You know, since I’m now officially a librarian, I feel I should take special interest in people’s information needs, and the ways in which people seek out that information. Actually, I’ve learned a good deal about this sort of research from a good friend of mine. She has her ear to the ground when it comes to LIS research, and she tells me that there are all kinds of interesting research projects in progress examining how people get information in certain circles. In honour of her, I have decided to take up a research project of my own.
I have decided a domain name is in itself a research tool. Here I am, basking in the world’s most perfect random information collection tool ever. For the sake of my profession, I must forge forward!
Let me explain: people do internet searches. Right? You’ve probably noticed that every time you do a search in, say, Google, the page you get, with your results on it, has your search query in the URL. That’s how the input works, it sends the information to the database as part of the URL. If you click on a link from that page, the person who’s page you go to will get a notice saying that someone came to you from that page, with the search queries in it. Thus, I’m able to see every search query that points someone to my website.
So for the sake of research, I’ve decided to add a new feature to my blog. I call it A few of my favourite search strings. Together we can glean what we may from these strings, and learn what we can about search strategies and information needs of completely random people on the internet. And together we will grow, and learn, and delve, and bond, and consider, and grow, and mock, and generally be good academics. Let’s tuck in, shall we?
“my favourite sex teacher”
I’m not entirely sure how Google is supposed to know how to parse the “my” variable, but maybe that will be their next innovation. With this search, we can see that the user is feeling nostalgic (among other things) and is using the internet to search for lost, er, friends.
“Capricorn and Aries together”
Here we see that people use the internet to find relationship advice. I’m fairly sure if you put a Capricorn and an Aries in the same room together, someone will spontaneously combust, but I’m not an expert in that field. Everyone should be with a leo, in my opinion.
“Mary Kay Latourneau”
Here we have an enterprising user using the internet for research purposes. I think she’s still in jail, isn’t she?
“How to clean a laptop”
The requisite technical question. Rather than rely on expensive computer services, this thrifty user is opting to get the internet to point the way. People on the internet have computers. People on the internet probably have dirtier computers than most, based on some of the other search strings I got but haven’t included. Surely someone somewhere knows how to clean a computer. This is a profoundly logical thought process. For an ibook, I suggest a white artist’s eraser. Works like a charm.
“punk rocker bedding”
Best. Search string. Ever.
“uncircumsized penis picture”
Biological question. Here we see a curious user with a question, but without the guts and complete lack of shame required to ask the health teacher. Fair enough. I’d really like to see a reference librarian cope with a question like this, to be honest. I mean really, I’d like to be present at the time.
Why, yes I am!
Politics! Users are running searches on the internet to get some more in-depth information about political figures. Strangely, I get a lot of hits out of this search string. In case anyone is in doubt, I’m not actually Dalton McGinty, but I do have a dog that looks just like his.
While the ebook has failed to entirely take off, clearly users employ the internet for a little light reading.
What’s wonderful about the internet is that correct spelling is optional; even if you don’t know how to spell what you’re looking for, you can still find it. Or at least, you can still try to search for it, I suppose. Where the daily newspaper used to provide this sort of information, now users are taking to the internet for it. From today’s search strings it appears that astrology is an important aspect of users’ information needs.
“evan soloman is an asshole”
Here we have a user employing the internet to test an opinion against a wider trend. I read once that is actually how we stay sane; we test our feelings and opinions against the scale of “normal” to see if we’re completely loony or not. This user is clearly seeking a community of the like-minded; is he the only one who thinks that Evan Soloman, cbc broadcaster, is an asshole? Can he perhaps become friends with other people who think the way he does? Can they bond together in their dislike of this public figure? Is there some sort of support network?
And here ends my first installment of My favourite search strings. Stay tuned for more!