Otherweb Can Help People Avoid Fake News Embarrassment


Nothing is more embarrassing than sharing or forwarding something that you think is true and then getting slammed because whoever got it knows better and thinks you’re an idiot.

Back when I worked for a multinational, I’d send out an email newsletter of things I thought were interesting and applicable to our work. Folks were fine with that until I forwarded something about our company that wasn’t remotely true because I had not verified the source. That was the end of my newsletter, and I suddenly had a ton of executives convinced I was an idiot. That didn’t do my career any good.

That was before we had the internet, though we did have email, and things have gotten far worse since then. Now we can announce our idiocy to not only our bosses and coworkers but to family, friends, and thousands of people we’ve never met over social media.

None of us have time to research or fact-check every piece of incoming information we get. If you are like me, you get a ton of stuff that isn’t true.

Today, fake news covers politics, medicine, investments, cryptocurrency, science, and even dating (a guy here in Oregon using dating apps to kidnap and rape women). Also, there are increasingly competent attempts to trick us into providing information that could result in identity theft.

How do you fix this problem? Otherweb is a fascinating effort to help people get to the truth, not by moderating the fake news, but by helping you fact-check it yourself so you’ll have a stronger sense of whether the information is bogus because you are part of the process.

Let’s explore Otherweb this week. Then we’ll close with my Product of the Week: a new smartphone from Samsung which rises well above the rest if you are into making videos.

Fake News

Right now, one of the problems with fake news is that a lot of folks seem to use that designation for anything they disagree with or makes them look bad when the term should only be used if the news is false or misleading. In addition, there is often disagreement over whether a piece of information is incorrect.

For instance, there have been many stories that indicate that the Earth’s core has not only stopped spinning but may be starting to spin backward — and recently, another credible source says that’s all BS. Now, having the Earth’s core spin backward is certainly scary if you have watched any of the movies that suggest that event will end the world.

Recently, I read an article on Forbes that argues all of those other articles are BS because the folks that wrote them couldn’t understand the study they based their articles on. Can you imagine bringing up this topic casually to someone you were trying to impress, only to have them toss that Forbes article in your face with the implication that you are clueless?

I’m not saying either position is true, though, since we’re all still here, the “end of the world” scenario seems off the table (there’s good news for a Monday). But had you known both articles existed, you could have nuanced your comment, chosen another subject, or chosen a side and made a more credible argument — rather than being caught repeating fake news even though you may have heard it on what some people consider a credible news source.

One obvious fix is to resist bringing up topics that you don’t know about directly. Sometimes, that seems like the safest path. But we still make decisions according to what we read, so knowing the risk of taking something we read as truth would allow us to choose better not only what we share but how we share it.

The Otherweb Solution

That’s what Otherweb attempts to do. It is a news-focused network like Twitter, but with an emphasis on making sure you have the information you need to determine if a story is true. It allows you to pick sources you trust to create your feed, and it uses transformative AI to scan the related piece of news and correct the title.

How often have you clicked on a link on Google thinking the story was one thing you were interested in, only to find out the title didn’t have anything to do with the content?

Otherweb also summarizes the article in bullet form so you have a brief on the content, which may save you from wasting your time on the site, and you can use sliding bars to adjust what kind of content you get.

Unlike most other services like this that use someone else’s search engine (usually Google), Otherweb has its own, and at least right now, it isn’t ad-funded, so there’s neither the desire nor need to optimize ad revenue through search results. You get things closer to what you want to find without having to dig through all those paid and prioritized results that tend to make finding what you need so difficult.

Be aware that, currently, Otherweb hasn’t cooked its revenue model and will wait until its user base grows to critical mass before surveying it to figure out how to monetize the service. This means the firm is limited in terms of funding, and there will be changes coming that may include a fee to use the service or ads to fund it. It’ll likely end up as some kind of hybrid model where you can choose to pay and use the service without ads or get the service free but with annoying ads.

