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Putting Google to the Test

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the time-is-of-the-essence dept.

The Internet 441

Big Nothing writes "Google has built its reputation on being the fastest and most accurate way to find information. But is the internet really the quickest way to access facts - and get them right? The Guardian puts Google to the test against more old-fashioned methods."

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Prom is going to be great... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073021)

With my robot.... My GIRL robot...

god google (0)

calle69 (646100) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073031)

google knows it all, face it

Re:god google (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073236)

Dear God,

Google can search anything that can be searched.

Unfortunately, Google is unable to search my soul and desire.

You need to give me something better.

Henry, 19 years old

I wonder... (0, Funny)

Pig Hogger (10379) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073033)

... if they googled for the results...

Re:I wonder... (4, Informative)

Spansh (219937) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073142)

Had you even bothered to read the article (Duh, this is slashdot, what am I thinking).

You'd notice this was the whole test.

We asked various "pub quiz" type questions and then comapres the speed of response of various methods of finding the answers, such as telephone, library and of course google.

Then again I wouldn't have needed to write this post if you'd bothered to read the article.

Re:I wonder... (1)

yatest5 (455123) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073242)

You have totally misunderstood the parent poster. Read it again. Think. Read it again. Think. Penny dropped yet?

Re:I wonder... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073244)

A joke just went over your head.

Re:I wonder... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073252)

it's interesting that your 'library searches' seemed to take only a minute or two to perform. You didn't bother counting the time it took to actually go to the library and find the relevant book, then?

Yeah but it was fast enough..... (5, Interesting)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073036)

To win radio trivia call in contests a few years ago. Using Google to answer trivia just like in Ghost World.

Re:Yeah but it was fast enough..... (1)

Spansh (219937) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073197)

In fact The Registerr has a story on something very similar to this right here []

I seem to remember I was doing something like this with my father when I went to university, we ended up winning 30 pints or something from our Students Union, aaahh memories.

Re:Yeah but it was fast enough..... (1)

Metatron (21064) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073260)

I haven't used that re5ult system, I have however used shazzam [] in a pub quiz to identify those snippets of songs in name the track / artist rounds :)

Re:Yeah but it was fast enough..... (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073205)

I've done this!

Over dialup no less.

Usually you can find the answer in the heading text.

Why bother test? (1)

imidazole2 (776413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073037)

We all know it's the best search engine, the best way to find anything - be it unit conversion, or stalking your ex, or finding pr0n on the image search!

Re:Why bother test? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073084)

it's not the best way to find pr0n. let's hijack this thread: what is your experience has been the best way to get the specific pr0n you're looking for? p2p? usenet?

Re:Why bother test? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073112)

usenet gets cluttered up with spam/advertisements these days. the s/n ratio isn't what it used to be. as for google search, I hate those websites which use all the right keywords in their meda-headers in order to boost their rankings.

Re:Why bother test? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073128)

Digital camera and a compliant g/f in my experience

License revoked error (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073203)

Just found out that it was only a time-limited license I had on mine, so now I hafta go look for a more compliant version =/

Re:License revoked error (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073234)

I'd like to see a Beowulf cluster myself...I've often imagined it..

Re:Why bother test? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073149)

google sucks for searching for pr0n, but it still beats the "traditional" methods! a sad but true fact: when I was in high school, the medical encyclopaedias had some pages ripped out. but that was before even netscape.

Re:Why bother test? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073239)

I think we need a new RFC for tagging p0rn images. eg. there should be some meta-data directly embedded in the image that is searchable by google eg. blondes, brunettes, red heads, co-eds etc. I don't know whether this problem can be solved efficiently though.

It's not a search engine test, per se, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073133)

as they don't test it against other search engines.

Besides, you search pr0n images. Welcome to the 21st century, start finding pr0n movies [] ! (10 gigs and counting, all shared)

Re:Why bother test? (1)

BetterThanCaesar (625636) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073192)

Why bother testing gravity? We all know heavy objects fall faster than light ones.

Why bother testing astrology? We all know fate is written in the stars, and astrologists are the only ones who can read it.

Time to get to the Library? (5, Interesting)

stlthVector (468932) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073044)

Great comparison but they don't take into account how long it takes to get to the library, phone charges, etc. For me, 15 minutes on Google is faster than 30 seconds at the library.

