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Research Commentary on the Spire Project

A Gentle Start to Internet Search Theory
By David Novak

Upon discovering the new world, European settlers promptly peopled it with the elements of the old world ... church, state and class. The Internet's decade as the brave new world is over now. The internet has grown to adolescence. It exists as an alternative means of communication - with advantages and disadvantages. The internet will still spawn fantastic change but it is foolish to deny that elements of the old world have not invaded the new.

As you strive to understand, participate and benefit from the internet, try to realize that the heady days of vast confusion and idealism have largely passed. In its place we now import many of the rules, mores and expectations of the old world. In marketing, promotion, education, and sense of community, seek first to understand how the old world behaved, for surely the internet behaves similarly.

Finding information on the internet is more complex than throwing words at a search engine. Not that we knew much better a few years ago. To find better information, learn to bend your experience with information from the old world so it applies on the internet. How are books found? How do we judge the quality of a magazine article? Ever ask a librarian for help? Never confuse internet searching with deciding which search engine to use.

The Spire Project is not designed for new internet users. You have much to learn and this is not the way to learn it. You must practice and play for a time. Become comfortable at retrieving information from a variety of sources. Be elated at the ease of using the internet. Soon, you will become disappointed that some questions are so very difficult to answer in a simple way. At that time, when you have the need and desire, come back to the Spire Project. Time and time again, I see users initially thrill over the possibilities and if nothing serves to curtail this enthusiasm, you will experience an inevitable backlash as you realize two important facts:

  • The internet is not that easy to use.
  • Information does not mean answers.

  • I would give you three pieces of advice before you embark on using the internet to gather information. Firstly, the internet has far more depth and far more complexity than is visible from a distance. There is a seductive image of the internet as a vast realm that we simply search. This is not only erroneous but very counter-productive. Perhaps only 10% of the internet can be searched directly from a search engine like Google and rarely do we search such search engines in a specific way that makes such a search a search. Usually, we only ask search engines for recommendations! There is much more to searching than this.

    Secondly, searching is not all that complicated. Most of the time we are translating to the internet environment skills you probably already learned finding information away from the internet. Don't let the complexity of the internet environment or the initial fright of all things computing scare you from the relative understandable nature of good hard search skills.

    Thirdly, take this gradually. Let the internet unfold for you in time. This magnificent creation will be around for many years to come and will make more sense the more you think about it. Rush the process and you risk confusion. Oh, certainly don't delay learning for again, the internet will be with us in its present form for years to come. Anything you learn now will lead you to better information henceforth. But don't rush to the point of missing the elegance and simplicity of internet search.

    I will say it again. Do read the Information Research Faq. Not necessarily all of it but the FAQ is gentle and cuts to the information side of internet research. Secondly, focus first on learn to be specific with a search engine.

    David Novak

    * * *
    David Novak, founder of the Spire Project, delivers seminars on Internet skills. I hope to see you one day. for details.

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