June 15, 2005

Googling skills

Google is the new god of knowledge and the Internet. Our world moves ever onwards, towards an age where this god will reign supreme. Your knowledge will not be measured by how much you remember, but rather by how well and how quickly you can find information. And google is far and away the best tool to do that.

On the surface it appears quite simple. Type what you are looking for into the box and if there is information about it, it will be returned. In reality, this is far from the truth. The title link shows just some of the many tricky things that can be done to modify a google search. There was even a book produced

But even without using these features, googling is an art. It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that knowing the best search terms to enter is a skill acquired not only by practice, but by an intuitive understanding of how the search engine works. I've lost count of the number of times I've been told by someone that they've googled to no avail, only to try it myself and find what they are looking for within the first three results.

Today we are moving towards teaching our children to be computer-literate. Computing courses are no longer just for aspiring developers and engineers - they are for everyone. We give lessons on how to use word processors, web browsers and email clients. Search engines, however, are neglected, most likely because they are appear to be so simple to use. And indeed they are - at a basic level. The subtleties involved in using them effectively are more difficult and need to be imparted to the general populace if we are to move forward in the information age. We are approaching a time when Google is becoming a vital part of research and everyday life - to 'google' has even entered the popular vocabulary.

I don't know what it is that makes the difference between a good googler and a bad one - from my experience it does not appear to be dependent on knowledge of computers, programming ability or anything else that would jump to mind. Perhaps I have learnt better than others simply because I am a self-avowed Google fan and have read widely on the topic. Perhaps it's just a natural talent, I don't know. But I believe "How to google 101" needs to be added to our list of things that people should know about computers. In the years ahead, googling will be a vital skill and it is not as simple as many people think.