Re:Time to get to the Library? (5, Funny)

GuyinVA (707456) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073081)

You're obviously not using your teleporter...

I actually had the same concern.

Re:Time to get to the Library? (5, Funny)

BorgDrone (64343) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073261)

Teleporters are sooo 2003, MoIP (Matter-over-IP) is the Next Big Thing(tm).

Re:Time to get to the Library? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073102)

Exactly correct. Add 15 minutes to drive to the library, 15 minutes to drive back. That adds 30 minutes to every single search. Unless of course you actually had queued up all these wonderful questions and you could ammortize the time.

This was a stupid article.

Re:Time to get to the Library? (5, Informative)

mopslik (688435) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073103)

...and even then, some of their numbers are questionable themselves:

Question 1: List the titles of all the books written by Piers Morgan, editor of the Daily Mirror - Library Stephen Moss, 20sec (1st)

So you're saying that once I'm at the library, it takes me 20 seconds to look up the call number/location of Who's Who, turn to the appropriate page, and list out all of the man's books? Right. More than likely, this is an example of "you are in the library, with the book in hand, opened directly to the page you want."

Re:Time to get to the Library? (1)

trentblase (717954) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073209)

Seriously, if you're already at the library computer looking up Who's Who in the electronic card catalog, you might as well just launch a browser and Google the answer.

Also, how did they find out what was unusual about the British gold medal victory in the 400m in the 1908 Olympics in London? In under 2 minutes. Does this count asking the all-knowing librarian? "Why can't one change the past?"

Re:Time to get to the Library? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073220)

> "you are in the library, with the book in hand, opened directly to the page you want."

There are exits to the north and west. There is a small cardboard box here.

Re:Time to get to the Library? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073105)

And who in the world manages to find these books so fast at the library?
Sure - some of them might be at the same spot - but you really need to know your local library well to do anything in under a minute.

Re:Time to get to the Library? (4, Insightful)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073113)

Their library lookups don't appear to have included:

Looking it up in a card catalog (electronic or not)
Finding the book/periodical on the shelf
Accounting for missing resources (like a real life 404!)

Yeah, I'm a Google fan. Sometimes the library is better - but not for factoid lookups or finding out what the Royal Wessex couple did on Tuesday.

Homeless Guy Living behind the Library (2, Insightful)

Dareth (47614) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073125)

These are just times for the homeless guy living behind the library who hangs out there all day harrassing patrons and looking up porn on the library computers.

For people who have computers and access at home, the internet has many sources. The web is not the whole internet, nor is google the whole web.

Hybrid search technique (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073225)

Why not go to the library and use the computer in the corner to google ?

not an interesting article! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073053)

there is nothing technically. who cares about famous people. for me alan cox is a hero :) as pr0n search engine google is bullshit, really.

Not versus, with (4, Insightful)

Angry Black Man (533969) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073055)

Instead of comparing them against each other, its more important to use both internet based as well as "old fashioned" resources together. Its important to realize that hard backed enyyclopedias are better than google and wikipedia for some things, and not for others. The younger generation needs to learn how to recognize what source to use, instead of automatically going to google. The internet should not replace old fashioned resources but merely embrace them.

Huh? (3, Funny)

pierced2x (527997) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073056)

What is this li-brar-ee thing you speak of? That must have been where people accessed the internet before computers...

Or where a lot of people access the Internet now (1)

Xhad (746307) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073130)

I realize you're kidding, but for almost half a year I just didn't have Internet at home at all and instead used the library. I recall reading something by a book publisher stating that the Internet has been good for business partially because public workstations increase library traffic from people who would otherwise stay home and just watch TV.

It is very interesting... (5, Insightful)

dunedan (529179) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073061)

That none of the questions included something likey what is the maximum sustainable speed in Mb/s of the alcatel 8100 series router

Thats the stuff where Google with kick everyones trash, not complete list of authorships

uncommon question (1)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073202)

That none of the questions included something likey what is the maximum sustainable speed in Mb/s of the alcatel 8100 series router

This is an uncommon question for your average person. It is even an uncommon type of question. They are looking at more common questions your average user would ask. That is a better test. If you know this question you probubally don't even need to search google but can go directly to the site.

