Friday, October 28, 2016

SearchResearch Challenge (10/28/16): Finding interesting uses for unicode/emoji search?

Now that you can search for
unicode characters and emoji... 

... what are you going to do with it? 

Today's Challenge is simple, and it requires you to be slightly clever.  

Can you find interesting and useful cases when a search includes an emoji or a special Unicode character?  Say WHY you find this use case interesting.  

For instance, the "Live Long and Prosper" emoji  (🖖) could be used to find Star Trek fan posts.  Or, as I mentioned in yesterday's blogpost, the chess symbols (e.g., 

There are many useful tools for finding the emoji/extended-set characters that you'd like to use.  In addition to the ones I showed yesterday, another handy one is:
which lets you search by description, such as my search for the chess character for [queen] (to find the character of ♕).  I was surprised a bit to find out that the word "queen" also appears for other Unicode characters as well.  Here's a screen shot of the results from for [queen]  

I've seen some emojis used in advertising, which could be useful if you're looking for a place to eat 🍕 in Egypt.  (Use the Advanced Search menu to limit your searches to Egypt.)  

But my favorite example (thus far) is the query: 

     [ Ꭰ lesson ] 

now that LOOKS like a strange query, but the "D" term in the query is actually a "Ꭰ" which is the Cherokee language letter for their "a" (the vowel).  Thus, this query is actually looking for texts that have a Cherokee Ꭰ in them and are about a lesson.  In other words, this is a clever way to find texts that are written in Cherokee (or some part of them is), and is a lesson.  

By using a very common letter from the Cherokee alphabet, I'm able to find Cherokee texts using a simple Google search.  Note that there's no way to limit Google's results to only those in Cherokee, so this is a quick approximation to that function.  (Note that you could do the same trick for other languages: just pick a common letter in the other language, and search for that character--for instance, 

     [ ᖃ lesson ] 

will find information about Inuktitut (the Inuit language).  That character,  ᖃ, is reasonably common in Inuktitut.  

So what uses can you find!  

Let us know.  I'll be back next Tuesday to let you know what other ideas I come up with. 

Search on!  

Thursday, October 27, 2016

#900 - A note about how to search for emojis and other Unicode characters

Welcome to SearchResearch post #900!  

Remarkably enough, we've somehow gotten from my first post on January 30, 2010 to this post, which is #900 in the series.  First SRS post 

In that very first post, I wrote:  


Saturday, January 30, 2010

About this blog--Why SearchReSearch?

I've been tempted for quite a while to create a blog. But I was finally pushed over the edge when i realized that there are too many good ideas about how-people-search, too many fascinating tales of mystery and woe that should be told, too many little morceaux that should be shared. 
That's what this blog is about: What skills, tricks, tips, ideas (both small ideas and big IDEAs) should you know in order to be an effective searcher? Better yet, which of these combine to make you a great researcher?


This sort of led inevitably to the SearchResearch Challenges that we all now enjoy each week.   

The First SRS Challenge was pretty easy.  I just asked: 
 "Who IS the Silicon Valley CEO (that Gladwell mentions in his story) who coaches girls' basketball AND what company is he/she the CEO for?"  
Not a bad start. 

But this blog started up this long, long, long list of Challenges.  Some have been simple and asked a single question that was intended to teach a particular search skill.  Some have been really hard.. and a few still haven't been answered yet.  (I'm thinking about the Danish Optician Challenge from 2015.)  Along the way we've talked about all kinds of things, from finding where the cameraman is standing, to discussions of center-pivot irrigation systems

Each post is supposed to teach you a bit more about how to search, both the tactics and the strategies of searching.  I hope I've managed to do that, and that you've been both entertained and enriched in the process.    


Today's post isn't another Challenge, but a note about how to search for emojis--or more generally, any Unicode character.  

Here's what I mean.

Just recently, this kind of emoji search started working on Google:  

Yes, that's right, you can now search for emojis or any character in the Unicode set.  For instance, the white knight character, which will make it really easy to find chess match transcriptions... 

