Interesting observation I picked up the other evening. I typed the query ‘Crystal Skulls’ into Google. Not a particularly long story – I read a magazine article about them a few years ago that I found quite interesting. Then, in Edinburgh a couple of years later, I was in a book store looking for a book (no surprises there) about memory (can’t remember why… 😉 ) and there, nestled amongst the memory books was a book titled ‘The Mystery of the Crystal Skulls’. So I ended up with double the number of books I had planned to purchase that day.

Anyways, I can’t remember why (maybe that’s why I’m interested in books to do with memory) but I decided to see if there was any recent news about crystal skulls. So, back to where we started, I typed the query ‘Crystal Skulls’ into Google this evening.

A bunch of results were returned, the first few claiming to be authoritative sites on crystal skulls. But the fact that there was more than one such site, with little information in the summary to support each claim, made me doubt all such sites. I scanned down further, and there was the result I chose – the Wikipedia entry. Why? I figured Wikipedia would provide a fairly up-to-date summary of information along with reference sites. In other words, I trust what Wikipedia recommends over what Google recommends, because one involves people and the other is just a (relatively) automatic ranking algorithm.

And that’s what I found interesting. When I’m not really sure what I’m looking for, if it’s got an entry in Wikipedia I now go there first, even if I start off in Google with the initial search… It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes that I use in presentations about knowledge management and collaboration:

People are 5 times more likely to ask another person for information than query a system – Tom Allen, MIT

Wikipedia is perhaps the closest we have come to make a knowledge-repository feel like we are asking people for help when we query a system…

(BTW, diddly-squat new info on crystal skulls… back to the serious stuff, I’m up to my armpits in research at the moment)

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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. What a piece of crap. You didnt write one useful thing about them- aurgh. Another wasted hit on a "search" engine.

  2. Thanks for further proving my point :-)General search engines can't figure out the context of your search any more than they can figure out the context of the page (web search engines don't do much work with text analytics – which would have detected this post wasn't about crystal skulls)

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