“We use Google…to find out about our own company”

Using 3rd party tools to find what I wantYou wouldn’t believe the number of times I have heard people say that when they want to find out about their own company, they use Google

Case in point – I was at a well-known appliance store the other day, that has branches throughout the country.I asked the girl at the checkout whether there was a store in one particular city. While she looked furtively at her screen, I took a peek over her shoulder. It was the company’s intranet. I advised her to open up a new tab in her browser, go to Google, and type in the name of the store plus the word “branches”. She obediently followed my instructions, and two minutes later she was able to give me an answer.

I won’t talk about the magic that Google performs to bring you the information that you want. I do want to talk, however, about why people are going to an outside facility rather than using the companies own resource…findability  and usability.

Findability does not just mean being able to search for something and getting results. It also means that the information on the intranet is structured in a logical way that allows people to navigate to information quickly. Often, little thought has gone into the way information should be presented:

  • What information do the users (in this case all staff ranging from back office workers to those at the client interface) need access to?
    Analytics will show you what is being accessed the most. Well thought surveys can return valuable information. Even talking to staff members individually,or in groups, can add a lot of value.
  • How can the navigation structure be set up so that it is intuitive?
    Use the feedback you got. Perform a card sort to help build up a understanding of how the staff want information grouped. Put together a “mock navigation”,using a suitable tool such as Optimal’s Treejack, and see how easy it is for user’s to find what they are looking for.
  • What other ways are there that the information can be accessed quickly? Short-cuts, quick links, FAQs.
    Create a screen mock-up, and test how easy it is for staff to find the information. Use a tool that allows this to be simulated on-line, and set up real-life scenarios involving staff members with different functions to determine whether improvements can be made.
  • Pay attention to the questions that are often asked by staff.
    These will usually turn up questions that get repeatedly asked. “How is xyz done?”, “Where do I find information on our widgets?”. These questions make up the basis for the FAQs or a wiki.

 

A stupid question is …

A stupid question is any question that can be answered through Google.

However, this removes the opportunity for dialogue. For discussing, and learning…

For example, I want to know what HTML5 is. I could go to Google, (or Bing, or any search engine) type the four letters and one numeral in, and get an abundance of results.

However, if I ask someone, there are a number of outcomes:

stupid question

Click on image for a larger version

Do you see what happened there? The easy solution was to Google the answer. Simple, easy & fast. However, by asking someone, I engaged in dialogue, and when the person started explaining the answer, the dialogue started becoming rich, and each interaction created new richness.

People communicating,and sharing ideas, thoughts, knowledge, concerns is, actually, a pretty great thing. :O)

History of Search…the infographic

In connection with the “History of Search” theme, below is an interesting infographic…

Internet Search Engines: History & List of Search Engines..

Infographic byWordStream Internet Marketing

 

Learning about Klout

One of the people I follow on twitter is Shadeed Eleazer (@mrshadeed). He’s a cool guy and blogs about the digital world. He also creates video blogs.

One of the ones I watched recently was about Klout. He talks about what it is and how it works.

Definitely worth 3 minutes and 48 seconds of your time to view/listen to it.

My Diigo bookmarks for the week

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Learning how to use Google+ uses (or “I’m new here – 2″)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t really “get” Google+.  (Having never actually having used Facebook).

Just after writing that post, I found this article, by Matt Heinz, in which he said:

You can drive yourself nuts and waste loads of time chasing after every new technology, gadget, productivity tool, social network or other flavor of the week.

And if you insist on being the first to try everything and position yourself on the bleeding edge, knock yourself out.

In the article was also a link to another useful article in which Chris Brogan lists 50 useful things to do with Google+.

The Google+ 50

 

I’m going to read through this.

Maybe this social media troglodyte will learn something…

I’m new here

Ok – so I got myself a Google+ account.

Now I have to get used to using it.  I’ve never done Facebook (and was damn proud of it), so this side of the online social media world is new to me.

What I mean, is that I had gotten used to checking my Twitter stream regularly, and kept an eye on Delicious’ “Recent” bookmarks (to see if anyone else had found anything interesting), but Google+ … well that was new for me.

So – I caught myself smiling when I saw a post on Google+ by someone that I had inadvertently “invited” when I had included him in one of my “Circles”. His comment was:

Ok, here we go…another social obligation. I wonder what the chance of me maintaining G+ as well as my Blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

I felt exactly the same way (with the exception of Facebook).

At the same time, I was hitting the Random button on the xkcd site, and came across this:

 

Note: I never waste my time with social media at work

 

 

Google+ – Early Research


 Google+ has been announced.

It is a Facebook-like social tool, and one of the defining features is that it allows you to refine your online social network so that it represents real-life more.

About a year ago, I came across a presentation on SlideShare that showed some of Google’s early research into social networks. Now I see that this was for what is now “Google+”.

Interesting stuff…

The Real Life Social Network v2

The Search application is not available for (all these) sites.


I was at a client site, checking on someone’s work in migrating a SharePoint Search system from one domain to another.

Everything was looking good – the crawl was working, a search returned hits as expected. However when I checked the Advanced Search page, I saw the error:

The Search application is not available for this site.

Oops – that didn’t look good.

Grabbing the message, I plugged it into Google in hope of finding a solution.

Much to my surprise, Google listed 43 sites that matched that error message, and 38 of them linked to the Advanced Search pages of public sites that were having the exact same problem.