Of course, you can copy/paste characters from many Unicode or Emoji character sites.  (Such as the giant page of Unicode characters on Wikipedia.  Or a shorter list at CopyPasteCharacters.)  

Or, if you're on a Mac, you can do the CMD+Control+Space shortcut to bring up the Emoji selector (shown below):  

Or, if you like to use Google Docs, just select "Insert Character" and you can either search for a character, or draw it: 

May you find all your emoji. 

I'll post a short Challenge tomorrow--one that's related to this note!  

When we get to 1000 posts, we'll talk about what's next.  

In the meanwhile... Search on! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Answer: How healthy is the Mediterranean?

This is a big question...   

And this caused me to do a lot of research over the past week.  I did SO much that I'm a bit late in posting my answer.  I'll talk about this later in this post, but I wanted to let you know that I haven't forgotten about this SRS post--I just got a bit caught up in it all!  

But first, our Challenge for the week: 

How healthy IS the Mediterranean?  

That's a bit like asking "how healthy is Europe?"  The two problems are similar--the entity in question is a bit ill-defined (is Russia part of Europe?), it spreads over a huge area, it varies tremendously from place to place (the coast of Monaco is nothing like the coast of Egypt), and what do you mean by "healthy" anyway?  

Here are four side-by-sides of different Mediterranean coastlines that illustrates my point.  Note how much difference there is in the level of human activity, and in the surrounding ecology of the coastline.  The coast varies from deep desert, to scrublands, to forests.  Some are shallow and mild, others are deep and wild. It is a highly variable place.  

Four side-by-side sections of Mediterranean coastlines
If you look at the Mediterranean as a whole, you see the scale of the Challenge.  What does it mean to ask about the "health" of a body of water that's 2,500,000 square km (970,000 sq mi) with 3,750,000 cubic km (900,000 cu mi)?  Any kind of answer will have to involve multiple countries and their data. 

The Mediterranean from Google Earth. Note the relatively shallow waters east of Italy,
south of Sicily, around the Greek islands, and the basins of deeper waters. 
Perhaps I should have limited my question to just the health of the Aegean Sea--after all, that's all I really saw on my one dive.  

The crystal clear Aegean... is it TOO clear?

But that one dive made me think:  Is this really the "normal" condition of submarine life around Greece?  What about the Mediterranean more generally? 

To repeat this week's SearchResearch Challenge:  

1.  How healthy IS the Mediterranean?  Are there still places where one could go diving and see a rich, healthy, submarine Mediterranean ecosystem that's full of fish, invertebrates, corals, and other marine organisms?  Where should I go to have this experience?   (Note: Anything outside the Straits of Gibraltar, or the Bosporus Strait, or doesn't count.)   

More generally, I'm interested in what condition the Mediterranean is in these days.  I'm also interested in how much the Mediterranean has changed over the past 100 years.  Has it always been like this?  Or has something changed recently?  

There are many approaches to a Challenge like this.  For instance, you could collect data from many different points around the Sea and compare/contrast pollution levels, historic fishing rates, and so on.  

But since we have limited time, perhaps what I'm looking for is an authoritative summary of different variables that define the ocean's health.  
By looking at the map it's clear that trying to answer this question means looking at it from a trans-national point-of-view.  

What does that mean from a SearchResearch perspective?  Well, there are several different research strategies we could follow.  Here are my top contenders: 

1. Work from Wikipedia outward.  That is, start with the Wikipedia article and see where that leads. Look at the articles that are referred-to, and then look at articles that those articles refer to, following the reference chain outward.   
2. Find a trans-national organization's report.  What would such an organization be?  Perhaps the UN, or maybe an international oceanographic research organization. 
3. Search through Scholar for scholarly reports.  Find a few and see if there's a consensus.
4. Search through a respected scientific journal that covers ecosystem science.  This is analogous to searching through Google Scholar, but focuses just on one journal's output on the topic.  

Here's a summary of what I found following each of the strategies... 

Strategy #1. Work from Wikipedia outward.  

