Or, put another way, "Who taught you to search?"
Earlier this year I visited Yahoo! Japan to participate in a Search Symposium they hosted. While there, I had a chance to give a presentation (translator and all!) of my own about some of the cool stuff we'd been doing at Yahoo! Inc.
The day was very informative and fun for the folks who attended, including many students, hackers, and aspiring business folks. But when it was over and I was headed back to California a few days later, I couldn't get one presentation out of my head.
One of Yahoo! Japan's long-time surfers presented a search tutorial. Starting from ground zero, he explained how indexing the web works (at a high level), how search engines work, strategies for searching, advanced query syntax and operators, etc. He was teaching the audience how to search.
That caused me to think back a couple years to when I was working on some software that analyzed query logs for Yahoo! Search. I noticed over and over that, as a human, I could easily spot query patterns (over the course of a session) that clearly indicated someone was having trouble.
I wished that someone could have been watching the query stream and stopped the user to say "hey, I see what you're trying to find.... try this instead." I felt like there was a missing link.
I think education and training are that missing link.
We search engines try to make the world look all simple, uniform, and tidy. There's a little text box you type into and a button you can hit to get what you want back. Except that it doesn't always work that way. Many times people don't find what they need on the first try or two. But they don't know where to go next, how to refine a query, or what their options are. There's no librarian to help. Few of them will ever see our Advanced Search page or realize they can restrict searches to a subset of languages.
The question I started this ramble with is largely rhetorical, since I know that the vast majority of folks have never been "trained" to search in any way. But I suspect many would benefit from even 10-15 minutes of education.
Are schools handling this yet? Or do they mostly assume that the search box is self-explanatory?
Posted by jzawodn at September 06, 2005 09:14 PM