Library (4, Insightful)

artemis67 (93453) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073062)

He didn't count the time it took for him to leave his office and drive to the library. So add another 20 minutes to all of the library times.

Re:Library (4, Insightful)

siliconwafer (446697) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073086)

Exactly. Google (and the entire internet) are accessible from the comfort of our homes. Going to the library to research requires getting up and actually going there. While traditional methods of research certainly have their merits, nothing beats the convenience of Google.

Re:Library (3, Insightful)

tolan-b (230077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073126)

Also, I suspect being a journalist you would have a better idea of who to ring for various information, as research is a fairly important part of journalism.

Re:Library (1)

Deslack (48390) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073144)

Yeah, getting up and turning the computer on, waiting for the dial-up to establish connection to the ISP, opening up a browser... well, that should take a fair amount of time.

assuming 100% coverage for the internet (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073201)

"Google (and the entire internet) are accessible from the comfort of our homes"...assumes ubiquitous home internet access. Not necessarily true for all now, or for some time to come.

Not everyone has an internet connection, either (1)

TrentL (761772) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073184)

So the article is assuming people have internet connections in their home. If they don't, they're out of luck with Google. The library is open to everyone. (Perhaps they could use Google at the library, assuming it isn't censored).

depends... (2)

k0d0 (648229) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073064)

what kind of information do you need? must it be credible?

does the user like the kind of information you usally get on the web...

is the query good?

what is searched for (what area)

etc... I usually find what I need when using google, my mum doesn't :) greets, kodo

Is google really that accurate? (3, Interesting)

titaniam (635291) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073065)

I'd have to say that google deliberately alters certain rankings. The proof is when you do a google search for search engine [] . By almost any measure of page rank google would have to be listed first, but it is not. This means that google deliberately lowered their rankings. It makes sense that if you searched for a search engine on google, they've already got you and it doesn't really matter at what position they rank themselves. But by doing so they can potentially shield themselves from antitrust issues, and help hide the likely fact that for other categories they do alter the rankings for their advantage. Up and coming competitors in other arenas than search can be quietly disposed of if no-one can find them.

Re:Is google really that accurate? (5, Insightful)

log0n (18224) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073169)

This could be because no-where in the top page source does Google ever have the word 'engine'.

Re:Is google really that accurate? (1)

titaniam (635291) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073199)

Good point. Time to start taking my anti-paranoid medication again...

Re:Is google really that accurate? (1)

drouk (660766) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073198)

It's probably because all other search engines called "search engines" but Google is called simply "Google". Which means less links with "search engines" pointing to google which means lower page rank.

Re:Is google really that accurate? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073223)

Go to google and search for:

Best Search Engine in the World

Hit I'm feeling lucky.

Why *BSD is dying (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073069)

The fatal disease FreeBSD is now facing is loss of marketshare. Week after week FreeBSD keeps slipping lower in the marketshare surveys. There is only one way to interpret these results: FreeBSD is dying. It is dying the death of a thousand cuts. Loss of marketshare means loss of ISV support. Loss of ISV support means loss of marketshare. And so it goes, into a downward spiral. Without marketshare, without ISV support, there can be only one outcome: OS extinction. This is the path on which FreeBSD is headed.

Re:Why *BSD is dying (-1, Offtopic)

Orgazmus (761208) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073108)

Yeah, I know. Feeding the lameass trolls.

But, I guess you are the one to explain why more and more of my friends are switching from linux to FreeBSD?
I dont think the blame is on SCO.

Interesting but... (5, Interesting)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073078)

This article assumes that the person looking for information already knows other means of finding information. I didn't know about the Who's Who book and even if I did, I might not have one handy. I think these results are a little less than accurate for most people. Also, the author directly phones some people. What if I don't know exactly who to phone? I think Google will win in that case.

Re:Interesting but... (1)

rlafflick (712106) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073163)

The article also doesn't take into account the testers skills at using the web for information as oppposed to going to the library or phone-a-friend as he has always done. The beauty of google also is in the fact that you can get it wrong multiple times and finally get it right and have it before you can get in your car and go to the library. That friend you are calling for answers is also googling it

Looks like we have a problem (2, Insightful)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073180)

Like you said, you didn't know the other places to search for things. My kid sister has the same problem. She doesn't know other places to find information other than the web. This is a shortcoming we now have because we rely to much on one source and grew up doing it.

