Sunday, February 27, 2011

Search Engine Society - First 2 Chapters

As I read through this first chapter of Halavais' book, I have to get over my awe of how something so incredible has been developed in my lifetime. In fact, it has been just over 20 years. Hopefully as I move through this book, my amazement will fad and I will be able to get out of the book what Halavais wants me to!

Admittedly, this first chapter of Halavais took me a minute to get in to. However, right at the very beginning, Halavais mentions the lost of search engines and I found myself having a mini panic attack at just the thought of living a life without search engines. I never really stopped to think about it before, but Halavais is right when he writes, "The permanent loss of search engines in now almost unfathomable, but were it to occur, we would find the way to communicate, learn about the world, and conduct our everyday lives would be changed" (5).

Also, what I found really interesting was the history and importance of indexing information. I found the quote on page 2 really intriguing, "The modern search engine has taken on the mantle of what the ancients of many cultures thought of as an oracle: a source of knowledge about our world and who we are." And, as I moved through the chapter, I found it interesting to watch Google position themselves in a place to be at the head of the pack of all the search engines. I had forgotten about sites like and I never thought of AOL as a search engine site.

On page 19, Halavais brings up how an ideal interface would anticipate the user's behavior. This made me think of Google's search box. I love the function it has when I start typing; it starts to organize links below in anticipation of what it thinks I am asking for. Sometimes I change my search based on things I see come up below as I am typing.

The second chapter starts by talking about a "user-centered design" and how requires "an iterative process of understanding what the user expects and creating systems that help to satisfy user's needs and desires" (32). In a class I had last semester, we did a project on usability testing on websites, which I found really interested and very useful. It was interesting to a different perspective, though, from Halavais saying that there is a problem with this sort of cyclical process since we assume the user does not change. Obviously this is not true. "It is not enough to react to the user, or create systems that respond to existing needs; the designer must understand the current user, and at the same time anticipate how the system might change the user" (33). (PS – if anybody wants to check out usability information, visit Steve Krug's website: there is a lot of interesting stuff on here. His latest book is "Rocket Surgery Made Easy," but there is a lot from his first book that you can get in .pdf for free!)

What I especially like about this chapter is near the end when Halavais talks about this notion of "serendipity." The idea that I find something on the web that I wasn't necessarily looking for fascinates me, and I found myself thinking while reading, how many I times this might have happened to me without me even realizing it. There are certain things I search for that I expect to find right away and don't expect to have to click on more than one link to find - like definitions. However, there are definitely times when I type something in to the Google search box and the results that come up are almost intuitive to what I wanted, but didn't know yet. This leads me down a road I didn't know I wanted to travel, which leads me to innovation, as Halavais mentions on the top of page 54.

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