I searched in Wikipedia for [ Mediterranean ] which took me to the article for Mediterranean.  In that article, there's an entire section called "Environmental history" which includes sections on biodiversity, pollution, overfishing, and aquaculture. That's a useful section to read, as it not only gives summaries of those topics, but also tells you what terms (e.g. "biodiversity,"  "overfishing," "marine debris," and "Lessepsian migration" or "Erythrean invasion") are useful when doing other searches on this topic.  (This kind of additional terminological knowledge is useful when searching because there are so many web pages that include "Mediterranean diet" or "Mediterranean vacation" or "Mediterranean lifestyle" that it's sometimes hard to find good results!)  

In summary, from reading the Wikipedia article I learned that the Mediterranean has been heavily used for the past 5,000 years, but the last 130 years have been a time of great change as fishing, pollution, and the opening of the Suez Canal have transformed its ecosystems.  It seems to be severely overfished (more than 65% of fish stocks are below safe biological limits), and the number of pristine regions are very small.  

One of the important functions of a Wikipedia page is to direct you toward other content that's useful on the topic. 

I learned that there is ANOTHER Wikipedia page on just the oceanography of the Mediterranean Sea.  While that particular page is rather short and un-useful, IT DID lead me to a 2010 paper on the "Biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea: Estimates, Patterns, and Threats" [1] which says, in summary:  

"...At present, habitat loss and degradation, followed by fishing impacts, pollution, climate change, eutrophication, and the establishment of alien species are the most important threats and affect the greatest number of taxonomic groups. All these impacts are expected to grow in importance in the future, especially climate change and habitat degradation. The spatial identification of hot spots highlighted the ecological importance of most of the western Mediterranean shelves ... western African coast, the Adriatic, and the Aegean Sea, which show high concentrations of endangered, threatened, or vulnerable species." (from the abstract)

Okay. That's sobering. 

From the Wikipedia strategy I learned a bunch of useful search terms, and have an overall sense that the Mediterranean suffers from issues of species invasions, overfishing, pollution, and has suffered greatly over the past 150 years.  

I also checked out the Wikipedia article in other languages (Italian, Spanish, and Greek), and learned from them that invasive species is a real problem, especially with the invasion of jellyfish, and the loss of some plant species such as Posidonia (a previously common sea grass).  

Let's try the next strategy and see what we learn from that. 

Strategy #2. Find a trans-national organization's report.

The first question here is "how do we find a transnational organization?"  I admit that I didn't think it would work, but my first query was: 

     [ transnational "Mediterranean sea" ] 

(Note that I quoted the phrase "Mediterranean sea" to avoid things like "Mediterranean cruise" or "Mediterranean lifestyle.")  

That query actually worked pretty well!  The first result is a comprehensive report, "Blue Growth in the Mediterranean Sea: The Challenge of Good Environmental Status," which is a fairly large report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that takes a comprehensive look at the development trends and status around the Mediterranean.  This report summarizes data and comments from 8 EU Mediterranean countries (Croatia, Cyprus, Spain, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, and Slovenia) and gives a pretty decent analysis of what's currently happening and what the prospects are.  They're a pro-environment organization, but the report seems to give a fairly balanced analysis of development and environmental factors at work. 

While acknowledging that energy and development factors are going to happen, they comment that: 

"It is likely that some pressures and, more importantly, cumulative impacts on marine ecosystems generated by the increasing exploitation of the sea will grow at a faster rate than the solutions developed and implemented to mitigate them..."  
And that,
"Consequently, there is a high risk of failing to achieve Good Environmental Status in the Mediterranean Sea by 2020 for 7 out of 11 of the descriptors of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive..." 
This report also shows the area around Greece (including all of the islands) as the most intensely fished region in the entire Mediterranean--which might explain some of the paucity of fish I saw in Crete.  

It's another negative vote, but the strategy actually worked.   (If you're interested, I recommend this report to you--it really is interesting.)  

This SERP also returns a number of other reports by transnational groups, ("Mediterranean Endangered: For a sea free of waste"and "MEDTRENDS – Future Trends in the Mediterranean Sea: Duration 01/07/2014 – 30/06/2015" -- all of which concur with the pessimistic assessment of the future of the Med.)  

