Seth Godin just wrote an interesting post about the infinite amount of information on the Internet. He argues that today’s problem is not finding what you want, but deciding what you want to find. While I largely agree with Godin, I would note that there is an important caveat: after you decide what you want to find, you have to figure out how to search for it.
The days of cataloging the internet are long gone. Yahoo’s subject-based searches are gone. And while Google Directory is still available, they’ve moved the project away from the main Google offerings, and are open directory (the basis of Google Directory) is being created in partnership with AOL search. In addition, page rank plays a major role in how the cataloged sites are presented.
In the age of search engine wars, it may seem like this is no longer an issue. But like Godin, let me illustrate my thesis with an example.
Two to three times a week I take my dog for a run in the morning around Capitol Hill. We typically head over toward the Capitol, weaving our way in-between House office buildings, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress. Every morning that I’m out around 7 am, I see a man in an old-fashioned long coat and top hat on his way to or standing in front of the Supreme Court. This is true even in the heat of summer in DC.
I’ve searched for information on this person several times, using various combinations of: man, “top hat”, “supreme court”, “US supreme court”, Washington, morning, “7 am”, coat, “in front”, outside.
I found nothing.
Well, that’s not exactly true. I found plenty of information about the recent Supreme Court ruling on the DC gun ban, a quarterly newsletter in the Supreme Court Historical Society archives, Texas politician Bob Eckhardt, and Schrodinger’s Cat Trilogy on Goodreads. The two search results that seemed to show the most promise ended up being a treatise about civil war Washington and the 2001 inauguration. (I searched using Google, Yahoo, and MSN Live Search – the three engines with the highest market share.)
The only places I would expect to actually find information on this topic would be blogs or maybe an image search. I couldn’t find anything remotely related on Google Blog & Image Search, Technorati, or Live Search Feeds & Images.
So now that I’ve written about this, there will at least be one truly relevant result on the search engines. I have no doubt that this information exists online somewhere. But I wasn’t able to find it, and still have no answers.