What is FactMyth.com?
FactMyth.com is a fact-checking site / encyclopedia hybrid written in an informal argumentative style with the goal of finding truth.
The idea is that we take a statement (a preposition, on our site called a “factoid“) that can be given a certain truth-value, rate it as a Fact or Myth (i.e. True or False), and to provide a well researched and cited argument to back up our conclusion.
Everything is either true or it isn’t if phrased the right way, so there is no half-truths when it comes to our ranking system. With our ranking system we only deal in statements of certain fact, and it is up to the argument found on the page to discuss the nuances.
With the above in mind, the site is meant to evolve as people comment and we learn more, and that means what gets rated fact today might be rated myth tomorrow if better information comes along.
This is to say, while there is always a certain truth value that can be given to any statement phrased the right way, we aren’t infallible and it may be the case that at times we get it wrong. When we get it wrong, we’ll update the site.
These other true statements can be said of FactMyth.com:
- FactMyth.com is a free to use educational tool to promote learning via technology.
- FactMyth.com is an encyclopedia (of philosophy natural and moral) / fact-check hybrid.
- FactMyth.com is like dirty jobs, as our authors are truth seekers, not “experts.”
- FactMyth.com is looking at human experience, human knowledge, reality, and the world around us by analyzing and debating just the most interesting parts.
- FactMyth.com follows basic standards, like adhering to the laws of logic, but it is written in an informal style. That means we use citations and inductive and deductive reasoning, but despite this we present arguments in an informal style.
- FactMyth.com is community driven, as anyone can comment and refute or support an argument, but it is otherwise internally moderated (to avoid the site getting hijacked by ideology and emotion).
- If FactMyth.com was a government, it would be a mixed-government with a representative democracy (not a pure direct democracy; this helps ensure it is immune to internet trolls).
- If FactMyth.com was a philosopher, it would be Mill.
- If FactMyth.com was a news source, it would be NPR, Al Jazeera, or BBC World (but probably not C-Span). This is to say, the site offers perspective into facts and can at times lean center left on political issues, but knowing this it makes an earnest attempt to focus on the facts and to illustrate all viewpoints (even opinionated viewpoints) from across the spectrum.
- If FactMyth.com was a peer-reviewed journal… we would probably get more people linking to us?
- This is to say, FactMyth.com uses a mix of humor and truth to present fun, but accurate information.
- FactMyth.com is an epic novel of life-hacks written and refined in real time (it is a constantly evolving work that always strives to move toward a better answer). When we say philosophy, natural and moral, we mean “EVERYTHING, including practical information.”
- FactMyth.com is a website.
- The goal is to explain things in the simplest funniest way, without ever sacrificing truth for brevity (in fact, we have been known to sacrifice brevity for truth).
- The goal is to get your input and scribe the truth for the next generation of internet searchers.
- The goal is to speak truth to internet.
Who owns FactMyth.com? Our website is owned by private citizens who have a small internet business that creates free information sites (to make a living via ads and to enrich the internet with truth). FactMyth.com has no ties to government, businesses, or any political interests (i.e. no outside entity controls our message or funds us).
Is FactMyth.com bias? Our goal is to present well-cited, accurate, and honest information, but there is no escaping the fact that everyone is a little bias. According to one review, “… this article was very deeply researched and effective. It seems the opinion of the author may lean left, but the meat of the facts is dead on. We rate them Left-Center for bias, but high for factual reporting and sourcing… This is a good source that we will keep our eye on and hopefully move to least biased if they change their language in articles…” I would, as the head author of FactMyth.com, say that was an accurate assessment.
It works sort of like this:
We state a factoid as an argument, then our researchers resolve the argument as “fact” or “myth” depending on their findings using logic and reason, explainer videos, and citations. These findings are challenged by our audience and are keep up-to-date and accurate overtime by our audience and editors. Or in more detail:
- Our authors take a factoid (AKA commonly held belief) and research it (Factoids are submitted by our users, or found by our authors).
- Our authors write up a definitive page explaining why a given factoid is true or untrue (Fact or Myth).
- Then our users get’s to comment and tell us why they agree or disagree with us (users can rate things “fact” or “myth” in the comments section).
- If we find that the community has provided solid evidence for or against our findings those findings will be included in the article. Any changes to the article will be notated. In the spirit of respecting some academic tradition, opinions on the topic will be notated and found a separate section of the page than conclusions and research.
- Once the site falls into a groove, and people start using it, we will be giving users a chance to submit their own Fact / Myth pages and even become authors. If things go really well we will be offering paid writing opportunities to readers who prove their salt.
Thus, we plan to create (and are creating) a collaborative platform that is part familiar fact-busters and part familiar X-ipedia, and it all runs on the familiar WordPress platform. The concept being that while not everyone has a college degree or knows how to contribute to Wikipedia, everyone knows how to comment on a WordPress blog.
On the sources of claims: When a claim is made by a specific person or source we try to denote it. However, when we are fact-checking common wisdom or “things we generally have heard on the internet” we sometimes list our source as “the internet.” This is a sort of catch-all for our modern world. As indeed, if it is common wisdom, it is for sure been repeated generally across “the internet.”
More on How FactMyth Works
FactMyth.com takes commonly held beliefs (factoids) and fact-checks them to see if they are actually facts or myths. We categorize these factoids under encyclopedia-like pages based on subjects related to a given factoid.
Our goal is, with the help of readers like you, to find truth in all subjects and to present knowledge freely to the world in a fun, relevant, and exciting way.