Strategy #3. Search through Scholar for scholarly reports.  

This is probably the simplest, most obvious approach--when you want authoritative, scholarly results--using Google Scholar is a fast way to get to this kind of information. 

My query to Scholar was: 

     [ Mediterranean Sea biodiversity assessment ] 

The SERP looks like this: 

Note that each of these results is a paper published in journals like Marine Pollution Bulletin, Frontiers in Ecology, Conservation Biology, and Global Ecology and Biogeography.  These are pretty serious papers that are sometimes fairly dense--but incredibly useful if you can slog through the writing.  

It won't surprise you to learn that all of these scholarly papers say essentially the same thing:  The Mediterranean is seriously overfished, subject to lots of invasions of different species (from foreign ships as well as imports from the Red Sea via the Suez Canal), suffers from pollution of many different types, and just plain overuse.  The number of marine reserves is very low (too little to do much repair to the ecology).  It's a very stressed ocean.   (See [2] and [3] below as examples of this kind of scholarly work.)  

Strategy #4. Search through a respected scientific journal that covers your topic.  

A variation on the Scholar search is to select a particular general coverage science journal (that is open to Google Search) and do a search through that journal's coverage.  I tired this method on a couple of journals like this and terms that I'd picked up from earlier reading (e.g., from the Wikipedia articles): 

     [ "Mediterranean sea" "Lessepsian migration" ] 

     [ "Mediterranean sea" biodiversity ] 

     [ "Mediterranean sea" fish stocks ] 

Using this "search through a journal" method, I was able to find several journal articles that are excellent overview summaries.  For instance, the first couple of results from the 3rd query above tell me that... 
"They found that 64% of the unassessed [fish] stocks are below their sustainable numbers—comparable to the below-sustainability estimate of 63% for assessed stocks reported in Science in 2009. The findings indicate that unassessed stocks, such as cod and miscellaneous coast fish, are in decline—and are in particularly poor condition in developed areas like the Mediterranean Sea." [4]  
"...scientists evaluated the status of more than 1200 species native to the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, and the European part of the Atlantic Ocean. Although conservation measures have been successful in improving stocks for some species.... The populations of more than 90 other species have plummeted low enough that they could go extinct, the report warns." [5] 
This is confirming what we found via our other methods.

Now, in an ideal research process, I'd search for disconfirming evidence, which in this case would be articles about how the Mediterranean is actually healthy and doing quite well.  
I did this using the "search through a journal" method, running queries like this: 

      [ "Mediterranean sea"  "healthy ecosystem" ]

(Here I chose National Geographic as a popular journal with a good reputation for writing about ecosystems.)  

Using this "search for the disconfirming evidence" approach, I was able to find articles about the "healthy ecosystem" in the Mediterranean.  

BUT, when you read through 10 or 12 of these articles, you'll find every single one of them has a dire assessment of the state of the Mediterranean: 
We found a huge gradient, an enormous contrast. In reserves off Spain and Italy, we found the largest fish biomass in the Mediterranean,” said National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala, the paper’s lead author. “Unfortunately, around Turkey and Greece, the waters were bare.” [6] 
but ending up with a hopeful observation, usually like this: 
"Fish abound in Spain’s Medes Islands Marine Reserve in the Mediterranean Sea. Unprecedented new research turned up healthy ecosystems in well-enforced marine reserves across the Mediterranean..."
So I conclude that my search for disconfirmation has failed, and that the evidence is pretty strong that the Mediterranean is a deeply compromised sea with significant challenges.  

Search Lessons 

If you're still reading here, kudos to you!  I know this is a long post, but this was a big, complicated question with some sophisticated methods.  

In my research this week, I probably read 20 different articles (I've only given you the "top 6" citations below).  This was not a simple Challenge--it took me probably 10 hours of research work.  In truth, most people won't spend that much time, but the idea of taking multiple research approaches is a great idea.  If you're locked into only one strategy, the lik

To answer this Challenge, I used four different strategies to search for information in very different ways.  I did this in order to try and find very different resources that were on the topic.  My hope was to find a good set of resources that would give me the ability to get multiple points-of-view.  

