Google is fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but compared with the human brain it is pretty basic. Indeed, compared with the brains of most living things, Google is actually primitive. Sure enough, it can do a good job and can get us what we want – much of the time. However, ask it which is the best restaurant in your town and it has a tough job. It can give you an approximation, but it is not very good at making value judgements, basing its views on simple mathematics, such as the number of positive reviews.
Humans, on the other hand, can look at a restaurant which has loads of positive reviews and make the judgement that the establishment is actually worse than somewhere which has fewer good ratings. You can see this happening on social sites such as TripAdvisor where people look at the balance of the reviews, who wrote them, when they wrote them and also what kind of people they are. We assess more information than a mathematical algorithm can – currently that is.
If you want to know the best restaurant in town, you’ll get much better answers and more informative ones to-boot if you ask a neighbour or a friend. Indeed, before Google came along that’s largely what we all did.
Search results do help, of course – and they save time. But ultimately we often find asking people is better than asking a mathematical equation. Microsoft has admitted as much by adding results from Quora to its search engine. If you ask Bing for information you’ll also be able to get Quora questions and answers on the topic.
This whole phenomenon of “social search” is at its infancy – combining results from real people with the automated mathematical approach. Gosh it is so reminiscent of Yahoo in its early days which was edited by human beings, providing us all with the information which was sifted by brainpower, rather than mathematics.
Wikipedia succeeds largely because it is entirely derived from human input. Likewise Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. On each of these websites people “search” by asking questions of their friends and colleagues to get answers. Indeed, only yesterday I needed to find a speaker who specialised in franchising for the UK marketplace. After several different search attempts and about ten minutes of trying, Google failed to get me anything of any real value. So I asked the question on Facebook and within five minutes I had three specific names and contact details as well as reasons as to why those individuals could help me. Social search often equals job done. Google often equals time wasted.
Now, a new training course in Australia has revealed the inadequacies of Google more than ever before. People who have attended the training course testify to the fact that they are able to find things online in ways they never dreamed possible. And individuals who have spent years doing research have discovered how basic their previous attempts were.
What is revealing is that the training course providers, the Sydney University of Technology, suggests that Google – in spite of its massive index – is only actually seeing around half of what is available online.
And that only means one thing: if you rely on Google to provide you with information you are missing out on the other half. And where can you tap into that other 50%? That’s right – via the brains of human beings. Time to ask questions on Quora, on LinkedIn or on Facebook or Twitter if you want to get the best answers. Google is only giving you half the story.
- Bing Gets Social Search Right With Quora Integration (mashable.com)
- Wisdom of the Crowds: Bing’s Social Sidebar Now Includes Quora Answers (socialtimes.com)
- Gmail Messages to Appear in Google SERPs (searchenginewatch.com)
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+