google makes it hard to ask questions (of people)

so i was writing jackson an email, we’ve been going back and forth about wordpress, and i find that when i’m asking a question, a second or two after i’ve taken the time to explain what i’m asking, i’ll check with google just to see if the question is worth asking a person, and quite frequently i’ll find several bits of interesting and semi-relevent information.

Bart Simpson I will use Google before asking dumb questions

by the time i get back to the email, the original nugget requires significant retooling based on what i’ve discovered. as result, my emails often have these annoying grammatical errors and typos from quick surgery of ideas without careful resyncing of tense, person, and number. sometimes, depending on the circumstances, the cost of fixing the email is too great and the assumed benefit for the recipient is too low to make it worth sending.

all this makes me think that the world of information can be divided into questions where the answer is easy to coax out of google, and questions where it’s not. of course google is steadily chipping away at those hard questions, but bloggers also, by contributing vast amounts of freely accessible information to the web, are solving the problem from the bottom up. by adding answers.

hypothetical long tail of number of questions versus difficulty

this would be interesting to study, but difficult. what is a question? how do you track questions that are not asked of google? how do you rank the objective difficulty questions? one possibility: rather than using naturalistic data, come up with a standard battery of questions and have subjects choose where they would go to find the answer (google, a friend, a librarian) and how difficult they think the question is on a likert scale (before and after finding the answer). a likert scale would put a cap on the long tail–unless you factor in the time it takes to find the answer.

16 Comments

if you track questions that are not answers, because they are so easy, then the line would probably look more like a bell curve, with easy questions answered from memory on the left, medium difficulty questions answered by google in the middle and hard questions answered by people on the right.

The problem is I often don’t know where to find the person who knows the answer that Google doesn’t.

I do often start an e-mail, then Google the answer (once I have clarified the question), and end up abandoning the e-mail. “Nevermind.” –Emily Litella.

you know, we really ought to create a listserv for the blogger meetup. a place where questions (at least tech and blogging-related) could be asked into the ether.

Chris Anderson, editor of wired and author of the influencial article The Long Tail, mentions my post in the sidebar of The Long Tail Blog. Thanks!

or, if you wanted to phrase all this differently – at what point to you pay google “answers” to answer your question rather than trying to find it yourself?…

MARISSA

HEY THIS IS A VERY GOOD WEB PAGE IT SHOWS A LOT OF INFO AND THE BEST WEB PAGE I HAVE EVER SEEN YET HOW DID YOU FIND THE TIME AND THE MONEY TO MAKE THIS GOOD OF WEB PAGE ?? WELL YOU DID GOOD I AM THEIR WITH YOU ALL THE WAY WITH THIS WEB PAGE GOOD LUCK

LATER ON IN LIFE .THANK YOU

HEY HOW DO IGET TO PUTURES FOR MY PROJECT LIKE A BOOK?

marissa, thanks. i just work on this webpage in my spare time. it helps me keep in touch with friends and family. i’m not sure i understand your question though.

Tyler

I can relate to the chart completely. I use it for homework and rarely get less than a B+.

henke

fun pitchure of bart! iam from sweden,henke is a swedish name

Saqib

The problem is its becoming considerably harder to figure out which bit of information is totally reliable. It’d be, i reckon, when every one in the world would have an official web site.

I’m not complaining though. Yahoo search is alright as well. but we dont use it, do we?

Sammie

Hi, i use google alot for homework, and i seem to make it work properly by not using little words such as ‘of’ and ‘a’, as it comfuses the system.

For example im searching: The History Of World War 2. Instead i search World+War+2 or History+WW2 etc. I find it works better and more efficiently :) Try + instead of a space.

Brendan

Wow, I guess this is already assumed, but does that mean that by providing answers to the majority of questions Google is actually making us stupid overall. Not just because we don’t ask questions when we want to know something but because any knowledge that is not within Google will be discarded in time. The realist in me is bored but the conspiracy theorist is going nuts. Maybe Google will start cutting particular pieces of info to re-educate the next generation. Perhaps this comment will cut your web site from Google because it is presenting anti-Google propaganda. if so sorry, if not the world is wayyy to boring

mark

justin, your website is very interesting. I liked reading your above paragraph although at first i though it was kind of pointless. Everyone asks questions.

Reedee

interesting site. i don’t use google for homework all to much though so i would never know. ( just to let you know i didn’t get a single thing that you said. my problem though, kinda sleepy) well kool site
buh buy

Jordyn

Hi this is a really cool web page. Its got alot of writing but its showing so much info. Its very smart and cool it should be an award winning website. I have even bookmarked this web page. I love it. it ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

er

I know it’s stupid but I’m a bit unsure how to read part of the graph… I can see they represent % of questions asked to google based on question difficulty, with the rest being asked to a person/other (like if x = question difficulty, then the bigger x is the smaller the % asked to google; a fairly high x would be for instance 1:5, 20% google/80% not… or if x is lower it could be something like 7:3) But it’s the divisions are what I’m unsure about, especially the grey area in the middle, with an arrow pointing to a question mark? Are they segments showing the levels of difficulty, with the first block being “easy therefore asked to google” and the second block being umm… something else… and the third block being “too hard for google so asked to a person/other”?
Hmm you’re right, if you explain a question after asking it, you end up noticing/learning/working out enough that you’re not sure if it’s worth asking the question anymore :P Maybe that’s what the grey area is? Have question -> ask google -> can’t find answer -> try to work it out -> can’t come up with answer -> ask someone else…

Well, sorry for an utterly pointless post/comment :P Great blog, good brain food for idiots like me :D keep it up

PS: I got here by searching google for google ;)

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