As far as looking for the information in places other than the net, I found my mom knows all those places and where to find things quickly without the web or google.

Re:Interesting but... (5, Interesting)

NexusTw1n (580394) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073241)

"I didn't know about the Who's Who book and even if I did, I might not have one handy. "
I find it slightly disconcerting that we may be producing a generation that has no research skills bar Google.

When I went to school we were taught library skills, is that still the case, or do teachers assume you are all going to hit google?

Google does not trawl the entire internet, it barely touches it in fact, relying on it for your information, is like relying on the Discovery channels for your education or one station only for your news.

Besides, half the fun of researching in the library is the irrelevant but interesting information you stumble across as you browse!

Re:Interesting but... (2, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073247)

That's what I thought when I read the article.

I bet a normal person would do considerably worse trying to find those answers on the phone than a professional journalist.

The answer to your question... (5, Interesting)

ArbiterOne (715233) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073083)

... is YES. Books on, say, Napoleon, you can find in a library. But ever tried to find, say, ten pages, or even a paragraph, about Napoleon? Especially in a 1200+ page book, or several? Ever tried looking something up in a card catalog? Or finding one sentence in a huge book? The answer to the question in the article is a definite YES.

I know everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073087)

I just memorize everything I ever read. Unless they can develop supercomputers that predict future questions and beam them directly into your brain, my neural functions will be quite a bit faster.

It does have its drawbacks. Memorizing a girl's vitals, including SS#, after glancing at her driver's license, has yet to net me her phone number. *That* I usually have to google for.

How? (3, Interesting)

FreeLinux (555387) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073089)

How does the "Library" provide sub two minute results? The article doesn't say.

The almighty answer (1)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073237)

If you know how to use a library you can find information fairly easily. The hardest part is walking to the different sections. Students today have such a hard time with librarys that my college put a video together for every incoming student and part of a required course teaches you how to find things at a library. There are many different ways. Librarys are a lot more than jsut books, you just have to know how to use it.

Just like there are many computer illiterates, there are library illiterates. They know the basics but not how to really harness the power

No one said google is an encyclopedia... (1)

xot (663131) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073091)

or did they..? :-)
With just a wee bit of ai built into google you cannot expect it to answer questions like those.Of course given a little time goofle will manage to pull it up.

Re:No one said google is an encyclopedia... (1)

noelmarkham (714160) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073150)

The question is asked to a person who uses their skill in using the search engine to get the required answer.
Surely asking a question to a library or a telephone will not answer you back!

Seems to miss the point.... (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073093)

The library may have presented quick results for some things, but they didn't take into account the 30mins it takes me to drive to the library to find the answer, turn around and come home... And most of the friends I would phone to find these things out aren't Journalists or politicians!!

Google Answers (2, Interesting)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073101)

This reminds me, has anyone here used Google Answers [] , and if so what was the result? I'm assuming that their researchers use resources other than the internet.

hmm... (1)

alecks (473298) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073115)

In some of the questions, Google was beat to the answer but even up to 8 min, but I would honestly spend an extra 8 min looking through google results, then drive to my nearest library

What you want, and when you want it... (5, Insightful)

kbsingh (138659) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073116)

The comparison dosent seem to be so much as google / other means - its more of an Online V/s Offline means to search for specific stuff.

I think its wrong to brand Google as the only means to look for information online.

Secondly, the issues that the reviewer raises are also adhoc - they cant be used to generalise the entire deal / spectrum of infomation that people need / want / desire.

Try looking for a code sample that shows you how the GTK# can be used from Mono to display a Multi level Outline filelist. What are the options that you have for this in the Non - Online world ?

The guy already knew who to ask / who to talk to - what if you dont know that - what then ? how do you go about finding the best non-online resource to speak with / enquire from ? My guess is that you are going to be heading right back online.

What about the fact that the online resources / google are avilable to you when you want it - how you want it and where you want it. Ever looked up what a word from the bible meant in the middle of sunday mass at the local church using a Wap phone over gprs at ? Me neither....

