In 22 years of being online I can tell you the number one time waste is guessing that the person you're searching on is really the individual who keeps coming up in your search results.
Even if you know where they went to high school or their middle initial, the incomplete details of a partially formed profile can open up more doors than it closes.
I created a confidence ratio for my PI students to gauge the accuracy that my pre-class Googling of them was really then. I told them that I put together this puzzle to show them:
- Some examples of semantics and operators -- two of the components comprise the work we do in query formation
- A fact-based way to gauge the likelihood that they'd nailed the right guy
But beyond the math and science there's also a lot of frustration spent on the nailing -- the obsessing over whether we have the right guy or not. In an investigation where our fact base is limited to the actions of one suspect then there is little choice.
I've seen, all too often though, that investigators tie themselves in knots because they don't allow for a range of outcomes that includes several possibilities -- be it witnesses, experts, interpretations, or even competing explanations for why the crime occurred.
I tell them that as we get deeper into the Internet realm of criminal research a range of productive outcomes is a lot more realistic (and healthier on your heart) than fixating on one suspect and nailing them to whatever ... they deserve.
Oh yeah, there's one other reason I dragged them through this. Second biggest time waste on the web? It's not Britany Spears or Michael Jackson. That's right -- it's vanity searches. And until we either make introductions or Google one another, that's all we have to go on.