Friday, December 19, 2008

In Defense of Poor Searching

I recently did a trial run with an online distance learning university. The other auditioners were the other prospective teachers in the program -- each with their own expertise and curriculum for teaching it.

We all needed to post an introductory lecture and discussion question to the school's web server. The other instructors would then field the question and three days of required threadings would ensue.

I found the response to my own web investigations course materials instructive. The feedback was useful not so much for its originality as a confirmation that the same excuse for poor information management practices is a dead-ringer for the reluctance I face on a daily basis as a knowledge planner for a management consulting firm.

Here's the responding thread:

"The problem we have with that is out staff just between too many tasks to remember all the options. "

It's true that the multitude of search options can be a little intimidating to a tech-savvy workforce and absolutely petrifying to the average Googler with no support (both technical and managerial). The trick is to let each student seek out their natural fulfillment. They've already agreed to wonder outside their comfort zones in signing up for the course. It's my job to get them to drive the search car to where they want to be -- not to confuse them under the "search hood."

Each new tool and method needs to be about problem-solving with the problem being something they've experienced firsthand many times prior to taking the web investigations course. One way to keep their receptive heads open to so much new material is to get them tagging their important discoveries on I find that by not expecting them to memorize particular sites it frees them up to retain more of the course material, and more importantly, problem-solve more effectively.

Just as important to what's retained is what's left out I stop short of assigning any books or texts in a course that cuts a very diverse technology profile: some are never offline -- some are challenged to send an email attachment. I teach to the problem and then introduce filtering approaches (syntax) and the word choices and ordering (semantics).

The search section concludes with each student creating their own CSE ("Custom Search Engine") using the Google Coop tools. It complements the framework of Ocean-Lake-Pond -- that the size of your data set is just as important as the query you formulate.

Talk about an overlooked search lesson.

No comments:

Bookmark and Share

About attentionSpin

My photo
attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.