Over the last couple of years “I’ll Google it” or “Just Google it” has become a commonly used phrase for me. I Google everything; phone numbers, addresses, people, potential employers, words I don’t know…
Google I found improved my efficiency enormously, the challenge was, sharing this little tool of mine with the older generation (my parents!). ….
My parents historically have called me at the most annoying times, asking the most ridiculous questions. “What does it mean when the TV screen starts flashing different colours of the rainbow?” For years, I would have to remove myself from the earshots of my friends, find a quite spot, visualize the remote control in my head and go through step-by-step instructions as patiently as I could.
Then Google changed my life, no longer would there be long, tiring, frustrating conversations about ‘small buttons near the top of the thin remote surrounded by a square,’ instead I would simply reply,
It took me a while to explain to my parents what exactly I meant when I said this, and even longer to explain the purpose of Google, and how to search using it.
The conversation of “Mum, just ask Google exactly what you asked me,” was definitely had more than once, but after a couple of months (maybe years!), and a few times of them typing www.google.com into the Google search bar, we were on to a good thing and Google had replaced me as the expert of all things seemingly unsolvable!
There were, however, two things that my parents and I’m sure many others of their generation haven’t and I don’t think will ever quiet overcome:
1. The issue of how accurate/credible the results are; for some reason internet = misleading to them. They only trust the information if it is from a company they know from the ‘real world’ (ie. not the www) so if they want the phone number for the local Chinese restaurant, they won’t type the name into the search bar, but instead, will Google ‘Yellow Pages’ and find it using them.
2. The issue of the language used; it seems that my young internet savvy brain has learnt how to subconsciously scan through a website, blog, etc and find what is relevant. It is second nature and the words read easily for me, however to my parents it is like they are reading another language, and a lot of the time the simple troubleshooting steps are not all that simple for a non-web 2.0 speaking mind.
So what was web 2.0’s answer…
So now there is a new type of searching, the type that is emerging from things like Twitter, where news is released in real-time, its called social searching.
Social searching is when real people are used to create more intelligent search results. The term is relatively new, it was developed around 2004 and in 2008 there began to be a few start up companies that evolved. It uses the idea that people give feedback on websites and this affects the ranking of the website in search results.
It ads an element of ‘humanness’ to it, that others have found this helpful, it has answered their question.
Another dimension is sites like Aardvark, this site searches through your trusted ‘friends’ with a question you want the answer to and finds the particular person who would know that answer. The interesting thing is that the questions are then answered by people found within your networks, and the answers are formed specifically for you.
The fantastic thing for my parents is that instead of finding the web pages that have the answer, social searching means you find the people who have the answers to what you’re looking for, and therefore answers will be more conversational. It lets you chat to the person within you and your friends networks that is online right now and knows the answer to the question you are asking. It means my parents can pose the question “how do I fix the TV” and the answer will be something like “push the button on the top right hand side of the remote with the box thingy around it”.
The question is will this take off? Is this more credible? Is peer rating the direction of the www to overcome this distrust my parents generation have of the source and credibility of the information they are trusting?
But the even bigger question is: Do I tell my parents? We’ve only just recently, as a family, got our heads around Google and now there is something else?’
Thank god Google is already on top of this one… http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/google_social_search_is_coming.php and my parents will probably be none the wiser!