Smarter Searchers or Smarter Search?

Jeremy asks an interesting question in “How did you learn to search?”; actually, it reminds me of a piece that appeared on the Yahoo! Search Blog about a year ago (my response here). In it, he makes the case for teaching basic search skills (boolean operators and the like) as part of our K-12 curriculum; no argument here.

But this post is somewhat in contrast to his previous post “Search Engines that Talk Back” (see my response in Search Engines and Active Listening). Here, the assumption is that search engines have to get smarter.

And I suppose the latter, all self interests exposed, is where I currently sit. There are certain domains that are of significant personal importance but beyond the scope of the education most of us have; health certainly falls into this category. Search engines with a semantic understanding of a topical space can, potentially, educate and guide me by putting my queries in context.

After all, a large part of the “search problem” goes beyond the blocking and tackling of advanced search UI manipulation; people simply don’t know what they don’t know, and it’s hard to form a question when you don’t know much about what you’re searching for (and/or you don’t know the words/jargon that “experts” use to write about the subject)! 😉

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