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February 10, 2009

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Everything I Know About Life I Learned from My Search Engine

An intriguing aside from a long Silicon Alley Insider article:

I do wonder whether Twitter’s success is partially based on Google teaching us how to compose search strings? Google has trained us how to search against its index by composing concise, intent-driven statements. Twitter with its 140 character limit picked right up from the Google search string. The question is different (what are you doing? vs. what are you looking for?) but the compression of meaning required by Twitter is I think a behavior that Google helped engender. Maybe Google taught us how to Twitter.

I’m not sure if there’s enough evidence to make the claim that Google taught us how to Twitter (did it then also teach us how to text?). But I wonder what else Google might have taught us. Has the nature of our Google queries changed over time? Do we type fewer words? More? How does our use of Google compare to the first generation of search engines?

Posted February 10, 2009 at 1:34 | Comments (3) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Technosnark


One thing Google has taught us is to expect easy answers.

Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t criticism. I think that’s true because Google is so good and so helpful, and because we’ve come to expect that algorithms will scane and sort with great precision. If they don’t, we probably won’t even notice.

I was thinking about this yesterday, when I was doing some searching that required me to go past the first screen of results and realized how seldom that happens. I’ve become pretty good at queries, as you suggested, and of course Google is sensational at results.

But I worry about this. What happens if or when the algorithms go sideways? What happens if or when search isn’t being administered by a benevolent giant like Google? What happens to the generation of searchers who don’t have any experience beyond Google against which to test their results?

I suppose your headline answers that one, eh?

Interesting. Here's the best thing I dug up:

Average search length is up to 4 words (up from 3) and 25% of searches are unique for the month (which seems to me would suggest more complex searches).

Also this:

When I first glossed the Google-Twitter theory above, I assumed that it referred to the text snippets Google shows for each of its search results rather than the search strings themselves. After all, glossing search results requires us not just to meaningfully write but to be able to meaningfully READ short bits of text.

I'll put forward another nominee, though -- Friendster. Most of the early adopters of Twitter were early adopters of social networking, and Friendster notoriously forced you to compress all of your entries (about yourself, about your friends) according to strict character counts. If the social-networking, personally-revealing character-crunch came from anywhere, I'd say it came from there.

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