How do you know if wired.com is reliable?
There are several signs and ways to figure out if the information on a website is trustworthy.
In the case of the article on wired.com
1. they give you sources so you can read more about the flash cookies yourself. This makes the article more transparent. Revealing your sources upon which the article is based, is one of the things that makes the content more reliable.
But you're right, everybody can publish on the internet and direct you to a lot of nonsense. That brings us to the second point.
2. Can you find out more about the website and the owner of the website? How approachable are they? Is there a possibility to contact or comment, is there more background information about the website itself? If not, be suspicious. In the case of wired.com they explain more about themselves at the bottom of the page. Here you find lots of information. You can send an e-mail and you can find out who are part of the wired staff. Also the amount of comments on an article are an indicator. If many people comment on it in a positive way, you can assume that the information is correct (shared knowledge). If it's nonsense there are either negative comments or no comments at all because no one reads it.
So far the indications are good. But still, the wired staff can be ghosts and you might never get a response on e-mail (lots of work though for fake information, but it's good to keep your guards up). So there is a way to find out who owns the website if you can't find it on the website ifself.
3. Via Allwhois you can track the website's owner. In this case it's Advance Magazine Group
4 Times Square
New York, 10036 NY
The BusinessWeek website provides some information, though the company itself stays a bit vague. If the owner is still unknown for you, try to find out more via internet or by contacting him/her/the company. If that turns out to be impossible, you should be more aware with the website's content. Is the owner well known with a good reputation, you can assume the information provided is correct.
Look for other signs. Are there adds on the website? What kind of advertisement is it? What else can you find on the website regarding the content? Is the information complete and transparent? And use your own common sense, if it feels misleading, simply skip the website and try to find an alternative for the information you're looking for. If the information is correct, you should be able to find more about it on other websites or in books.
These are some basic research tools I use as a journalist to figure out if the information is trust worthy. And hopefully it answered your question Reg Fife.
Tip: check the website www.martinlutherking.org or www.whitehouse.org.
And for Hans's question: the only web browser I use is Mozilla Firefox. I simply can't use the internet any more without the add-ons such as the dictionary, add-block, flash-block etc. But there are several good alternatives. I don't mind others, though refuse to use Internet Explorer. Simply because it's owned by Microsoft... :-)