Calling people is simply a litle delay (5, Funny)

Jonatan (711478) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073118)

I bet those who he/she called, immediatly fired up google to find the answer ;)

If you know how to use it... (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073119)

Google is much faster than just about anything. I wonder if that guy even knew how to use quotes or -'s

bias in the article? (4, Insightful)

beh (4759) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073129)

After reading the article, I feel there is a slight bias in favour of the libraries when looking at the questions. Of course a library has a master index of books of one author. Or - to find out about some very specific question about an event you immediately know what kind of journals to look in.

The only question really geared for search engines was the Thatcher quote (as that would be a full text search).

Would this be the time to create a true categorisation of questions to be used in comparisons? (Note - not the ACTUAL questions, so that search engines could optimise for them, but only specify the general direction of questions).

I admit, it would be pretty hard to do, but I guess it could be worth the effort...

accurate google results? (1)

sbrowning (97129) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073135)

Speaking of accurate results, I recently tried to get info on 'johan svendsen', a composer circa 1880s from norway.

Google results are completely hacked for this search phrase, all the top results are links to random sites trying to sell you CDs. Since I wasn't searching for some pop musician, I didn't expect to get this type of result. Maybe time to reconsider getting in on that IPO...

Time is the issue... (2, Interesting)

danielrm26 (567852) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073136)

When considering the merit of convential research vs. Google, consider how much time it takes to get to and from the library and/or play phone-tag with receptionists.

To me, and probably most others, time is of the essence when doing searches. Getting a 10% better result in 10% of the cases, at the expense of valuable time, is *not* worth it.

Google is the way, and here's my soon to be revised guide (shameless) to using it more effectively: J: l=en

Google doesn't fare that well (2, Interesting)

millahtime (710421) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073137)

Google doesn't fare that well in a lot of areas. In the test they ran it through goodle faired about equal to the library. Google mat have more searches on technical data but many things such as history the library is a much better source.

What this shows is that google isn't the know all. That when all things are considered there are other places to look for information and some may be better sources. Like the right tool for the right job that is the same here. There is no end all tool.

The tried to fix it! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073139)

They didn't include the travelling time to the library.

Things Failed to be mentioned... (3, Interesting)

Ghengis (73865) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073141)

This article, while interesting, failed to mention several other aspects that, at least for me, make google the best source.

1 When using the phone, there are really two searches. The one you care about, and the one before that where you try to find the correct phon number. This can take quite a while in some instances.

2 I have to leave my house (which could entail getting dressed, which adds more time) and drive 4 minutes to the library. Once I get my online library account through the county, however, this will no longer be a factor :).

3 I actually have to have a conversation with someone on the phone. Google can be a more private experience, which depending on what I'm searching for, can allow me to better focus on finding the information I need.

4 With google and the library, I can have multiple searches running at once. With the phone, I'd have to pay extra per search.

5 With the library and phone, I can only use them during business hours. I can use Google 24/7.

Biased? (4, Interesting)

toesate (652111) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073151)

The article report compare between Google, Phone and Library.

I think this is a biase comparison.

In the phone and library search, it is assumed upon a narrowed subject or particular topic. Where the searcher knows where to look for the _authorative_ answer, for example the title of the particular book to get the answer.

Overall, I think the winner is pretty inconclusive, but it still does shows that Google is a really good search engine - where you can actually find a reasonable result.

Unfair comparisons. (1)

juuri (7678) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073152)

While I realize the story was meant to be a bit tongue in cheek (Calling up friends and such) it saddens me that people assume search engines will work with any old garbage in and hold them to the results given from such searches. Obviously this guy knows the exact right questions and places to query in the library; that sort of knowledge only comes from experience. Unfortunately he hasn't once actually read the advanced search modifiers help for the search engine he is comparing with other mediums where he has much more experience and insight.

For me this again shows the superiority of the present day search engines, you can throw crap in 'em without bothering to check if it is the best way to search for that engine and still almost always beat any other popular method for finding information.

Re:Unfair comparisons. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073254)

actually, maybe he knew a little too much.

he knew Amazon was best for books, but had to use google. so he skipped over google by doing a search for "Piers Morgan" + Amazon.

in a real search he wouldn't have bothered with google at all.

