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Marshall's Web Tool Blog

Training and Consulting in New Tools for Effective Web Use

This site is an archive of posts that I hope you will find useful. Please visit my new site at Marshallk.com.

Stop Wasting Time With Failed Searches

Just reread an article from a year ago called "The High Cost of Not Finding Information" from the publication KM World (as in Knowledge Managment). (found via JohnT's Furl feed) It's a good source of information about the amount of time that knowledge workers waste with failed internet searches. It's really incredible how much time and energy professionals spend looking for information online with zero results!

These stats are from the article:

  • Knowledge workers spend from 15% to 35% of their time searching for information.
  • Searchers are successful in finding what they seek 50% of the time or less, according to both Web search engines and our own surveys. An IDC study in 2001 found that only 21% of respondents said they found the information they needed 85% to100% of the time.
  • 40% of corporate users reported that they can not find the information they need to do their jobs on their intranets.

Those these statistics from the corporate world are several years old, I believe that people in the non-profit and small business sectors likely suffer these problems even worse than those more corporate because we used to rarely have access to the information storage and retrieval software that big companies invest in. (Now that's changing with Web 2.0) It is also possible that this time wasting is less of a problem for small biz and non-profit parties because many such people set their standards lower.

Either way, I think that our access to information through search can be vastly improved by a handful of things, including:
  • learning how to use Google properly

  • learning search engines other than Google, including metasearch engines, specialty and multi-media search

  • using persistent search automation to know what information is available concerning your work, as soon as it is available, instead of only finding it when you go look for it manually

  • saving your information properly the first time you find it: in a web based searchable database with title, key information included as a clipping, and a cached copy in the archive in case the information is no longer available online elsewhere when you need it. For all these purposes, I use and highly recommend Furl.

I believe that tools like these I can make a huge difference in your time invested to work with information that you need vs. the amount of time you waste looking for it in the first place. The search situation in terms of users' success is currently dismal, but it doesn't have to be. The tools are there, we just have to learn how to use them.

Related: See my Furl archive of articles I've saved about search, as well as lots of search engine options beyond Google. See also a previous article I wrote about search and google here.

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