I remember the first time I used the Internet. That was in 1995, and at that time Yahoo was a collection of IP addresses. Sometimes you could click on an address and a real page would appear. There were probably no more than a couple of thousand web addresses, and most of them were static web pages that were for the most part marketing brochures converted to HTML.
How things have changed. Used to be, if I asked my dad a question about how to spell a word or a historical fact, we'd look it up in the dictionary or encyclopedia. Now, any fact, any question, my kids and I turn to the web. More specifically, we turn to web search. Google, Yahoo and a number of other search engines make it easier to catalog and find information on the web.
We are only in the first or second iteration of finding information, however. While Google and Yahoo are extensive, and extensible, they aren't good yet at finding specific information and learning about my search needs and patterns. Often, once the search results are presented, I'm still trying to search within my search results for the information that is most relevant and pertinent for me. There are several reasons for this:
- The search engine's bias toward "relevance" based on links to a site
- The way I enter the text and its context
- The way the data was entered into the source (a website, a paper, a book, etc)
All three of these factors mean that it can be easy to narrow down the haystacks, but we may still be pawing through one big haystack to find the information or data we really want.
Ultimately, our goal, whether we are searching on our own desktops, our networks or the web isn't to FIND information, it is to use the information to support or reject a decision or hypothesis. The searching technology only helps us gain more information to make a more informed decision - the better the result, the faster the response, the better.
I'd like to recommend you to a site that has a lot of good thoughts and information about search called Search 1.x. Like me, Felix believes that search is still early in its evolution, not yet evolved (hence the ".x". He looks at a lot of best practices for search, not just on the web, but also on your personal devices and networks, as well as using different search methods. Take a look at what Felix has at www.search1x.com and while you are at it, leave your thoughts on the biggest challenges for finding information on the web or your local networks in the comments section here at Thinking Faster.