New survey: what problems do you have when searching for information?

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

  • 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.

  • Enrich discussions about new search strategies, such as those
    suggested by the recently unveiled
    Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP).

  • Uncover other techniques to help authors and publishers find more
    effective ways to offer information.