MediaStream maintenance: Tools for reading online news
We rounded up some tools that can aid you in your quest to stay informed while maintaining your personal sanity.
There is a massive stream of news online, it’s important to have the proper tools for consuming it. Nothing will help a person parse the news better than a healthy sense of skepticism, but there are also plenty of browser plugins that can aid you in navigating the minefield of half-truths, rumors, tweets and completely fabricated nonsense littering your feed.
Not all click-bait is evil, but the headlines are almost always designed to manipulate your emotions. This browser extension translates a number of hyperbolic phrases that are most typically associated with Upworthy-style headlines like, “This man discovered something extraordinary, you won’t believe what happens next!” When you browse the web, it will translate "Figuratively" into "Figuratively," or "Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment" into "Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment." It won’t make the content that you click-through to any better but at least you’ll go into the article with a more sober mindset.
When reading the news, one should be as open-minded as possible. It’s always a good idea to check out multiple viewpoints from numerous sources. But some publishers are just worthless and until you notice they’ve changed their ways or received a Pulitzer-prize, you’re probably off without them. Personal Blocklist will allow you to specify blocked websites that you don’t want showing up in search results. To take it even further, if there are words or names that you don’t want to see, such as “Sarah Palin,” or “Diplo,” the extension, “Pop Block,” will put a black bar over any instance of it being used on a web page. With so many people contributing nothing to the world, your mind will thank you.
3Google Quick Scroll
When reading the news, it’s always a good idea to check information in multiple places. If a line, quote or fact sets off alarm bells for you, Google Quick Scroll can be very useful. It simply highlights the relevant information in the results of a Google search for quicker reference. Say that The New York Times mentions a source as an expert psychologist, just “Google Doctor so and so,” and when you click on a result, the relevant information will be highlighted.
4World Data Finder
This another great tool for fact checking as well as expanding on a story. World Data Finder is designed to simply provide relevant statistics, charts or datasets related to an article you’re currently reading. It can display that data in a pop-up window or directly in the body of the text. Once it’s installed all you have to do is click the magnifying glass in your browser’s URL field to display info.
This would be a very United States centric add-on if it weren’t for the fact that the U.S. has so much influence in the world that its leaders decisions pretty much effect everyone. “Green House” will provide you with a detailed breakdown of campaign contributions that have been received by any U.S. Senator or Representative. For example, if you read an article about Nancy Pelosi opposing regulating the pharmaceutical industry, just use this extension on her name and you’ll see that Health Professionals were by far her top campaign contributors. Suddenly the world makes more sense.
6Who Stole My Pictures/TinEye
WSMP (for Mozilla) and TinEye (for Chrome) can be helpful in a number of ways. The most common use would be to track down the original source of a photo or how widely it’s been used. As far as protecting yourself against fake news or photoshopped pictures, it could either reveal elements of a photo were taken from a different source or that no one else has used this Barely Noticeable image which would probably be unlikely. An additional and related resource is Exif, which is quick little tool that allows to view the metadata of a photo. If a photo shows Elvis in front of the Great Pyramid and claims it was shot in Egypt, but the meta-data says it was shot in Vegas, something is probably wrong.
7Google Similar Pages
This extension can be useful if you just need help finding new resources. It suggests similar websites to the one you’re reading at the time. If you find yourself reading nothing but CNN and The New York Times, click on this extension and it will give you a list of other news sites similar qualities. If you find that you only read domestic news, find a foreign news source that you like and click on this app to guide you to others.
Instant Translate just uses Google Translate to help interpret a language you don’t understand, but it’s much better for a quick translation on the fly. Google Chrome will give you the option to translate a full page if it’s not in your native language. But in the case of running across a tweet or a short segment that you need to be translated, just highlight it and translate it instantly.
This extension needs a little work and the developer acknowledges that in the reviews, but it's a handy extenstion to enable for occasional help. Internet Illuminator uses a variety of corporate watchdog sources to draw connections between public figures and corporations in the news. For instance, if a person or corporation is a member of ALEC, this app will say so in parentheses beside their name. Eventually, it significantly slows down your browser performance. Hopefully, it will be streamlined and every time you read about a former Senator lobbying for a corporation you’ll see all of the corporate boards they are a member of.