There are times in our lives when we draw odd conclusions from the information to which we are privy. This could span a whole gamut of different issues from politics to which car we decide to buy. The same is true when the issue is one where we are influenced through an illusion of reality. An example of this was provided by Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic, who concluded that the user’s ability to look up certain computer terms with the Google search engine was giving way to consumer apathy in technology.
It was interesting to note that the direction for search terms that users were encouraged to choose was dependent on the term’s order of descent within the search engine. So how is this determined? The descent itself is decided by how many other people have looked for the same term. This alone, as the author was to learn, was not the only variable that could explain lower search results over the years.
Given these ideas, I began to question just how accurate search results are and if the results are inconsistent with the true picture.
In Terms of Technology Questions, Are People Questioning the Validity of the Results Provided by Google’s Search Engine?
For explanation purposes, let us take a look at the word “computer.” A decade ago, the term was usually applied to a laptop or desktop system running an operating system created by Microsoft, Apple, or one of the Linux flavors out there. Today, things are a bit more complicated, meaning that the word “computer” could be referencing any of the following:
- Game console
This means that, when you enter the word “computer” into your search engine, you can get results that vary and might include information about any of the above. For me, this often results in absolute frustration as I seek how to ask a question in a way that will ensure that I get the desired result.
Are People Changing Their Search Behaviors?
I know that I am not alone in feeling this frustration, but in using the word “computer” I unwittingly complicate my choices by choosing a term that is rarely used today. Knowing this, one can simplify their search by using the correct terminology. An example would be Apple’s iPad. Though an Apple iPad is a computer, per se, one considers the Apple iPad to be a tablet. Therefore, if one were looking for information about an Apple iPad, the word “tablet” would be used before “computer.” Another example is the cellphone or smartphone, which is basically a miniature computer, but is rarely referenced as such. This again means that, if you enter the word “cellphone” into a search engine, articles about cellphones and smartphones will be referenced before another site that uses the term “computer.” So, based on this criteria, users must alter their search program input to get the desired results.
Is Google Doing a Better Job at Search?
While frustrating at times, there is no doubt that, during the past decade, Google has vastly improved on the search results that are being returned. To make these improvements, Google has opened a significant number of new data centers that have dramatically improved the way that results are displayed for our perusal. In fact, not only are the results more relevant than they were in the past, but access to them is also a whole lot quicker.
How Relevant Was the Article About Search?
I think fellow Lockergnome writer and contributor Harold Johnson says it best:
Since the writer of the Atlantic article seems to have interpreted the data with their own opinion, you could do the same. I’m supposing the shift has to do with more people online and using devices that aren’t perceived (by the general consumer) as being computers.
I know that I rarely think about how ingenious my smartphone is and the fact that it is really a mini computer. Yet, given its size and all that it can do, this device is phenomenal. Why? Because this powerful little piece of technology has more processing power, works more smoothly, and has fewer issues than laptop or desktop computers. In fact, it can do just about everything (minus the word processing or video editing options), that laptops or desktop computers did just 10 years ago. Yet, on the flip side, I still manage to look at the device as a telephone rather than a computer.
What about you? How do you look at your new toys?
Source: The Atlantic
CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Arey Chen