critical reading for the rude

broken search

Search Wikia…

“Search is part of the fundamental infrastructure of the Internet. And, it is currently broken.

Why is it broken? It is broken for the same reason that proprietary software is always broken: lack of freedom, lack of community, lack of accountability, lack of transparency. Here, we will change all that.

There have been some amazing projects in recent years which have matured now to the point that a new alternative is possible. Wikia is funding and supporting the development of something radically new.

I love that “Yes! We can do it!” attitude… and I agree that search can be better — and, why not, it can be open, collaborative, communal if you wish. I hope that these values actually do make search better.

But search is not broken. What’s broken is the assumptions of searchers.

Google is awesome, but it has built up a digerati culture of false hope… “Just google it.”

When I teach information literacy classes, I spend a lot of time talking about search. And when I teach the use of Google, it’s only after I’ve taught critical thinking skills and information evaluation. It’s after I’ve taught authority and upper-level domain names. It’s after I’ve taught Boolean operators… so that by the time I get around to showing the class how to “google” keenly, the class ought to know how to freehand most of the advanced search features I show them in Google, and they know how to apply those tools to other search engines.

If Search Wikia (or any other engine) plays to supposed “simplicity” while sacrificing a searcher’s info literacy skills — that’s what’ll break search. If search is broken it’s because we’re not teaching ourselves how to search, or how to evaluate what we find.

May 8, 2007 - Posted by | info sci, search

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