So the Big Search Lesson of the week is that for complex research tasks, seriously take multiple approaches to the problem.  See above for 4 different strategies, but it's incredibly valuable to look for your information in different ways (and don't forget to look for disconfirming evidence as well)!  

And... for great diving in the Mediterranean, I found out that marine reserves (especially in Spain and Italy) are great places to go.  That'll have to be my next trip!  



[1] Coll, Marta, et al. "The biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea: estimates, patterns, and threats." PloS one 5.8 (2010): e11842.

[2] Bianchi, C. Nike, and Carla Morri. "Marine biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea: situation, problems and prospects for future research." Marine pollution bulletin 40.5 (2000): 367-376.

[3] Coll, Marta, et al. "The Mediterranean Sea under siege: spatial overlap between marine biodiversity, cumulative threats and marine reserves." Global Ecology and Biogeography 21.4 (2012): 465-480.

[4] de Vrieze, Jop de.  "Netting Better Data on Global Fish Stocks"  Science, Sep 12, 2012.  

[5] Wilkinson, Allie. "Overfishing could push European fish species to extinction" Science, June 3, 2015

[6] Braun, David Maxwell.  "Overfishing Leaves Much of Mediterranean a Dead Sea, Study Finds"  National Geographic (online), March 2, 2012

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

SearchResearch Challenge (10/19/16): How healthy is the Mediterranean?

A few weeks ago... 

... my travels took me on a tour of the Greek islands.  I don't know why they weren't on my bucket list before now, but they were such a beautiful place that I'll definitely return in the future.  It was that nice.  

On Santorini, the cliffside town of Oia overlooks the sea.

It's better than I ever imagined it to be.  The water is clear, the air is pure and sweet, the food is superb, and everywhere you go there's a sense of deep history.  

And, as you might expect, I spent one morning going on a dive.  The water wasn't just clear, it was crystalline clear.  When I asked the divemaster about it, he commented that the visibility was "only 30 meters"  (90 feet), on a good day "you can see at least 60 meters"  (180 feet).  That's astoundingly good, and I was optimistic that my dive off the shores of Crete would be just amazing.  

The crystal clear Aegean... 

As you can see, the water really is transparent (and a beautiful blue).  

So I was surprised when I saw relatively little sea life.  A few fish here and there, a fleeting sighting of an octopus, a bit of algae, and that's about it.  

Although I only dove the one time, everywhere I went in Greece I would stare into the water, looking for something with more life in it than the waters I saw.  Sadly, I didn't see much.  (Unfortunately, I didn't have my underwater camera with me...)  

My dive was about 2 km from here, just off the coast of Crete in an uninhabited area.

But it made me think:  Is this really the "normal" condition of submarine life around Greece?  What about the Mediterranean more generally? 

This leads me to this week's SearchResearch Challenge:  

1.  How healthy IS the Mediterranean?  Are there still places where one could go diving and see a rich, healthy, submarine Mediterranean ecosystem that's full of fish, invertebrates, corals, and other marine organisms?  Where should I go to have this experience?   (Note: Anything outside the Straits of Gibraltar, or the Bosporus Strait, or doesn't count.)   

More generally, I'm interested in how much the Mediterranean has changed over the past 100 years.  Has it always been like this?  Or has something changed recently?  

In my quick initial check to answer this question, I found that it wasn't exactly simple to answer this Challenge.  It's a large, difficult-to-frame question--but this kind of question is typical of the big research questions we want to answer.  This is smaller than "is global warming a real phenomenon," but larger than "what's the best pizza in New York City?"  There are also a fair number of authors who have a particular outcome that they're trying to get you to believe.  

I'm curious how you'd approach this kind of large-concept research question, so be sure to let us know HOW to approached the question, and how you assessed the information you found.  What resources look good to you?  Do you believe what they say?  

Obviously, you could write a book about this--but you don't need to--I'm interested in what resources you find and whether or not you believe what they say.  

I'll be working on this Challenge over the weekend and will post my results on Monday.  

