! Now, I just check it and appears and therefore, I don't miss any of your posts. Glad that I can have this feature in Mexico!

  2. I am halfway through this wonderful book. Its fascinating for an old skeptic like me. Would be grand to intern with some of these clever people to see the action first hand.

    Thanks for the tip.


  3. I'll read it as soon as I finish the Google Fusion Data course which is ongoing right now. Thanks.

    Google Now last time I checked Canada still was waiting for it. I'll check again.

  4. … at the very least check out Chapter 10: Verification Tools — pages 107-09, there are a few tools that have surfaced previously in other SearchReSearch queries - noticed that Foto Forensics was included under Verifying Images… Jeffrey's EXIF Viewer is also there…
    these may be handy to have in the quiver even before reading the entire book.

  5. … and for Rosemary - CS is a fellow Canadian - this lists Craig Silverman as national president of the Professional Writers Association of Canada…
    Craig Silverman
    … but in the spirit of "Getting it Right: Accuracy and Verification in the Dittzy Age" he is actually a past president…
    he is also dirctor of content here:

  6. relevant to recent musings about robo-writing journalism - also raises the question of who is shown what…
    "Halspeare - to iBot or not to iBot…"
    quake coverage
    Robo's blog, Robo, Cameron & Merkel

  7. Very interesting post. I‘ve just downloaded the .pdf version.
    Thanks for the tip!0