The next time you have to search for information on any topic, try recording your efforts in a survey I’ve just put up:
Easy searches usually aren’t interesting, so I’m seeking submissions just about searches that covered three or more documents (besides search engines). Relevant searches can be done online, using print media, or both–and even other media such as radio or film.
The survey is designed to cull a variety of information about searches, including:
When do people turn from online sources to print sources, and vice versa?
Do people start with a trusted site in their field, or toss the dice with a search on a generic search engine such as Google?
Do people refine their search strings repeatedly in order to turn up better results?
Are people happy with the quality of the documents they find?
Do people follow references they find in magazines and books? Are they more likely to follow references they find online?
How useful are traditional book indexes compared to online searches?
You can also help this research effort by telling colleagues about this survey. It’s not limited to computer information; I’d like to get results from people in many areas.
I plan to use the data to enhance the research I’ve done during the past three years on community documentation. I’ll publish articles about my findings on the O’Reilly Network and report on them at conferences. Ultimately, I hope the survey will:
Encourage authors to add more links and references that help readers find relevant background and related information
Spur developers to create software that makes it easy for readers to add such links.
Guide web sites to developing more focused search tools, tailored to their readers’ interests.
Uncover other techniques to help authors and publishers find more effective ways to offer information.