Curiously, I say  "Search On!"  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Answer: Who backs the site?

An important skill to have..

... is that of knowing how to figure out who's posting this article.  

In other words, a really important skill is that of being able to figure out who's behind an article.  

Although this is something we should have learned in elementary school, it's a continuous surprise to me how often searchers DO NOT do this!  

This observation is what motivated the SearchResearch Challenge this week.   Think of this week's Challenge as practice to learn the skill of finding out Who Backs the Site?   

P/C Google. The inside of a Google data center
(showing cooling lines to chill the data flowing through the internet)

1.  I keep hearing that the Internet is about to run out of addresses.  Is this true?  Here's one article that claims this it's about to happen  Will the Internet really come to a screaming halt sometime soon because it ran out of addresses?  (Important: How do you assess the quality of this article?  Believable, or not?)

When I saw this article my first questions were (a) WHO wrote it?  (b) WHY did he write it?  (c) WHAT is the reputation of the website where it was published?  

It's easy to figure out the author:  Clicking on his author's byline in the article takes you to his personal page for his writings on Gizmodo (the website).   This is list of the articles he's written, and by a quick scan, you can see that he writes many product reviews ("Best Travel Gadgets"), tech product updates ("Samsung Is Limiting Note 7 Batteries to 60 Percent to Avoid More Explosions") and random light pieces ("Diego the Loverboy Sires Over 800 Baby Tortoises, Saves His Species").  So it's clear that he's got some technology background, but how much? 

I did a quick search for his name  [ Darren Orf ]  which is, handily, a low-frequency name (i.e., fairly rare), and found his LinkedIn profile which tells me that he's now a Senior Editor for Hearst Digital Media, but was a senior writer for Gizmodo (until a couple of weeks ago).  

He's really a tech-journalist with a Master's degree in Journalism from University of Missouri-Columbia (a well-respected Journalism program), and that 5 people have vetted him for his fact-checking skills.  That's a good sign.  

If you read the article carefully, you'll see that it relies heavily on (and cites properly) a Wall Street Journal article on the same topic. To wit,  Coming This Summer: U.S. Will Run Out of Internet Addresses  

THAT article is written by Robert McMillan whose author profile shows him to be very focused computer technology writer.  (All of his writings over the past couple of years have been technology news.)  Looking at McMillan's LinkedIn profile shows that he has spent many years editing LinuxWorld and Linux magazines, both very techy journals that are dedicated to the Linux universe.  A quick look at the articles he's written there show him to be deeply engaged in the security and computer-tech world, so there's a high probability that he got this one right as well.  

What about the site? 

Searching for [ Gizmodo ] quickly shows us that it's a  ", technology and science fiction website. It was originally launched as part of the Gawker Media network... [and] ...  includes the subsite io9, which focuses on science fiction and futurism." 

With leading article (for this week) on topics ranging from Star Wars Halloween costumes, to an analysis of Juno's engine troubles  (the NASA Jupiter space-craft), it's a kind of technology-light webzine.  So it's not a hard-core tech magazine.  What this tells me is that it's worth checking out the facts behind the article, just in case something got lost in translation.  

When I read the WSJ article about "running out of internet addresses" that all checked out, and the author of that article really does have a strong reputation as an accurate technology writer.  (To be clear, so does Orf; but McMillan has a deeper background on issues like this one.) 

Bottom Line:  The website isn't well-known for the depth of their tech writing, but the author (and original material on which he based his article) both check out as being accurate.  And the article is correct:  The original internet would have run out of addresses, except that a major new technology (known at IP-6) was implanted into all of the internet, and the address problem was avoided.  

Who backs the site?  Gizmodo, the tech publishing company back the site, but the author did a good job of reflecting the internet address situation and its solution.  

2. Here's an article from the EPA claiming that the federal government is suing a farmer for simply plowing his field.  Is this for real?  How would you assess the truthiness (and credibility) of this article?  

This article caught my eye with extraordinary fishiness when I first opened it up.  I was expecting an article about farming regulations put in place by the EPA.  

I know that the acronym "EPA" stands for "Environmental Protection Agency."   It's an agency of the federal government responsible for protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.  

