MastHeadRamana Rao's Home PageRamana Rao's BlogRamana Rao's TrailsRamana Rao's Sensemaking

Steven Johnson’s Slate article on some weaknesses in Google created lots of noise in the discussion area. He explains his intentions on his blog.

The three so-called google holes are pretty well understood among people that really understand Internet Search, but not so by most Internet users. Most people do tend to carry many misconceptions including: 1) there is a right answer to a search 2) google is better than other search engines by a long shot at coming up with the right answer and 3) searching a universe of everything makes sense. Though the three google holes that SBJ is pointing at don’t exactly correspond to these three points, along with the blog comments SBJ’s holes cover these points and more.

Over time people are getting more sophisticated about the limitations of Internet Search engines as they get more road miles behind them. And thus will start to entertain solutions that involve a bit more knowledge on their part. I’ve been saying for a long time that users won’t do more than one word queries, but it’s coming time to pull the other way. Somewhere between one word queries and a bard’s 14 line depiction of injury at the hands of a lover is the possibility of some elaboration by the user.

Similarly, we can start to expect more from the systems. Why should it deliver back the myth of a uniform list of results from a universe of equivalent things? Especially when it “knows” that it has lots of different kinds of things (not just several kinds of apple, but also many different formats and genres and kinds and ages and orientations of sources and documents). And that even if the most likely thing users want is one thing, that in fact most users will want one of many other things. Why not present this structure and diversity back to the user in a way that the user can better understand the options and then help themselves.

Google is fanatically loved, but as much because the first round of Internet Search companies forsook search. And of the next round, Google executed better than anybody else. Particularly in staying focused on search and in endearing themselves to their users. Hat’s off on that. That doesn’t mean that they have solved the problem of finding what you are looking for in all cases. There are yet miles to go …

Comments are closed.