Ever wonder why we get different results when we search for the same thing? I don’t think it is a glass half empty/half full thing. It seems evident that the internet is serving as both the library and news journal for many of us, and that our machine personalized search results from Google, Yahoo, Bing and the rest are skewed in different ways. This has been apparent on Facebook as well, perhaps in a more obvious way when some of our friends’ disappeared from our news feeds.
I notice this particularly in the way we respond to different business and technical issues among body artists, when someone brings up information I wouldn’t have found without substantial digging, and vice versa. The library, with it’s dust and smell of fresh and aging paper still plays an especially important role, in particular university libraries with specialized collections of technical information that does not exist on the internet…yet. Some of the most important things to learn are in textbooks and other large, expensive reference books that you won’t find in a search, at all or only as footnotes and in the bibliography of an abstract.
What you can find in the library is still valid, useful and often more thorough than searching, aside from the fact that your search will be personalized by your internet history, location, browser and operating system among other factors.
There are projects such as Wolfram Alpha, Hengine and Mahalo that use alternative methods, computational relations and human editing, and of course Wikis galore, but the bottom line is that much of what you get as results for a search will be determined on most search engines by your previous history of what you click.
Eli Pariser laid it all out in this eye-opening TED talk, and got a standing ovation for his trouble. His book on the topic, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, is out this week — help make it a hit here.