Limitations Are in the Beholder

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I read with great amusement the article by Moshe Ofer ("Searching Google's Haystack," June 13). I assume that it will provoke quite a few responses, but I thought I would add mine as well.

The first is that Google's search results are not paid results. Paid results often are shown, but these are clearly indicated as being the first two listings in the middle of the page and the small listings on the right side of the page.

Depending on the skill of the person placing the ads, they may or may not be relevant to your search, but they may be relevant to someone else's search using the same word or phrase. Ads for men's shoes may be displayed in a search for "brake shoes," but Google's answer for this is that ads that are not clicked on for certain searches are shown less and less and may be completely disabled if no one ever clicks on them. It's not perfect, but it works pretty darn well, in my opinion.

I view using Google and most other search engines as having the same problem as most VCRs found in homes with the time forever blinking "12:00." It is a lack of understanding about how the machine works. A search engine is a machine and not an intelligent robot. There are serious limitations that machines have that we do not, and we only show our own shortcomings when we expect them to behave as we do and "understand" what we do.

To enter a search phrase in natural language such as "Looking for a white bureau with glass handles," and expecting to get a good answer is much like sitting in your car, turning on the ignition, putting the car in drive, stepping on the gas and expecting to arrive at your destination a short time later. It doesn't matter if you have a Yugo or a Maybach, you have to steer the darn thing. Not only that, but you need to know where you are going, understand traffic rules and watch for kids that may follow that ball that is rolling across the street.

On another level, is "Looking for a white bureau with glass handles" a statement or a question? As you may begin to see, if this process were easy for machines, we would have them everywhere we go, vying for our attention and yammering up a storm. Thank goodness they are still dumb machines for the most part!

I won't go into the few basic tips that can greatly improve your luck with searching, only to say there is help available and also "Advanced Search" options. Just learning to use quote marks at times can really make a big difference to locate what you want when searching.

I am hoping that DM can start seeing a pattern here when someone starts writing about search engines, blogs (by a respected copywriting professional ...) or other "new" technologies and questions their usefulness, that there is a reason they are so very, very popular, and the shortcomings and limitations may not be in the thing perceived, but the beholder.

Chris Nielsen, Owner, Nielsen Technical Services, Bloomington, MN


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