How many bloggers do you need to write a tutorial on how to screw a lightbulb? Seriously. There’s literally thousands of different tutorials for basically the same thing and yet, the quality varies significantly.
The reason people are “rewriting” the same thing over and over again is simple – the web is no longer perceived as a global library, a collection of knowledge which overflows national and continental borders but has taken a turn for a walled gardens approach, where every community nominates its own librarian who takes care of them. How and why did this happen?
We like it closed
We build the walls ourselves. There was no outer entity that did this. We did this by moving our social network of skilled people online. We did this by connecting the dots, by enabling our network of highly skilled friends online.
This approach is working, for us. We know the authors, we know their background, we know where to find them if we want to have a beer… er… additional information. We get the complete package.
Information has gone social. Call it a socialation.
Search engines are trying to keep up. And they suck at that.
They suck at connecting the same dots we connected.
They suck at recognizing our needs and our primary sources of satisfaction.
For most search engines (ol’ mighty Google included) the web is still a vast limitless space where information is floating around freely and without strings. Where information has no name-tag.
Search engines don’t know if the information is written by a ten-year old hack or a fifty-year old scientist. The word “relevance” is thrown around way too much these days and as famous Inigo Montoya would says: “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”
The machine basically only knows if a certain piece of information is shared a lot, commented upon a lot or linked to a lot. The machine looks at the content and counts the phrases appearing in that content. Then it decides that the relevance is the same as high density of a certain phrase. Which tells you absolutely nothing about the relevance. The machine doesn’t know. And it sucks at guessing.
Death of the machine(?)
That does not mean the machine is dead. Far from it. The machine knows our networks are not limitless. The machine knows the Dunbar number. The machine knows we need it. It knows that we want to keep some information out of our social circle.
It knows that you would rather die than ask your friend about that pimple on your butt (seriously, you should get that checked). And it knows we sometimes require clean, anonymous and private information.
So the machine does what it knows best: serving our pages and pages of hits and shits, of information bits from all over the world, where we can consume and process vast quantites of information. Written by the people for the people (and search engines (and bots (and link farms (and other entities)))). We query, it delivers. We think, it does. We ponder, it answers. Sort of.
The machine isn’t dead because it knows that there are smart people out there who don’t want to join our social circle (why won’t you write back, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson???). Because it knows that we do not know everything. And that sometimes our friends are pretty clueless as well.
Viva la Socialation!
So remember this text the next time you are browsing the web, filtering out the useless hits on your favourite search engine that got there because somebody thought he knows everything about screwing a lightbulb. Remember that people are the best source of information and that the best way to get new info is to recognize a good source and just ask it.