When it comes to believing what you read online, I see a lot of levels of trust. Some of older folks in my life (by "older" I mean older than me), remind me constantly that ANYONE can put ANYTHING they want online, so therefore none of it should be taken at face value. Some of these folks believe this so strongly they've decided that having a computer in their home is really not necessary.
On the other extreme, I run into people far more often than I'm comfortable with, who will believe ANYTHING they see on the web, if it shows up on the front page of Google, or, especially, if it is forwarded them in an e-mail from a friend.
Reason prevails somewhere between these two groups of people. It is true that just about anyone can write just about anything and stick it on the web - and that we really shouldn't take any of it at face value if we're researching for information. However, the vast majority of the world's information is now online, so it doesn't make sense to categorically reject ALL of it. There's a lot of good stuff here, if you know what to look for. Here are a few guidelines:
1) An "expert" in any field should only be considered a primary resource if that expert can be verified to be such in a "real world" source. If the profile exists only online, be careful. Of course, this person may be using a pseudonym for privacy or security reasons, and may, indeed know what he or she is talking about, but spend some time fact-checking before quoting them as a primary source.
2) If it sounds too good to be true - it probably is. Some things never change.
3) The rules for peer reviewed research are pretty much the same online and offline, although the method of documentation is sometimes different. Online, references are usually shown in the form of links, rather than footnotes or endnotes, but the links should be to reputable sources.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking.