Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Google A Day--Trivia Questions to help investigate how people use google to search for information

So Google has a self-described "anthropologist of search," and his blog describes his new "A Google a Day" trivia game.

The game itself appears to be the point of much of the coverage--although at least one journalist sees the game as a potential search tool in and of itself.  Hardly anyone points out that what this game will actually do is allow Google to gather information on how people do search.  (this is not a secret--Google says that's what they're doing) I wonder if they will share with the rest of us what they learn, or just plow their knowledge back into Google.  I wonder if we could ever do something similar with the way that people search for information in our library.

People who know far more about search technology than I do doubtless have much to say about Google's efforts.  What do you think about their using a trivia game to gather information?


  1. I was at a conference where Daniel Russell gave a keynote about recent user research at Google (video available here: http://www.ithaka.org/about-ithaka/events/ithaka-sustainable-scholarship-conference-2010-day-two-discovering-scholarly-content). One of the big take away points of the talk was that the big gains (especially in terms of speed of search) were now in user education rather than in adjusting Google's algorithms. One very interesting example he gave was that teaching people to use control-f could increase overall search time by 20%; a result that would be essentially impossible by changing Google's technology.

    I suspect we will see more efforts like this from Google, and unfortunately based on their previous practices probably very little of the results will be made public.

  2. Hi Donna -- This is Dan Russell, the author of the blog you linked to and one of the folks behind AGoogleADay.com

    To answer your question (and to speak to Andrew's comment), we're actively trying to help teach the world to search more effectively. You can see some of our public materials at https://sites.google.com/site/gwebsearcheducation/ The whole point of that site is to give teachers and librarians access to a whole bunch of materials that illustrate how you might be a better searcher. We'd like it if you used Google, but the truth is we'd REALLY like everyone to be a better searcher (and researcher) regardless of what tool they're using. The more you know about Google, Bing, JSTOR, Proquest (insert your favorite data store here...), the better you can be at answering questions and understanding the world.

    So while we won't be revealing search query patterns and click-rates, we are actively trying to convert what we see people do into suggestions about ways to search more effectively.


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