What a stupid idea and guess what the conclusion i (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073154)

OK this is completely ridiculous. For the library they don't even take into account finding the right book you will find this data in, this could even take you hours if you're not familiar with any encyclopedias.

The first question for example: they find almost all the books using google in slightly over 2 minutes. Which is a good result. But then the library result 20sec. Ok fine, but does that take into account, going to the library, finding the book (if you even now that you need Who's Who for starters). I mean google is simple you fire up you browser and type away. Given you still need to verify your information but it still beats driving to the library.

Also to me Google is an easy way to find any type of information, not just on one specific topic. Which is a definit pro.

This all is a bit unrelevant... (5, Interesting)

dot-magnon (730521) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073162)

The methods all have their uses. I don't use google find old classical music scores, but I don't use the library to find recent news stories, software, and such. There's a use for all these things, and it's important to preserve it all.

There's nothing that beats human interaction and direct knowledge in many cases, but people are not there all the time. If I had them right at me, I wouldn't need google. Google (and the library) is a compilation of what a bunch of people once knew, worked on, built further on, et cetera. Now, since it's impossible to reach these people, we wrote books. Books that we can read, to learn what people found out. That has it's value. Now, we can find the book, read about it, even read it, using google, or we could find other information rapidly that the library won't have for a long time - at least not before the next day's newspaper.

After all, the library might even have their search engine against a GoogleServer in the back room :-)

Final point: Cherish all sources of knowledge, and use them appropriately. That will give you the best results.

I know google would be fastest... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073172) lookup the Stephen King obituary.

Google Answers Researcher (5, Interesting)

skermit (451840) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073182)

I'm a researcher with Google Answers [] and it's never a must that we use Google to answer questions that come in. Actually, for one-off's and questions which I know can be answered with a phone call or two, I won't even bother with the internet. Of course, then again, there was that one time [] I called over a hundred different restaurants to see who was serving on Christmas Day. Hah.

Bias? Proof: (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073186)


1min 17sec (1st)

1,201 km (499 km of which is electrified). I type "percentage" as well as "Slovenian railway system" and "electrified". Google isn't playing with that combination at all, so I take out "percentage" and separate "Slovenia". Scanning the results, I choose a site I've visited before: the CIA World Factbook, Washington's greatest gift to the web. I am prepared to trust the CIA on Slovenia. For the time being, anyway.

Verdict: The higher figure attained over the phone may be more up to date


1hr 4min 5sec (2nd, after disqualification of Stephen Moss)

It's 5pm in Slovenia by the time I begin and according to Bo, at the embassy in London, Slovenians go home at 5pm. Sure enough, when I call Bo's number for Slovenian Rail, the phone rings unanswered. So I call him again. He puts in a few calls. I wait. Then he calls back: it's 60-65%, equivalent to 1,200km of track. He stresses that this information is provisional, but I owe Bo a beer.

Verdict: Slow, but perhaps likely to be the latest and most accurate information

Google took 1 minute 17 seconds, with an answer of 1,201km. The verdict is the LARGER number produced by phone is more accurate. Phone's answer: 1,200 roughly (60-65%) and took 1h 5m. It's a smaller number, a rough guess, and took over an hour! How is the phone more accurate again?

Searching skills (4, Insightful)

OblongPlatypus (233746) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073189)

Question 3: Who is the vice chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on back care?

Google - 6min 27sec (3rd)

Quote: "Unfortunately, "back" is rather a common word, and is turning up in all sorts of irrelevant documents..."

Entering "back care" in quotation marks got me the answer in 25 seconds, much less than either of the "offline" sources. If they're going to have an accurate test, at least make sure the person performing it knows how to use a search engine.

Or maybe I'm wrong; maybe most people don't have these basic searching skills, in which case the test is accurate after all?

Re:Searching skills (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073258)

Entering "back care" in quotation marks got me the answer in 25 seconds, much less than either of the "offline" sources. If they're going to have an accurate test, at least make sure the person performing it knows how to use a search engine.

And further up in the article they actually mentioned using quotation marks for exact phrase searches with Google.

Re:Searching skills (4, Funny)

thebra (707939) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073259)

You are correct, most people don't have the skills needed to get accurate results. It drives me nuts trying to watch others use a search engine, the first mistake is they usually type in the address bar.