Otherweb will never be the financial powerhouse that Google is, but given its differentiator is accurate news, it should be able to balance better the needs of the advertisers with the needs of the users. I’d still likely recommend paying for the service if only to remove the chance that your results will be corrupted by any effort to maximize ad revenue.

Wrapping Up

In my business, fake news is a career-ender, so I’m always looking for services and sources that can help me identify and avoid it.

Right after 9/11, I watched “Loose Change,” a very well-done conspiracy video arguing strongly that the U.S. was behind the attack on the twin towers. I almost became a believer because I’d never seen a false story so well produced. Fortunately, the one person I spoke to about it straightened me out right away, and I didn’t write a column that would have branded me an idiot forever. But it was a very close call.

While still in its infancy, Otherweb seems to do a decent job of helping me determine whether a story is fake, thus protecting my reputation from otherwise foolish mistakes.

Another interesting aspect of this service is that it is fully open-source and collaborative. So that anyone wanting to do something similar but with a different spin can do so, showcasing that the folks behind this app are less interested in revenue than they are in fixing the fake news problem.

Check out Otherweb if you get the chance. Log-in is required, so you’ll need to sign up with the site to use the service. We have too few people and companies focused on making the world a better place, and I’d like to see that change.

Maybe you, too, can avoid that next embarrassing moment where you get slammed for repeating a fake news story because you didn’t know, but should have, that it was a fraud.

Tech Product of the Week

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung is an interesting company and one of the few with the capability to compete with Apple head-on. To date, Samsung has underperformed its potential because getting its stuff to work together hasn’t seemed to be a priority, at least until now. I think that was the big news at the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event last week. It has started to do the “better together” thing, and it’s doing it better than Apple.

The difference is that Samsung products still work with other vendors’ products but still work better with other Samsung products while, too often, Apple’s similar offerings only work with Apple products which significantly limits Apple’s total addressable market (TAM).

For instance, Apple Watch, which is still arguably the best smartwatch in the market, won’t work with Android phones, which restricts the TAM for that watch to about one-third of what it otherwise might be. Samsung typically avoids that limitation, and its smartwatch has been catching up to Apple’s.

But Samsung really hit hardest last week with its Galaxy S23 Ultra. This new phone’s picture and video quality can produce 200 megapixels for pictures and up to 8K and 30 fps for video, which is in line with professional cameras and can be used to create high-quality professional-grade movies and pictures in almost any kind of light.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra will be available Feb. 17, 2023. (Image Credit: Samsung)

Its seamless connections to laptops, particularly the Book3 series announced at the event, would make a professional photographer take notice because they are moving the RAW files, not the typically compressed files that you’d usually end up with. I was a professional photographer, and even my pro rigs couldn’t do what this phone can.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra has a pro-video mode that opens up all the settings. Assuming you know what you are doing, it allows you to create amazing pictures; if you don’t, it uses AI to do all that for you. I’m pretty sure this phone, with a non-photographer, could outdo much of what I could do as a pro back in the day.

Things like decent mechanical digital image stabilization, advanced high-speed focusing, nightography for taking great pictures in low light, and the fact that it uses Qualcomm’s most advanced technology in what appears to be a processor solution jointly designed with Samsung make this phone really stand out.

The performance jump over last year’s phone is pretty extreme, as well, with a 34% jump in CPU performance, a 49% jump in NPU performance (AI), and 41% in graphics, making this one heck of a gaming smartphone and showcasing how far it has come. Oh, and it has a 1,750-nit display which is huge and should allow you to do things in bright sunlight that you can’t do with your existing phone.

Granted, as you’d expect, this isn’t a cheap date with a list price just short of $1,200, but darned if I don’t have lust in my heart for this phone, which makes it my Product of the Week.

By the way, I’ve been impressed with the amount of money Samsung spent at launch events in the past but less than impressed with the execution. Samsung executed this latest launch event nearly perfectly, and credit goes to the team that produced it. They spent more time pointing out why you’d want a certain feature than the speeds and feeds of the device, which has always been a best practice. Nicely done! It’s worth watching.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.


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