Friday, April 20, 2012

Search Tips #12: Sources in Google

Explore the world of shared expertise on Wikipedia.  By and large, it is a great place to start for background on a topic you are not familiar with.  Besides a quick read, I focus on the links and references at the bottom of the article.  This gives you clues to experts, follow-up and important sources to find more detailed answers.  Also, look at the sources and contributors to the article for good contacts.  Take a look at the recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Timothy Messer-Kruse.  The article, “The Undue Weight of Truth on Wikipedia,” was published on Feb 12, 2012.  He is an expert in American labor history and describes his mostly unsuccessful journey to add and revise a section of the site on the Haymarket Riot of 1886.  Very revealing about how scholarly inputs can be complicated in the web world, versus the longstanding and at least more straightforward process in contributing to peer-reviewed journals.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Think About Searching, #15

When we go into Find & Learn mode, we can at times hesitate or even back away from an effort.  This is because we have already may know something about topic and, as we explore, we see that the initial information conflicts with our knowledge.  This concept in behavioral economics is called “consumer lock-in.”  Applied to the use of credit cards, it shows that we are eager to take an offer with 0 percent interest for the first 12 months.  But after 12 months, when the rate goes up to 23%, our balance is too high to pay off, so we stay with the credit card.  This idea of lock-in predicts that we are less likely to search for (and change) to another option once we made our initial decision.  In the area of information attitudes, if we spent time to form the initial decision, then we are less likely to investigate another better option.  Lock-in was presented in a fascinating way to marriage in Jay Meg’s recent article in the New York Times ("The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage." New York Times 15 Apr. 2012: 4).  My caution to you – be aware of this dynamic in your searching.  If the final answer is worth the effort – discard your initial assumptions and dive ahead!  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Think About Searching, #14

Can you judge how much effort it will take to find a specific piece of information?  If you could - you certainly could save yourself lots of time or save yourself from some headaches.  You can learn this skill, if you own your information skills.  Think about searching and how it works.  You need to assess, for any one search, what the minimum, adequate, and maximum effort it will take to solve the problem.  To find someone you used to know in high school might seem a simple task, nowadays, with Facebook and all.  But you may have someone with a common name and it may be that they are female and got married.  The complexity starts increasing.  There may be some people finder sites, but they may charge.  Are you will to go the distance?  What is the adequate amount of time and money that it will take.  If you begin to see it is a longer journey, size it up, and decide whether or not to proceed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Think About Searching, #13

Start from scratch -- even if you think you know.  This is another important principle of Find & Learn.  You may assume something that leads you down the wrong path.  If you needed something to help your snoring.  You may remember back when a relative used a teeth guard.  You think you remember they went to their regular dentist.  If you then proceeded on the same course, you would miss important solutions.  In the last few years a dental specialty has been created that helps with these problems.  New snore guards and devices are now available to help both snorers and sleep apnea patients.  Don't assume.  Start from scratch to see if you are taking the right path, talking to the right people, and finding the right information.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Think About Searching, #12

"Pretend as if" - an often used phrase in a number of arenas.  It is used in psychology to help people over fears and failures.  Pretend as if you are better, as if you are confident, etc.  Then some of the attitude may positively impact your actions.  Pretend as if and people will view you differently and you will respond differently.  It is used in the business arena as an interviewing technique to help job applicants improve their confidence during the interview.  Even if you are not really sure; even if you don't feel it - pretend as if and the situation may turn around.

This is true for Find & Learn also.  We must pretend that having the information we are seeking is life or death! We need to expend that extra effort to find it.  We need to pretend that we are really interested in the topic; even though we are only searching for it because the boss needs it.   It really helps.  The most curious people make the best searchers.  So if you are not curious about the topic, but you still must find it, then -- pretend as if.  It is amazing how searching for information changes when you expend effort and interest in the results.  It can make all the difference in the world.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Risk & Learning

Fabled parable about Desert Pete.  He goes for a hike in the desert on an unfamiliar trail.  He gets lost and tries to find his way, but can't.  Late in the day, and dying from thirst, he comes upon a water well.  The pump has a note on it.  The notes says, "This well does have water.  But you first must dig up a water bottle buried near the pump.  Once you dig it up, don't drink it.  Even though you are thirsty, you need the water to prime the pump. It won't work otherwise.  Poor 1/4 of the bottle onto the pump washer and wait a few seconds, then poor the rest into the pump to prime it.  Then pump the handle vigorously until the water flows.  Don't worry, this well has never run dry.  Once you have your fill, fill your canteen and the bottle, and bury the bottle for the next person." Desert Pete digs and finds the water bottle, but what does he do next?

What would you do?  Drink the bottle or follow instructions?  When we search, we never have all the evidence or confirmation we would want or need.  Just enough clues to make a decision.  Too key factors in Find & Learn: find as much evidence you can and make sure it is reliable.  No reason to question the note at the pump, given the circumstances.  Logically, it all makes sense.  We would have to risk taking action and assuming that is was not a cruel joke.  Isn't it the same thing in searching?  There are no guarantees that we have the correct facts, especially for topics we are unfamiliar with.  But we have to have faith in our path.  We have to take the risk, gather reliable evidence, and then make our decision.