OK, in the early days of search engines an understanding of Boolean searches was useful. Nowadays things have moved on greatly and search engines provide increasingly complex ways of refining searches. How useful these are is debatable if people are unaware of them or don’t understand how to use them?
Are We Human?
It constantly amazes me when I am working with people the amount of apparently technologically adept people who use the Google entry field as the browser address bar. Doh…
- Website names such as www.designcredo.com are called URLs. These are like pointers to the website that you are looking for.
- Search engines are tools to help you find suitable URLs
- Search engines are generally used if you don’t know the URL
- If you do know the URL you may as well type it into the address bar at the top of the browser window.
- Most of the time you won’t need to type in the ‘www’ bit or even the ‘http://’ for that matter
Very occasionally you may be trying to access a page that Google (or another search engine) doesn’t actually know about. If you type this page’s address into Google you won’t find it although it actually exists.
But the bottom line is that we are human, we use things in a way that wasn’t intended and being human lots of people do fundamentally similar human things. This then leads me to the advanced search capabilities of search engines.
“UOK” “Yeah GR8″
Most schools use a Proxy Server to protect our little sweethearts from the evils of the interweb and most of the evil little sweethearts know how to get round the Proxy Servers mainly to access mind-numbingly dull games or to engage in fascinatingly tedious little conversations across a classroom.
I have walked into a class full of angels searching in Russian, and why is this you may ask. Well in Somerset the darlings were protected from the evils of Google Image searches but only the UK Google site was blocked, so the students would “ÐŸÐ¾Ð¸ÑÐº Ð² Google” by entering the search into Google.ru.
However few of these treasures would really know how to do an advanced search in spite of my interventions and to that extent I failed to engage them further.
The Ever Expanding Pit of Possibilities
Recently both Yahoo and Google have added tools to aid searches. Yahoo has a Search Assist box that appears in near-real-time giving you alternative search suggestions to that which you have entered. You may be forgiven for thinking that far from refining your ability to find something you may be tempted into the ever expanding Pit of Possibilities, who am I to comment?
Google on the other hand offer a range of tools that help you to refine your search. This appears on the left hand of the browser window.
Perhaps the first of these options that we should examine in the UK at least is the UK option. If we are looking for a UK based product or service it may worth filtering out the rest of the world.
What about if I had managed to miss Wimbledon altogether and wanted to find out who won the Men’s finals yesterday. Maybe looking for search results in the last 24hrs would help and that is exactly what Google offers here.
You get the idea I am sure.
What Worries Me Is…
Many years ago as a psychology student a friend designed a blindingly simple memory experiment, asking people to say what was on the back of a 50p piece (the side not represented by royalty). Remarkably few people could say what was there, the theory was that (being human) they had habituated to it and filtered it out.
So for me there is an awkward question to be answered. Are these search tools made for run of the mill humans? Are they understood, are they even seen (or do we habituate to them).
I ride motorbikes, my leathers have knee sliders to help me go round corners better. In my dreams the only time I will ‘get me knee down’ is just before ‘getting knicked but the police.
The reality is that the only time I ‘get me knee down’ is just before I ‘fall off me bike’.