To be honest, the first thing I noticed was how nice the site looked.  In my experience, US government sites are a bit more... ah... clunky than this one.  This article on this site looks pretty good!  

The next thing I noticed were some of the titles of the articles.  Titles like "EPA’s Fancy Office Furniture Costs Taxpayers Nearly $100 Million" and "EPA Offers Paid Leave to Employee Caught with Pot at Work"  didn't seem quite like the articles I'd expect to see on an official government web site!  

When I looked at the URL, I noticed it was -- that is, a .COM site, and not a .GOV site, which is what I expected.  

So I looked at the top-level page of the site (that is, I looked at to see what the entire site is all about, and saw immediately that it's an EPA critic site, which they talk about very openly.  As they write on their top-level page (emphasis mine):  
"EPA Facts is a project of the Environmental Policy Alliance dedicated to highlighting the high cost of the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory actions and peeling back the layers of secrecy surrounding the agency’s actions."
Got it.  But it's a bit sneaky about the whole thing.  Note that his site ranks highly for obvious queries like: 

    [ facts about the EPA

Notice that the "Environmental Protection Agency" and the "Environmental Policy Alliance" the same acronym, and they have fairly similar logos:  

This is a bit of a subterfuge--almost as though they're hoping you won't notice.  So it's not a surprise that they're very critical of the real EPA.  

To get a bit more background on EPAFacts, I did a search for:  

     [ Environmental Policy Alliance ] 

and found several articles (Huffington Post, Food and Water Watch, The Journal of American Architects, Source Watch) that describe as a "...A front group for Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm Berman & Company..."  

Reading a bit more, I found that multiple articles describing as an "astroturf operation" run by Rick Berman's lobbying organization.  (The word "astroturf" here means to create the impression of grassroots support for an issue by masking the real sponsors of a website or article.)  

Is there really a connection between the Environmental Policy Alliance and Berman & Co?  

Well, where are they located?  

A click on the Berman & Company website ("About us") tells us that their address is: 

      Berman & Co. 
     1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 800
     Washington, DC 20005

while the address of the (found at the bottom of their web page) is: 

     Environmental Policy Alliance 
     1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 800
     Washington, DC 20005

Notice the similarity?  That's pretty convincing evidence that EPAFacts is a "project" of Berman & Co.  It's not exactly an independent organization.  

Who backs the site?  In this case, it's the DC lobbying firm Berman & Co, which has made quite a reputation for itself as an anti-environment, anti-union, and pro-energy  firm.  Should you believe the articles published by  Based on this analysis, I'd take a long, hard look at the claims made  there.  It's clear they have an anti-Environmental Protection Agency agenda.  

3. A favorite topic in certain circles is the question of whether the USA has actually landed a person on the lunar surface.  Here's one YouTube video that makes a series of arguments to claim that it was all a fake.  How would you assess the credibility of this video?  

I know, I know... this is pretty silly, but lets take it seriously as an example of what you would do to check this out.  

Deb & Anne mentioned using the "5 W's"  (who, when, where, why, what) and the CRAP mnemonic (CRAP stands for Currency, Reliability, Accuracy, Purpose (or Point-of-view)).  

Let's check out this video using this guideline.  

Who?  The video author is Shane Dawson.  The obvious search on his name tells us that he's an entertainer (video blogger, author, actor, sketch comedian, singer, songwriter and film director).  All of his work is comedic in style.  And there's no evidence in any of his online information that he's ever worked in science (let alone rocket science).  

When?  (Currency?)   Publication date is May 31, 2016.  

Why? (Purpose?)  When watching the video, it's pretty clear that Dawson made the video to push his "conspiracy theory" (his term) about the moon landing.  If you ignore the literal hand-waving and arch tone of voice, all he's doing is repeating questions that have been raised before by other faked-lunar-landing conspiracy writers.  

What? (Reliability?)  In the video, he repeats the claims that others have raised -- (1) the flag waves in the absence of air, (2) there seem to be no stars in the background, (3) the letter C is apparently inscribed on a moon rock, (4) there is an apparent reflection of a stage light on the astronaut's helmet. (And so on.)  

