Certain kinds of technologies are interesting in the way that their existence motivates changes in the way people behave. Good examples include the fax machine or mobile telephones, both of which modified the way that people work.
Search is one of these technologies, but curious in the ways that different people (do or don't) engage web searching as part of their daily routines. In one instance, a person I know was tasked with developing documentation on a particular subject, but the first draft of that material showed a lack of understanding of the concept. However, a simple google search of the topic provided numerous resources from which to draw. My reaction was to assume that this person didn't even attempt to employ search as part of the process.
Yet in conversation with others, I am beginning to see dividing lines in the way that people employ the availability of indexed or searchable information. For some, the effort is apparently too much - the web search returns too many hits, there is difficulty in distinguishing relevance, the choices are either too complex or too simplistic - to the point where the person is overwhelmed. Others embrace these issues by modifying the way they search. And that is where web searching changes the way that (some) people behave.
The simplicity of a web search embodies its beauty for adaptability. Conceptually, presume that all words and terms in all web sites have been parsed, analyzed, and indexed and are ready for your review. All you need to do is to use your knowledge of what you are looking for to pinpoint the desired content. So you start with a gross level, say a single term, multiple words. Many hits come back, but you can screen the top level result summaries to see if there are other relevant terms that are of greater (or lesser) interest, then incorporate those into your next search iteration. Each iteration provides some more information that can be used for the next iteration until you have narrowed the focus enough to find what you are looking for.
This has worked for me, and goes back to my original comment, since web searching really has changed a lot of the way that I do things, escpeially when trying to attack problems and find solutions. I expect that someone out there has had similar experiences and is willing to share them. Whether I am diagnosing network issues, trying to learn more about my kids' viruses, looking for a software solution, or research personnel background, track down a lead, etc., I use my web search tool as my guide.
Sounds obvious, right? You might think so, but having observed the way that people ignore or misuse search tools, it makes me curious as to whether there are specific search strategies that people use, don't use, or ignore when tackling problem-solving.
Posted March 23, 2007 6:58 AM
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