The Seach: Chapter 2: Who, What, Where, Why, When and How (Much)
The Librarian's Book Club discussion of "The Search" by John Battelle continues:
Chapter 2 starts off with a smart idea: Who, What ,Where, Why, When "and a corollary: who's making the money, and how much?" Good on Battelle for thinking of the profit motive here.
Another good quote that caught my eye, on page 23: "At the end of the day, the holy grail of all search engines is to decipher your true intent â€“ what you are looking for, and in what context." And when that happens, will we be needed? Once computers become "extraordinarily good at incoherence", once they can understand the "nearly infinite combinations of dialects, words and numbers", would anyone even bother asking for help? Will they ever overcome the complexities of language? How far away is that day? The "What" section would have been a perfect place to talk about how cataloging relates to how search engines work.
Google says over 50% of all searches are unique. Though the "long tail" thing is old and tired, it's an important thing to consider when we're talking about how people search. Another neat factoid I hadn't considered is the vast majority of searching is done in languages other than English.
"So why do we search? To recover that which we know exists on the web, and to discover that which we assume must be there..."
"How Much" reminds me that though libraries and search engines strive for some similar goals, e.g. getting answers to questions, they are after a very different end result, money. I'm not sure if that's a bad thing, though it certainly can be corrupting. We strive to find the best results for our users. They strive to serve them the best ads.