The phrase wasn’t intended to be delivered as an epitaph. But it may have been.
“I don’t do newspapers.”
That statement was issued by my 16-year-old daughter as she struggled with finding movie times in a town in which the theaters can’t be accessed by Moviephone. Besides, there’s no cell phone service in that part of the country, much less Internet, outside of dial up. Following the suggestion to look in the local daily newspaper, she gave up after a half-hearted effort.
The fate of print media aside, her statement reflected a generation that expects to find information precisely, not to troll for it. Often, I see her and other members of her generation going to the Internet even when it may not be the quickest way of finding information. They have difficulty doing generalized searches.
Or it might be more accurate to say they have trouble with serial access, like you get in running a tape in which you have to run through everything in sequence to get to the song you want. That’s as opposed to random access, in which any specific piece of data can be accessed upon request.
But the problem is that Web search technology is not yet good enough to get us the answers with the precision she expects and most of us older Web users would like.
Without trying to understand search technology in detail, it seems to me current search technology relies largely on matching, like looking at color samples and seeing which matches the color on your dining room wall. What we need is the ability to query the Web as a database. Wouldn’t it be nice to ask, “Find trial and balance packages with a starting price of $500 or less”? Wouldn’t it be nice to put in a term about a company and have the first hit to actually be that company’s Web site.
When this technology arrives, it will change things. Much of what we do on the Web will be obsolete, including the tendency of publishing houses to set up Web sites mimicking print.
It will sort of be like eight-track tapes.
And we all know, we don’t do eight-tracks.
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