This doesn't seem right (4, Insightful)

thebra (707939) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073200)

I would think it would take 5 mins just to find the phone number to the library, get some one to answer the phone and then explain the question, PLUS have them search for answer. This also would all depend on the library you call. Google is google no matter where you live, but not every library is staffed when the same people.

Re:This doesn't seem right (1)

krray (605395) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073262)

As previously stated ... learn HOW to use the [various] search engines. I found my public library in under 5 seconds. Shorter than it would take me to pick up the phone and dial 411.

Wikipedia not included (1)

Frans Faase (648933) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073213)

Maybe the should have included an online encyclopedia, such as Wikipedia, in the investigation as well.

Entertaining, but... (2, Insightful)

GreyPoopon (411036) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073215)

Although this article is entertaining, the search results are meaningless. The power of Google is in the fact that I can find something I'm looking for in just a few minutes without having to leave my desk or engage in social pleasantries. To really make the results accurate, you must at least include all the factors that impact the time it takes to arrive at an answer. For calling someone on the phone, you need to add in the time it takes to figure out who to call (maybe they did that). For the Library, you need to add: drive time, time spent waiting for the online (or paper) card catalog to be available, and the time it takes to find an appropriate reference in the catalog and then go get the book or periodical you need. You can't count on people knowing exactly what source of information to use for the facts they want to know.

I believe in using the right tool for the job. If you are in the middle of something at work or at school and need to check on a fact real quick, use Google. If you are doing in-depth research on a topic, you are probably better off first going to the library because it's easier to determine the quality of your source material there. Afterwards, you can supplement with a bit of Googling and you'll probably know whether your search results are useful or pure hogwash. The phone call method? Use that if you're lonely.

Skill has something to do with it too... (2, Redundant)

donny (165416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073217)

For example, on Question 3, "Who is the vice chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on back care?", which took the Googler 6 min, 27 sec, all I did was put "vice chairman" "all-party parliamentary group" "back care" into Google, and got one PDF (well, two, but they were the same).

Instead of loading the PDF (or being confused), I viewed it as HTML, searched for "back care", and had the name of the Vice Chairman (labelled as V.Ch.), Janet Dean, MP. 20 seconds.

But can they use google? (2, Insightful)

Albanach (527650) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073218)

From the article: Question 3: Who is the vice chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on back care? Google - 6min 27sec (3rd)

But if you search google for "vice chairman" "all-party parliamentary group" "back care" you only get two results which are actually for the same document - an alphabetical list of all-party groups. Scroll down to back care and there's your answer. Why would that would take six and a half minutes?

Old movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073230)

That reminds me of an old movie starring Spencer Tracy and Audry Hepburn about a computer replacing a fact research department...

FASTER than my PC on W2K (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073233)

I am a developer, searching stuff with Google is faster than hitting help and search using the MSDN libs.

Yeah...but.... (1)

barchibald (207846) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073235)

The google dude didn't have to leave his home or pick up the phone. Fat-assification and no need social interaction are clear advantages of google...

Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073246)

It may not be perfect, but if you ever find yourself on that show, and all you have access to is a phone call to a friend, you better hope that your friend has a fast internet connection on the other end with Google queued up!

Seriously, though, with the libraries being such good competition, this begs the question: are library electronic "card files" available over the internet? If not, why not? I know that when I was at UC Berkeley years ago, you could telnet into their GLADIS and MELVYL systems remotely to do "card" searches...

Google Is The Bomb.... (4, Interesting)

bobej1977 (580278) | more than 10 years ago | (#9073248)

I think it was a bit unfair in that the library and phone users seemed quite skilled at the use of those respective mediums, whereas a skilled Googler would easily be able to halve those times.

I've often said that I'd have to quit programming if Google ever disappeared. I lean on it for information in the same way that excessively using a calulator will lead you to punching in 1 + 1. In fact, I'm so good at it that people sometimes think I'm a genius problem solver, when really it's just a matter of creative googling on an error message.

My Brain is always Fastest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9073249)

I've searched thru my brain for all these questions and came back with the answer in less than 1 second!!! Nothing can beat that!
BTW, the answer is 42.
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