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.
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.
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.