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Thursday, 05 December 2002

I've spent my whole life searching

An interesting talk with some of my friends yesterday about the way that people use Google. The danhon.com site gets a not-inconsiderable number of hits from people coming in off search engines, mostly because about three years worth of accumulated ramblings and ranting opinions have enough keywords and links to make Google explode in an orgy of delight.

What was weird, though, and something that I only noticed yesterday after it'd been staring me in the face for a couple of years were the sheer number of people coming in from a URL that had a start number greater than 20, meaning that these people had looked at the third or later page of default Google results.

I've found that if Google doesn't throw up what I'm looking for in the first ten results, I rephrase my query. Results 20+ don't matter, they're more or less likely to be relevant. That and just by looking at the first ten results I get back, I can normally tell how to narrow my query anyway. It's as if I have a blindspot past the number 10. Most of my friends have tolerances that are about the same - none of them would consider going past the second page of results. If it's not in the results 1 to 20, then it's time to rephrase your query. Forget about trudging through the rest.

There's probably something important here about the way that people are trained to use search engines and whether they understand the best way to look for information--don't relentlessly explore the space generated by your initial query. What I remember, though, is that when Altavista was the search engine of choice, results 10+ were significant.

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