When Search Goes Terribly Wrong

Do you remember when you first learned about dinosaurs in school? Well, it was all wrong. Google finally revealed the truth about this dinosaur hoax to falsely convince us the Earth is millions of years old. And did you realize that the US was governed by a king recently? It’s all true, Google says so!

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Wait, you mean Google, the infallible global indexer of all human knowledge, is in fact fallible? It should not be a surprise though, people have learned how to tweak the rules of PageRank and boost their version of “popular” over the objective truth.

When searching for stuff inside a company, it’s a different problem. Content is not created with the intent to be searched. A document you create is not trying to hit #1 on the results page. It’s not a popularity contest. You simply create content because that is your job

By Gartner’s reckoning, only 1 and 5 users ever attempt to use corporate search. Enterprise search is not a technology problem though. It’s a “Human Management Problem”. People need to provide the context around the thing to be searched for. The Internet solved this by creating the SEO industry to help juice relevancy and boost results. Another research firm estimated that by 2020, the SEO industry will be worth $80 billion. A ton of resources are dedicated just to the task of helping connect content to people in need.

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That is the opposite in companies where content is just out there and some tool guesses relevancy. It can’t. Content is in different formats, has limited meta data tied to it, is sporadically updated, and has no “proof” of validity or usefulness. The last point is critical, it’s the “human” element of eyeballing something and saying “YES!” to a piece of knowledge or information is the objective answer.

Developers understand this. When they want fast answers to problems, they have depended most of all upon Stack Overflow. It is a human powered knowledge platform. Users validate content through voting and commenting to get to the one, true and definitive answer. By creating a structured format, logical tagging structures, and a large enough community to add content and enforce quality, you ensure relevant and updated knowledge. The solution to better search is technology plus people.

So when you are searching for answers in your company, what are you using to find what are you looking for? How easy is it to find that one, true answer?

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When separating an Oreo cookie, why does the cream stick to just one side only?

Isn’t science amazing, it answers all the tough questions of this world!

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Thoughts on developers, digital transformation, enterprise agility, community building & software engineering culture. Author 👉 https://twitter.com/marksbirch

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