What we want from Search Engines
Background: Seth Godin refers to the Search engines (Yes, but how do you search for that?); how exactly can they match the buyers to the sellers; and wishes someone somewhere figured it out.
There was a time when people got by without search engines. Some of the engines that at least I knew, were railway engines, 2-stroke engines, 4-stroke engines, fire engines etc. But today, the issue is not whether you know that THE Engine has arrived. The issue is that many people, including some self-proclaimed 'geeks', do not know how to operate the engine.
Examples swing between the extremes of people drawing 'blank searches', to people wondering where they are, when their search returns some 22,220,000,000 matches found, across god knows how many pages...! Most of the time they forget to put double quotes around what they want, whereas people of the former variety would be well advised to be a bit more generic and not nit-pick to the extent of typing "What is round, silver, squeaky, and flies so fast that it's hard to catch it?" in the search box.
And so, even for me, who operates the engine reasonably better than many, the million dollar question is - What is the ideal spot in between?
Is it exactly mid-way between the two extremes? How do I achieve that feat? How would I even know whether I reached the Ideal?
In the search engine world, you are trying to figure out exact answers in the shortest possible time, and hence it's not a question of mere Quality vs. Quantity. It's a question of finding the exact Quality out of the enormous Quantity that is now out there.
George Gamow gave us a glimpse of this problem in his "One, Two, Three ... Infinity". His premise was simple. If you could build a press, that was capable of printing out each and every combination of the alphabet & punctuation, then presto!, it would give you everything. It would print out each and every letter of the wisest, the choicest, and even the futuristic (that which is yet to have been written..)!!!
It would print the entire works of Shakespeare, each and every advert ever appearing in the newspapers, all the scientific treatises, love-letters, shopping lists, and even everything that me or Seth Godin has ever written (including this text), and also what me, Seth Godin, Kathy Sierra or Tom Peters is ever going to write.
Appears a simple enough concept. But the problem is that to achieve this, the chief ingredient actually is - time. Time is not on your side. Suppose each and every atom in the world was one such printing press, printing away since the Big Bang (which occurred quite some time back..), and that all those 'atom-machines' print with the vibrating speed of the atom; then collectively they would have produced by now only 1/30th of 1 percent of the entire possible output. And even if you had this much, it would still not mean a thing, because you would have to edit the works. It would contain meaningless gibberish (..aaaaaaaa), proper sentences that mean nothing (I like apples cooked in turpentine..), and also sentences that give you the secret of the universe (which I just gave...:-).. So if it took industrious atoms the entire to-date life of this universe to come up with a paltry 1/30th of 1 percent etc. you and me will not get very far with our editorial dreams.
Now I don't exactly know whether or not every single piece of information out there on the Information & Intelligence Internetwork (which some people call the Internet) is entirely devoid of gibberish. I hope it is, to make the life of a budding editor (or a Google) a bit easier. But George Gamow's envisaged 'atom-mahcines' are even now type-padding, blog-spotting, and geo-citying relentlessly to make M/s. Google / Yahoo / Lycos / Microsoft (being futuristic..)... sweat it out. Playing editor is increasingly becoming a difficult role...
Information overload is bad, even if good information creates it. And so along with Seth, I too wait for that someone, somewhere, who will do something about it.
Tags: Search Engine SEO Seth Godin Kathy Sierra