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Tripping Up the Know-It-None: Five Places on the Web to Find the Truth

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There's that guy in your office that happily spews rumor and gossip as if they're facts and figures all day long. In our book, I Hate People!, we call people like that the Know-It-None.

IHP_know it noneUsually it's pretty insignificant stuff. Random inanities tossed out in the break room. Cocktail party chitchat. But sometimes those incorrect and misguided tidbits of misinformation the Know-It-None flips into a conversation can find their way into reports, client meeting or sales calls.

Is there anything worse than having to hear from an outside source that someone you work with -- or worse, work for -- is full of crap? Takes everyone's credibility down a peg or two at the very least, while more than likely costing you a sale, a raise or even a promotion.

While the path of least resistance calls for you to ignore the Know-It-None as best you can, you'd be better served quickly shaking the foundation of their shaky intel. Slap those false facts down early, punch holes in the tissues of lies when they first start and you might just be able to rehabilitate the factoid-babbling bubblehead before any real problems start.

The important question: Where to get the facts to shoot down Know-It-None's nonsense.

Don't even think about Wikipedia, IMDB and Perez Hilton. Here are five online sources you can depend on to give you the straight scoop, which you can then use to straighten out your local Know-It-None.

Snopes.com
Christened by founders Barbara and David P. Mikkleson with the name of a family of fictional characters that run through a number of William Faukner novels (Most of Faulkner's fictional Snopes caused other people headaches which often resulted in really bad outcomes). This site specializes in revealing the truth behind a number of urban legends (e.g. a tooth left in a glass of Coca-Cola will not dissolve overnight), and sets the story straight about web hoaxes as well (you cannot purchase meat products made from humans from ManBeef.com).

Factcheck.org
This website is a "nonpartisan, nonprofit 'consumer advocate' for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics," according to their own blurb. They check the factual accuracy of the spewage of major political players in the U.S., whether it's in TV ads, speeches or interviews. For instance, they even checked into Representative Joe Wilson's loud and public "claim" that President Obama lied during his recent health care speech before Congress. Their conclusion: He didn't.  The site is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. They don't accept funding from corporations, unions, political parties, lobbyists or even individuals.

Encyclopedia Brittanica
We're old enough to remember when the hardbound volumes of this legendary research source were the wellspring for every school report and essay. It was our pre-Digital Age Wikipedia, only everything in it was researched, vetted and written by people qualified and paid to do so. (Plus we still recall the sheaf of transparencies that showed each layer of the human body that could be laid one over the other.) Now the entire resource is at your fingertips, every fact just waiting to be gleaned at will and without needing a complete bookshelf in the library to hold it all.

Pew Research Center
This is the place that often furnishes legitimate news sources with scads of facts and figures about a wide variety of important and interesting studies. In their own words, PRC is "a nonpartisan 'fact tank' that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does so by conducting public opinion polling and social science research; by reporting news and analyzing news coverage; and by holding forums and briefings. It does not take positions on policy issues." It helps to know what you're looking for when you visit their site. On the other hand, you'll be surprised at the knowledge that pops up just by typing what you need in the search box.

Business.gov
Truth and honesty provided by the U.S. government? Stranger things have happened. This resource is touted as "the official business link to the U.S. government." It gives you the lowdown on everything from business taxes to licenses and permits. It's an ideal place to go to if you think you're being scammed -- whether by a con artist or a gouging contractor. The site is surprisingly efficient and well-organized for a collective effort of 22 government agencies. They even have a nifty downloadable "gadget" -- an app for your website that allows you to quickly find out anything from the proper business forms and permits to videos you can watch featuring expert advice on a wide range of topics.

Marc Hershon is the co-author of the new book I Hate People (Little, Brown and Company; June 2009) with Jonathan Littman. Marc is a branding expert who, through his Simmer Branding Studio, has created such memorable names as nüvi, Crackle.com and the title for Dr. Phil's book Love Smart.