Scott Hanselman

"Searching Conversations, Not Content" or "Is there a difference between CONTENT and PAGES?"

May 20, 2004 Comment on this post [4] Posted in Programming
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I was talking to a fellow at the recent Portland Nerd Dinner about my growing frustration with Google.  Certainly Google is great, blah blah, find anything, blah blah, touch the mind of God, blah blah.  But I'm just searching text without context. 

Sure, that text might be in a PowerPoint or PDF, but when my motherboard recently freaked out I googled for such things as "PERL Intel Motherboard" and "Intel Motherboard BIO Problems" - you get the idea, you've lived this a thousand times before.

After a while of NOT finding anything, I started being more directed.  This is where my Mom and many others breakdown.  There ARE things that google doesn't search OR advanced Google techniques that are tantamount to using a command shell. (filetype:pdf and leap to mind) 

So, I went straight to Intel and did the whole FAQ, Forums, Support MESS.  (Aside: Online support is quickly also becoming a joke.  TODO: Revolutionize Online Support by introducing an actually USEFUL Knowledge Base Search)  Then I tried various and sundry forums that Google isn't - for whatever reason - indexing. 

Then I tried Google Groups.  And here's the thing - is it more agonizing to find NOTHING about your problem or to find three threads that describe your problem EXACTLY...but the thread is just lying there.  Fallow.  Unanswered.  Flacid even.

So, I found another fellow who was having the identical problem.  Noone answered his calls though, as they were scribbled on the bathroom wall we call the Usenet.

Then I realized what I REALLY wanted to search was Conversations/Thoughts/Comments.  I didn't really expect to find a PAGE that was called "Upgrading the Intel 865PERL Motherboard BIOS from Revision P12 to Revsion P15 and watching it fail" because noone writes pages like that (anymore.)  I wanted to search the buzz, the scuttlebutt, the scoop, the thoughts.

The Usenet threaded discussion model isn't working anymore, and non-google indexed blog comments aren't helping the problem, they are distributing it.  There's a problem out there and a whole slew of "conversations" and collective knowledge that need to be indexed and someone is going to have a license to print money if they solve it.


About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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May 20, 2004 13:01
Are you saving a keystroke or coining a new word 'NOONE' :-)
May 20, 2004 18:59
Browsing forums is harder than you think, by any sort of indexing service. Most forums are SLOOOWWW, even to retrieve one post. Multiply this by the hundreds of thousands of posts on some of the larger forums, and you'll see why no one will ever index a forum. Index every two days? I don't think so.
May 20, 2004 20:16
This, of course, is exactly the problem that RDF/the semantic web is meant to solve, but the reality is that people or WAY to lazy to use any of that metadata. There's no way the average netizen is going to add a slew of RDF tuples to their pages (but it would sure be cool if they did).
May 21, 2004 6:52
I wish that google would do a better job knowing what is content and what is navigation. Some sites return hits for almost any combination of words because "C#" and "Crystal Reports" are navigation links on every page so any word on the site will produce a match combined with either of those (or any other category listed in their navigation).

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.