What FactMyth.com Isn’t
FactMyth.com is not a place to fact-check current political talking points (ex. “X” politician said this) or opinions (ex. “X” is wrong and “Y” is right). We also veer away from extremely emotional subjects and conspiracy theories.
This isn’t to say that we never dive into current events, we do when the topic is one that will make history, this is only to say we don’t fact-check the news of the day (and if we ever do, it’ll have its own section).
There are other great sites are out there which deal with these sorts of things, we stick to beliefs which are rooted in reality and speak to timeless truths, and thus can be categorized as fact or myth today and remain useful for the future.
As a rule of thumb, a specific factoid can certainly elicit an emotional response and debate, but the claim itself should be potentially quantifiable using reason and logic (it must follow the rules of knowledge and truth).
Can Everything be Categorized as Fact or Myth?
The world is rarely black and white, instead most ideas exist in a grey area between black and white. One might think of it as all common beliefs being a mix of truths, half-truth, and lies. One may even use truths to mislead a person or use half-truths and lies to point a person in the right direction.
With all of the above in mind, in our experience any statement can be rated as true or untrue (or for our purposes “fact” or myth”.)
Consider this, if a statement is undoubtably true than it is a fact, if a statement contains any un-true aspect then it is a myth. Thus lies and half truths are myths and only truths are facts.
If a truth is misleading that will be discussed on the given factoid page. As revealing as the truth behind any statement is, it is the explanation, discussion, and research that gives a finding value.
What do You Mean By Factoid?
When we say we rate “factoids” as fact myth we are referring to The Oxford English Dictionary definition of factoid as “1. A brief or trivial item of news or information” and “1.1 an item of unreliable information that is repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact”.
With that in mind, we would define a factoid as, “a brief bit of information that appears to be true.”
We include this to mean any commonly held belief, be it true, half-true, or fully false.
For the purposes of the site the way the factoid statement is presented should be contemplated to make it more general (as to address one issue in one place rather than many) and to avoid misleading factoids.
How Does FactMyth.com Address Accuracy?
When one of our authors researches a factoid they do their best to refine the phrasing of the factoid they are researching. This helps us to avoid confusing, misleading, or repetitive content. They also do their best to check a number of resources in the research process. Authors should cite resources as they attempt to explain the truth behind a given factoid.
This whole process is similar for readers who contribute to the site (anyone can contribute, but content is moderated by our authors). Readers can offer their opinions, research, and citations by commenting on and/or rating any given factoid.
Authors will also regularly check existing factoids to better refine the content on the site. If a factoid rated fact is proved a myth by our readers or authors, or if a myth is proved a fact the factoid will be updated to reflect the process it has gone through.
We invite experts in any subject to join in. The site is only as strong as it’s authors and users.
How Do You Avoid Incorrect Information?
Inevitably there will be incorrect information on the site. But, overtime information should become more and more correct as people contribute. One benefit of FactMyth.com over other resources like Wikipedia.org is that while FactMyth.com uses crowdsourcing to gather information and input, actual factoid pages are moderated by our authors. This helps avoid situations where popular opinions or powerful entities with wiggly words might trump truth.
On FactMyth.com the goal is to have truth trump popular opinion while popular or powerful opinions while be noted and discussed on a given page.
What are the Rules for Citations?
Although we encourage the use of proper citation people can cite any resource they wish, or when commenting simply not cite anything at all.
We encourage people to cite resources that are easily confirmed with a basic internet connection. While it is relevant to cite academic and written works that are available to limited audiences, the goal of the site is to present information in a way that is easy to access, understand, and verify.
Information should always be presented in the most true way possible, sources do not have to meet any sort of academic guidelines. You can cite anything from Wikipedia.org to a supermarket tabloid, but consider that “weaker” citations will be associated with the information presented.
It’s ok to cite more than one article for a specific datapoint. One could cite that they got the information from Wikipedia.org and the source that Wikipedia got their information from.
At the end of the day we are concerned with truth and in the meeting of some previously set standard.
How Does FactMyth.com Address Relevance?
For a research tool like FactMyth.com to be relevant it must not only be accurate, but it must be up-to-date as well. Things change and sometimes facts change to. For example the factoid “It is illegal to sing happy birthday in a public setting without paying royalties” used to be true, but as of September 2015 the factoid is better said as “It used to be illegal to sing happy birthday in a public setting without paying royalties“.
Our authors and editors regularly check factoids to make sure they are still accurate, you can see the last time a factoid was updated on the factoid itself. You can also check the comments for the latest crowd-sourced research and opinions.
How Does FactMyth.com Address Being Comprehensive?
Overtime contributions from authors and readers should result in a comprehensive look at all the world’s subjects (the sort of thing you would expect from an encyclopedia). This is an ideal that we will strive toward overtime. We are confident that we can achieve our goals due to the system of categorization we are using (which we have based on existing categorization used by sites like Google and Wikipedia.)
Keep it Simple
Factoids should always be presented and explained in the most simple and easily understandable way possible. By keeping things simple it’s easier for readers to learn and to fact-check factoids themselves. It will also help increase the speed at which FactMyth.com can grow.
When taking on “everything” it can be tempting to be highbrow, overly academic, or otherwise alienating to a mass audience. The goal of this site is to accurately find and convey knowledge to as wide range of a world-wide audience is possible. That means doing your best to “explain it like your talking to a 5th grader” and being aware of your own innate biases.
Consider contributing to other factoids in a given subject and helping to spread the truth rather than focusing on adding more content to a given factoid.