Howard Rheingold’s Crap Detection 101 Mini-Course discusses the importance of being literate in attention, participation, cooperation, critical consumption or crap detection, and network awareness. He explains that although the internet can provide the answer to any question, it is not useful unless you know how to search for the answer and how to evaluate the credibility and accuracy of the answer you find. The CRAP test is a method of checking the credibility and accuracy of web sources that Rheingold has listed as a Crap Detection Resource. The CRAP test uses CRAP as an acronym with each letter as a category containing questions to ask when evaluating sources.
The first letter “C” stands for currency and poses questions that relate to the currency of the source. According to the test, when evaluating the currency of source you should check how current the information is, how recent the website has been updated, and see if the information is current enough for your topic. Evaluating sources to see how current they are is important because the accurate answer to a question can change over time, and a person who published information on the internet is not held responsible for keeping their information current and accurate.
The second letter “R” stands for reliability and asks questions that look at features of the information that give it the appearance of being reliable or unreliable. According to the test, when evaluating the reliability of information provided by a source you should look at the kind of information included, check if the content is balanced or mostly based on opinion, and see if the source cites sources or uses quotes. Evaluating sources to see if the information inside them is credible is important because there are many different sources containing the same information on the internet, and they are not always consistent. Since anyone can put out information on the internet, you cannot assume that the information is reliable.
The third letter “A” stands for authority and asks questions that look into the sources author and their authority in making claims on the topic. According to the test, when evaluating the authority of the author you should look into who the author is, what their credentials are, who the publisher or sponsor is, the reputation of the publisher and author, the publisher’s interest in the information, and the lack or presence of advertisements on the website. Evaluating the authority of the author and publisher is important because it can tell you whether or not the person is an expert in their topic, what the public thinks about their work, and why they wrote the source. These are important things to look at because they help determine whether or not the information is coming from a trustworthy place.
The final letter “P” stands for purpose/point of view and asks questions about the bias of the information, publisher, and author. According to the test, when evaluating the purpose and point of view you should decide if the information is fact or opinion, biased, or trying to sell you something. Evaluating the purpose and point of view portrayed by the source and it’s author and publisher are important because it establishes the intentions behind the article. Information on the internet can be made available with the purpose of deceiving you or convincing you of something, so it is important to check and see if the source has bad intentions to avoid falling for them when they’re present.