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06/15/2009 From Your Mouth to Google’s (or Bing’s) Ear

Microsoft launched Bing recently in order to take up the fight against Google’s dominance. However good Google is, search in general is a fairly sorry solution to finding things online. Imagine walking into a store and asking a salesperson where to find something and they gave you 10 various answers of which only one, maybe, was correct.  Personally, I would not want to be that salesperson.

The same is true of search. I use search ALL the time. While I get some good results, I feel like I’m never quite getting what I need. Sometimes I don’t get what I need at all.

The problem is that the question I’m formulating in my head is never the taxonomy and description that companies use to describe products or services. Even when it relates to information, the search results break down.

Here’s a simple example from my life as a yard-taker-care-of-er. I need something to spray my new fruit trees so that bugs don’t eat up all the leaves. I could just go up to Ace Hardware or Home Depot, ask anyone that question, and get a good answer. I’ve tried every variation possible online and I never get a good answer to what product I should buy. It’s amazing that it’s still this hard.

BingLogo I thought with Bing would improve this, but not so. Bing provides categories to narrow down your search. It does, however, allow you to see part of the page you’re going to click on so you, hopefully, don’t waste so much time browsing through page results that don’t work for you.

Adding human intelligence doesn’t seem to work very well either; older search engines tried having editorial boards rank things, to little avail.

Nope, unless someone develops a chip to embed in our brains that takes our ideas and concepts and translates them into something search engines can understand I think we’re stuck with what we have for a while. Because what we’re really trying to do is to translate concepts into a common language. Without getting into Wittgenstein, that’s a human problem that not even Google can even solve.

My answer is to go to the social Web, ask the question, and hope that some one answers. Or better yet, I think I’ll just hop in the car and go to the store and ask. I’m lucky to have the Gardeners Supply outlet store nearby as well.At the very least someone will say, “I don’t know” and point me in the right direction.

Or maybe I should just Tweet it…


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