Now fortunately the first link in the search results had the answer. So, I had this one fixed pdq.

What amazed me was the other links that directed to public web sites. These included schools, a government department in Qatar, the Connecticut National Guard, the Massachusetts National Guard, as well as other “interesting” sites.

I’m flabbergasted. It would appearthat these sites have undergone a similar exercise where something was changed. Someone had done some cursory testing, and had given the “It’s all good” sign.

And that was it.

Here - have a look for yourself.

Related Posts

Thoughts on Blogging

When I started blogging, it was because I had been inspired to “write down” what I was doing. Just as a way of keeping a personal record. I just wanted to start…something.

At the same time, I discovered that I was actually having to “think” more about things. I found this really inspiring.

A post at the end of last year, by Bjørn Furuknap, led me to question this. In his post, Bjorn stated that if a blogger was offering no real value, then he/she would be better off doing nothing. (I wrote a post about this, that you can read here.)

To be honest, Bjorn’s post (as well as older post by Laurence Hart, aka @Piewords), make me think seriously about the posts I write.

On the one hand, I didn’t want my posts to fall into the “might as well just shut up” category, but I still wanted to use them as a way that I could record my thoughts, or offer tips, or advice.

In fact this conflict, would often prevent me from actually writing anything. I would start, but then doubt would enter my mind, as I tried to work out whether the post was indeed too much of the “just shut up” type.

Thanks to a tweet by @BizTeam lead me to a small video in which Seth Godin, and  Tom Peters, talks about blogging. Seth commented that a blog is free, and it doesn’t matter if nobody reads it. What matters is the humility that comes from writing it – the “thinking” about it.

Wow – when I heard these words, it really brought me back to my original “purpose” for writing. It’s something I mention in that earlier post – I blog so that I am forced to THINK about things.

Have a look at the video, and let me know what your thoughts are…

Captain Kirk is killing Innovation

Through one means or another (I think I saw a Tweet about it). I “discovered” a presentation on Innovation. It was given by Scott Berkun at the Carnegie Mellon University.

I was really inspired by Berkun’s presentation. I watched it once, and then again, and then tried to make notes of what he was saying during the presentation.

Berkun talks about how much of what we know about innovation is wrong as he explored the history of innovation and creative thinking.

The notes I took take up eight pages. These are available via the links below. However, in a nutshell, Berkun points out that innovation is not some magical thing that just happens. It requires a lot of hard work, and a lot of failure. Often when we look at someone/something successful, we don’t see the work that was put in to get to that point.

Berkun gives many examples of people famous in history for their discoveries, and points out that it is the “mythology” surrounding that discovery that we actually remember without being aware of the hours put in to get to that it. Two examples he gives are Newton who is remembered for discovering gravity when he got hit on the head by an apple, Archimedes who cried Eureka! when he was in the bath.

He goes onto to illustrate how failure is also a part of innovation. The Colloseum in Rome is lauded as being an amazing piece of architecture, and shows what great builders the Roman’s were. However, we don’t get to see the attempts that failed. They don’t exist any more. We just have remaining the attempt that was successful. There are several modern examples also that include Google, Apple, Flickr.

At one point in the presentation, Berkun claims that James T Kirk is responsible for killing innovation. Why? Because, James T Kirk is the only modern day icon for exploration that we have today. The main story of exploration that is widely known is that of Captain Kirk, and the Enterprise and it’s ongoing mission to seek out new life, etc, etc.

The problem with this is that within the first few opening minutes of the program Star Trek, a new planet has been discovered. And then with the next few minutes, something exciting has happened. And so it goes on. We don’t get to see the boring bits. We don’t get to see the time spent just trying to find a new planet. And this is what happens a lot in real life . A new “discovery” is being made. There is a lot of excitement, and then…nothing. This is because it usually takes years, and years, and years before the new discovery is something useful, viable, or commercially profitable.

As I mentioned, Scott Berkun’s presentation really caught my attention. He had a very dynamic way of presenting this information. I recommend you follow the links below to learn more.

My Notes from Berkun’s presentation

Scott Berkun’s presentation on YouTube

Scott Berkun’s Homepage.

Google, 1997, Pagerank & Barrels

Did you know Google originally used barrels?

Here’s an overview of Google’s system architect (at least as it was in 1997)

Can you see the barrels?

Messrs Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page presented a paper at a conference back in 1997. According to this, once a page has been indexed, the word occurrences are stored in “barrels”.

More about these barrels, and the page rank algorithm, and how Google does what it does (at least in 1997) can be read here:  The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

We want Google!

One of the things I come across frequently when discussing client’s requirements for a new enterprise content management system is that they “want Google search”.

When I delve deeper I often discover that the client wants to be able to type one or two words in a small text box, and get back exactly the document that they were looking for.Within seconds.

Unfortunately what the client doesn’t always see, or is aware of, is that there is a lot of work put into making Google work efficiently, and that there is a staff of Google employees monitoring, and tweaking, and caring for the Google search engine. What the client also doesn’t realise is that Google (the company) has over 100 million servers around the world dedicated to indexing the internet.

Here is an interesting article from CMS Wire about Google and what it actually does: Enterprise Search and Pursuit of the Google Experience. (The included video by Google engineer Matt Cutts is also interesting)

Also of interest:

Learn how Google work: In Glory Detail

Google reveal the real technology behind their system.