Identifying Articles Written by an Intelligent Person

How do you know what you’re reading isn’t bogus?

Source: Andrea on Pexels.

Since my start on Medium, I’ve noticed a lot of clickbait. For me, it’s specifically related to finance, investing, and the stock market.

I’ve noticed that, along with the clickbait, the articles tend to tip-toe on alert notifiers.

“Take these 5 steps to make yourself a millionaire”

“How becoming a millionaire on the stock market is easier than you think”

“Don’t get caught in this bull trap”

“The thing you’re missing in your portfolio is this one new hot stock”

Clickbait can be funny. When David Dobrik does it in his YouTube videos, you know you’re in for a surprise. That’s because the clickbait is used to lure you into something even cooler to top off the title.

Medium’s articles are often not like that. Most writers understand that getting a reader to click on an article will lead to a paycheck. Following that notion, it only makes sense to think up the clever title first, and then follow-up with subgrade content to underexpose that title.

This is a problem.

Naturally, it leads to questions gravitating toward bad advice. How do you know what you’re reading is truthful or sound or valid? In an age where everything seems to be devolving into clickbait, we have lost sense of what has or hasn’t happened.

Worse, people seem to get away with things at a faster rate than before.

However, there are a few identifiers to help you filter out the good from the bad. It starts with something really simple.

Personal results and experiences.

Does the person you’re reading about actually have a sense of their topic? This can be a philosophical question, but the context of someone’s past can make it easier. If they are talking about running, do they have running results or experiences to back up their advice? If they have financial wisdom, have they made significant investing/financial gains themselves? If you can’t seem to find this identifier, they’re likely making it up or exaggerating their ability to help you. I’ve often told people that the best investing advice I ever got was the advice I didn’t listen to. That’s because if most people knew what they were talking about, they usually speak very little on the topic.

If there is no evidence for it, then what is being said is nonsense.

Are they selling you something?

This one makes me laugh. I’ve seen people on Quora pose as a beacon of knowledge only to launch people onto a landing page that they need to subscribe to. Then, after that payment, they’ll be selling a book on Amazon.

Again, if you’re in the business of helping, small donations are generally appreciated but swindling people into a warped world-view is a demented agenda in a sea of over-saturated snake-oil salesmen.

Newsletters are a cool way of communicating with a group of people that might be interested in what you’re saying. When that newsletter turns into a subscription service that’s becoming ever more expensive, you should start to question whether the value of those words matches your commitment to them.

This point intertwines with the first.

Have you heard about it before?

For every 10 or so clickbait articles, 8 or 9 of them seem to be the exact same material. It’s the same Warren Buffet quote, the same savings strategy, and the same investment vehicles. Or it’s a conflation of what is reality and what is superstition. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ll be reading the same material regurgitated at the 8th magnitude.

An article with a listed title does not attain more value in society. It’s just that the human psychology associates that structure as valuable.

Are the facts verifiable?

In the gilded age of fake news, (is this even possible?) verifying what’s being said is pivotal to the underlying opinion of the author.

When you’re reading anything, you should often check the hyperlinks for the concrete facts. If a lot of those hyperlinks go to the same sources that are otherwise uncorroborated, you’re in trouble. If it’s a scientific piece, the credentials of the author might be a start. That’s only a starting point, though. Sifting through their studies and validating the articles and the research is the best way to gain credibility.

The last thing you want to believe is the voice of someone who’s spewing conspiracy in the place of reality.

I’m writing an article about how you can write an article — I made so much money doing this.

We’ve gone meta. We’re no longer talking about things in general, but we’re talking about the things that we use to talk about the things that we use. We’re writing about making money through Medium while writing about it on Medium.

It sounds like a mouthful because, when you really think about it, it’s completely silly.

Writing on this platform is a fun experience and one that I want to continue to take a part in. However, the growing amount of hackability articles seems to be growing in proportion to the platform’s original intentions. Those articles naturally rise to the top because the demographic of readership is instantly engaged in discovering their true potential in making massive amounts of dollars.

Except, naturally, given the hierarchy of virtually anything, it’s impossible for everyone to be doing something on a massive scale simultaneously. If you are selling something, you need someone on the other side to buy it.

If you are writing something, you need someone on the other end to read it.

And if you’ve been reading somebody else’s article about how to make a bajillion dollars, then they’ve already clickbaited your eyes and sold you their thing.

Written by

UC Berkeley, mathematics. Los Angeles. Long-time runner. Top writer on Quora, 100M+ total content views. New to Medium. Inquiries: Moumj@berkeley.edu

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