Enabling Content Discovery: Part 2 - Web Search

Posted by Bill Ives on Sep 8, 2011 4:30:00 AM

This is the second of a six part series on enabling content discovery and combating information overload. In this post we look at the benefits and short falls of Web search led by Google and its wannabes. Nick Carr quotes Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, in the Atlantic, Is Google Making Us Stupid?, that it is “a company that’s founded around the science of measurement,” and it is striving to “systematize everything” it does. Carr adds that what Fred Taylor did for the work of the hand, Google is doing for the work of the mind.  Nick goes on to write, “in Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed.” But if you clamp down uncertainty with a pre-determined order, you lock out creativity and diversity of thought. You can also miss critical emerging content that can have a significant impact on making the right management decisions, as you will see in the Practical Impact section. 

Search will always have its place. However, to dive deeper into the new human generated data we need to go beyond the limits of search and embrace chaos to uncover relevant value.  We are proposing a new paradigm, awareness, with fresh assumptions more aligned with Management 2.0 and containing more organic models that operate closer to the way the human mind works. This new paradigm will be provided in our solution section but first let’s look at another current means to derive meaningful insights for managers from big data: semantic technology. 

To be fair, we use Google every day and we needed it to write this series. It is wonderful when you know what you are looking for such as what time the Red Sox game starts or finding the link to Nick Carr’s article; but as you move into areas of less certainly, Google’s value drops off. It is at the edges, within the anomalies, and behind the fuzziness where much of innovation occurs. Even within its sweet spot there is room for improvement. For example, as Amanda Hesser writes in her post, Google’s Robotic Recipe Search Favors SEO Over Good Food, any tool that provides a fifteen minute version for cassoulet recipes as a ways to go.  

Google’s quest to find for you the “most correct answers” in a rank ordered list reduces its capability to allow you to actively explore the complexity of an issue and uncover new thinking for yourself. This is one of the unintended consequences of Google’s largely popularity-based raking system. Other outcomes include: spam, SEO, and the new sweat shops of the mind: content farms. Again to be fair, Google tries to fight these three latter consequences in an escalating war of algorithms versus those who attempt game its rules. This war will never end as long as Google tries to impose external order on a chaotic and complex world of unstructured content created by humans, not machines.  We need computer models that leave SEO behind and ones that partner with people, rather than simply ones that try to do tasks for us. This is what we are proposing. In the next post we will look at semantic technology


Topics: Web Awareness, Information Overload, Content Discovery