Posted by: structureofnews | August 2, 2010

The Limits of Search

Search is a great thing, and Google has an amazing algorithm. So when we want to find out what the capital of Mongolia is, it works wonderfully. But it works less when when we want to find out what happened to Lehman. Not because there hasn’t been great work on the fall of the storied bank, but because all of it was written (I’m guessing – I haven’t read all the stories) with an eye to that day’s/week’s/month’s reader.

That’s a good thing – you should always have your reader in mind, and if you work for a daily, you have to write it as if it’s going to be read tomorrow. But what happens to a reader who wants to find out six months later what happened?

That’s where Google doesn’t work so well – it can’t find the story because, well, that story doesn’t exist. That’s the limit of search – it can’t find what isn’t there.

So what we should be doing is finding ways to create those new units of news/information/story, so they can be found. Putting efforts into tagging and microtagging is helpful in terms of getting the stories found; but they aren’t what readers are really looking for.


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