• 13005
  • 0

How to Become a Web Sleuth?

Michelle Wilson - September 29, 2023

how to become a web sleuth in 2022

It’s neither novel nor unexpected that a significant segment of the population holds a fascination with true crime. Over the years, television series, documentaries, and films have centered on actual crime narratives, captivating audiences. There’s an inherent allure and engrossment in delving into these cases and attempting to unravel them, opening the door to a new community of web sleuths.

Sound up your alley? You, too, can become a web sleuth by joining a sleuthing forum, learning proper search techniques and devising a strategy to uncover more clues.

What is Web Sleuthing?

Online resources conclusively define a web sleuth as someone who engages in a form of detective work on the internet. These ones typically leverage the internet’s capabilities, combining their expertise with commitment to solving mysteries to try and solve puzzles that seem to have no answer. Although the problem may vary, in the reality of true crime, many of these inquiries come down to homicides and missing persons.

Although some arguments suggest that web sleuthing is harmful solving cases, online data also makes the case for its place. For example, the Bureau of Justice Statistics shares that, as of 2016, the U.S. had nearly 18,000 law enforcement agencies. However, other public data shows that only 7% of those units were actively solving cold cases. For this reason, active web sleuths agree that if they were to run a free public data check on a case, it could only do good.

The Origins of Web Sleuthing

Web sleuthing, as documented in an Oxygen article, can trace its roots to one of the earliest known practitioners, Todd Matthews. His foray into self-directed investigations primarily occurred during the 1980s, culminating in a significant breakthrough when he successfully resolved a missing person’s case in the late 1990s. During the initial years of his sleuthing journey, which commenced in the 1980s, Matthews navigated the investigative landscape devoid of internet resources. Given that this was in pre-digital times, he invested countless hours scouring library archives, painstakingly combing through databases, making numerous phone calls, and conducting numerous site visits, an effort that spanned several years.

Matthews eventually cracked the case, thanks to the advent of the internet and the burgeoning online community. He established a dedicated website for the missing woman’s case, conducted research on his computer, and stumbled upon an online classifieds platform, which yielded a potential suspect match. This pivotal discovery allowed him to provide the missing woman’s family with the closure they desperately sought. Consequently, Matthews earned recognition as one of the pioneering trailblazers of web sleuthing.

Steps to Begin Sleuthing

In the contemporary era, modern web sleuths harness an array of advanced internet databases to unravel unsolved cases and delve into long standing mysteries. When exploring the multitude of online tools available, it’s beneficial to master several essential practices and skills such as the following.

Choose Your Area of Focus

First, select the area of investigative work you want to explore, considering factors such as your interests, expertise, and goals. The reason pinpointing your focus is your first step is that it will allow you to channel your energy into particular types of investigations, such as solving missing person cases, uncovering online scams, or reexamining cold cases.

After you make this selection, you can hone in on a more specific set of skills and knowledge relevant to your chosen field, making you more effective in your contributions to the web sleuthing community.

Join a Crime Sleuthing Forum

As a beginner, one of the best things you can do is join a crime sleuthing forum online since many have already experienced members who can share their knowledge, expertise and other tips. By definition, these platforms allow individuals to engage in discussions related to various true crime cases of interest. To illustrate, you can liken these forums to another online community network like Reddit, which functions similarly, particularly within the true crime community. Both platforms employ nearly identical discussion formats within their respective subreddits, each focusing on specific topics or cases.

To start, consider sharing your findings, theories, or techniques about a case on one of these forums and review the feedback the community shares. Although feedback may be harsh to hear, or you may feel disheartened when one of your points is disproven, remember that criticism is crucial to improving your skills.

Understand How To Use Different Search Methods

Next, you will want to learn about the different search methods at your disposal for your investigation. Consider that since the purpose of a web sleuth is to uncover answers that are not readily available, you will need to familiarize yourself with advanced techniques such as Boolean operators, a set of commands for search engines to further refine your searches. Some examples include “AND,” “OR,” and “NOT,” which can help you filter down search results to answers that carry both of your findings. On the other hand, using “NOT” can help you exclude specific keywords from the results.

Concentrate On The Mystery’s Location

Next, you will want to concentrate your efforts on the mystery’s location. Begin by identifying the geographical area central to the case and its surroundings. This forms the foundation of your investigation. Once you have the location in mind, establish a systematic method for scouring local digital reports and sources. Fellow sleuths often recommend local news websites, social media platforms, and community forums as starting resources. On each of these platforms, you can look for any articles, posts, or discussions related to the mystery, as well as any potential witnesses who may have shared their experiences or observations online.

Utilize Enhanced Search Tools

While services like Google News are a valuable starting point, investing in digital investigation services may grant you access to a vast repository of public records and top-tier data sources. Certain tools may also offer features like reverse address lookup, which is essential for uncovering crucial information tied to a case. The only caveat is that if you are picking up web sleuthing as a side hobby, you might not have a ton of extra funds to put towards additional tools.

Cultivate Resilience

Web sleuths, although well-intentioned, sometimes encounter criticism for their involvement. Consider crafting an alias to safeguard your identity should circumstances take an unexpected turn.

Be Ready To Confront Graphic Content

Acknowledge that the pursuit of true crime often exposes disturbing images. Prepare yourself to encounter explicit visuals when delving into particularly enigmatic and harrowing cases.

Visualize the Details

Experts will also suggest moving beyond a superficial analysis of photographs and instead focusing on how these images relate to the actual individuals involved. Take note of distinctive features such as tattoos or scars to bridge the gap between online information and the tangible elements of the mystery itself.

The Bottom Line

Remember, the journey of becoming a successful web sleuth is an ongoing process that involves a lot of trial and error. Therefore, although you think you might have a natural knack for uncovering details, commit yourself to continuous improvement, looking at emerging investigative techniques and new tools and technologies. By embracing a commitment to lifelong learning and skill enhancement, you can remain effective in your personal mission to decipher the truth.

Related Posts

How to Start a Staffing Agency in Texas

Michelle Wilson - February 23, 2024

Tips for Dealing with a Disgruntled Employee

Michelle Wilson - January 24, 2024