Let's check what NASA has to say with this query: 

     [ lunar landing hoax ] 

And, as you'd expect (and as the hoaxers would also expect), there's a good deal of evidence to support the lunar landing.  You can see a large collection of evidence at NASA such as images of the landing sites as seen from other satellites.  

For example -- this image is from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), Sept 5, 2011.  This is an image taken from space, looking down at where the astronauts walked and drove around during their lunar mission in December, 1972.  

Image of Apollo 17 landing site.  Taurus-Littrow highlands.P/C: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/ASU
Purpose?  I'll let you look at all of the evidence in these sites, but really it boils down to credibility of the source.  Can a comedy actor in a slightly bawdy YouTube video convince you that the moon landing was faked?  Probably not--certainly without compelling evidence, and in watching the "evidence" presented, it's all either very marginal, or easily explained with simpler stories than the one he's pushing.  

The purpose of Dawson's video was to promote his personal brand, and to be another video is his "Conspiracy Theories" chain.  (He has lots of other conspiracy theory videos as well, which also damages his credibility.)  

If this whole topic interests you, the Wikipedia article about the "Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories" has a pretty decent writeup of the positions, the people, and what really happened.  Or you could read the debunking of the lunar landing hoax.  

But I'll close this topic with another YouTube video from probably the most visible fact-checkers of our generation: Mythbusters.    

This video shows the Mythbusters team going to an observatory in Arizona to shine a laser at the moon and see the pulse bounce back from the retroreflector that the Apollo astronauts left on the lunar surface.    

Who backs the site?  To put it another way, how credible is this YouTube video about the lunar landing hoax?  I'd say it's pretty non-credible.  The author has no experience in assessing evidence, is simply repeating other hoax claims, and his analysis of the evidence is very weak.  There are multiple far more credible sites that counter each of the points presented as evidence.  (And, overall, the video just doesn't present very good arguments--each of the points presented is argued as "isn't it obvious?"  Which isn't a strong strategy for making a credible case.)  

And it's really hard to fake that laser pulse returning from the moon after the right amount of time.

Search Lessons

We live in a time when a huge amount of information is available via a quick Google search. And we also live in a time when it's really easy to publish almost any crazy notion and have it seem authoritative.  

That's why the skill of assessing credibility is such an important skill to have.  It's really not optional.  As we saw, the simplest queries can lead to content that you should definitely checkout before accepting as fact. 

     [ EPA facts ] leads to (see above) 

     [ dihydrogen monoxide ] leads to a spoof site that many have read as correct 

     [ Holocaust historical review ] leads to a Holocaust denial site

I could go on. 

You might ask why Google (or Bing, or other search engines) don't just filter out the "obviously wrong" content.  The reason is a bit complicated. 

At this point in time, it's very hard for search engines to know exactly what is true or not. As an example, the dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) site is really a brilliant spoof site because most of what's claimed on the site is actually correct.  For instance, DHMO is dangerous because "Death [can be] due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities."  That's actually true--water inhalation can kill you. Or, DHMO is "Often associated with killer cyclones in the U.S. Midwest and elsewhere..."  Again, that's true, but we don't normally think about water in that way.  

The problem here is that the tone of writing on the site is explicitly exaggerated for effect.  And that exaggeration is currently a difficult thing for search engines to parse.  

What's more, it's really difficult to say with certainty what's true with respect to many topics.  Are fighters in Syria "freedom fighters" or "terrorists"?  It depends on which side you're on. Is acupuncture an effective medical treatment, or is it purely a placebo?  Again, it depends on what you accept as evidence (and, to a certain extent, where you're doing the search from).  

So for the time being, the responsibility for determining whether or not to believe an article, a book, or a web page result is still really up to you.  

This has always been true.  But now that it's so cheap for anyone to publish (by putting up a web site), there's a lot more questionable content.  

You, as a responsible SearchResearcher, need to know this.  

We'll talk more about how to assess online content in your online research--but don't ever skip this important step!!  

Search on, credibly.