Sunday, 24 April 2011

Lesson five and a bit - More Cantina antics

So last time I think I established that librarians should not require training in the responsible serving of alcohol and that bar staff need not concern themselves with Library of Congress subject headings.

On further reflection, why would you go to a seedy bar to hire a ship in the first place? Why not just go to the docking bays and look for a willing captain and crew to take you where you want to go? Surely Obi Wan could have found Han there without anyone losing an arm...  

I can only assume Old Ben must have sensed that the Cantina was the best option for asking about someone with a no questions policy.

This raises an interesting point. Where we choose to get our information from can shape the outcome we use that information for. We want to know that information we receive is reliable. We don't always go to the most reliable sources for it though.

Now before you assume this is an anti BitTorrent, Lime wire or Knapster rant. I'm not going to get preachy about downloads. Where you get your music from is your business. I'm thinking about what I used to do before Google. No, I'm not anti Google either. It is what it is but is that the most reliable source for information?

Before Google, I would search out trusted sources using a metasearch engine like Metacrawler or Dogpile. I would then search those sources directly for the information. I would compare the sources for accuracy by looking at the sources they drew upon for their information and back in the day I could communicate directly with person responsible to find out more detail if I wanted.

There were fewer netizens back then. The Internet Movie Data Base had just started a website. Before that it was a Usenet group called rec.arts.movies. Ah, the 90's... alt binaries newsgroups... Fond memories...

Then came Google. I still recall getting an email from a colleague suggesting it was worth a look. It changed my process for a while. It was faster. I could ask the question and then look at the results to identify potential sources and go direct to specific content .

Then I had an epiphany. Google is like the Cantina. It's where I go if I want something with no questions asked.  This is because if I where to ask a question it would be "So how come this particular result in ranked first?"I really don't know the answer. Since I know that Google can be gamed can I trust that I am seeing the best sources?  

Metasearch lets me compare results from Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search tools. It is like going to the Docking Bay and talking to all the pilots to find the one best suited. A site that ranks highly across multiple search tools is either the best choice for a trusted source or has the best Search Engine Optimisation strategy. Fortunately, I can tell the difference.

Something to ponder next time you Google....

We are not quite done with the Cantina yet. Nor have forgotten to include the standard parody video.

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