Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

« Fahrenheit 9/11MainΑΘΗΝΑ 2004 »

What is there to know?

611 words

One thing that seriously bugs me is that you can find out so many things on the internet these days. While this can be considered nice, I tend to find it annoying in a couple of ways.

To begin with, the fact that you are in theory able to look up things with a quick Google search, may lead to people expecting that you actually do it. It's been preached so much that people's time and attention is valuable that I've started thinking along those lines as well... Is it OK if I ask someone? Won't he or she think I'm stupid because I didn't simply find out myself?

Of course there are silly questions. The year that Pink Floyd's first record was recorded can easily be looked up on the internet. But I could also ask a friend who knows a lot about the band and can probably tell me right away – or walk over to the shelf and look at the record. That would be nice and perhaps even a starting point for a good chat about music. There are many situations like this where I feel that making use of the fact that you could look up things yourself eliminates a lot of communication. Taken to the extreme, this probably means you'll never have to talk to anyone ever again, because you can run your whole life from your computer. Fun?

Conversations may also be killed the other way round. If you're talking to someone who is interested in the same topics and looked things up himself before, it's pretty likely that you'll have a huge overlap in your knowledge. This means that you'll probably bore people to death by elaborating everything you know on a topic. It's a bit hard to decide which information people are likely to have and which they aren't likely to have.

On the other hand, I sometimes catch myself thinking well, he could have looked that up himself when being asked a question. I am not sure whether this is due to 'stupid' questions (which don't exist as some say) or the influence of the trend to look everything up. I tend to think that it's a bit of both. It happens in particular for questions where I don't know the answer either but would know how to find out. As that will usually involves some use of Google, and Google is the great equaliser of search technique, this of course means that the person asking could have used Google himself to begin with. Typing something into a computer for someone else and reading it out isn't too thrilling.

Which brings me to the commercial sector. I appears that frequently the situation I just described is exactly the same you find in many commercial situations. When going to a book store and seeing the people there use exactly the same website I failed to find something on minutes before makes you wonder why you went to the store in the first place. Hearing people in call centres read off the web pages that you didn't find helpful minutes ago isn't too inspiring either. Of course I welcome that companies provide a lot of information to me as they can. But reality shows that the information they provide frequently isn't enough. It is very sobering to learn then that 'insiders' basically operate on the same information that you have.

And that information may be incomplete or incorrect. As is a lot of information you find by this kind of internet 'research'. Quality and retrievability of information from the web is of course an issue but not an issue I wanted to treat now.

August 12, 2004, 20:12


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August 13, 2004, 20:21

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