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More About Search

(October 05, 2007) The other night, I watched a couple of kids sort through their Pokemon Cards. They were hunting through thousands of cards to find a specific X level card (a Torterra Level X with very amazing powers). The way that they approached the search was very interesting.

(Pokemon cards are like baseball cards. Pokemon is a Japanese phenomenon that includes hundreds of uniquely identifiable characters. Most American children are introduced to Pokemon through GameBoy. It started out as a card game and then became a full media franchise with video, electronic games, websites, music and newsletters.)

The stack of Pokemon cards is somewhere between 10 and 12 inches tall.

If I had to find a specific card, I'd probably begin by organizing all of the cards in some relative order. They could be organized by number, by name, by color or by type. My search strategy would almost always include organizing as a fundamental part of the strategy.

In part, I'd be hoping to stumble on the target of my search as a byproduct of organizing the cards. In fact, if it were my set of cards, they'd probably already be organized. (But that's just a piece of who I am and not a generic search strategy.)

The kids had a wildly different approach. They threw all of the cards all around the room and then scooted around to look at the surface of the search. This surface area search strategy is not yet possible using internet tools. It was faster than my standard approach because it didn't waste time on overhead but went directly to visual search.

People are really good at seeing things. Organizing is a second level skill that may or may not be useful in a world where 50,000,000 (the number of resumes) or 1,000,000,000,000 (the number of websites) is the universe in which search happens.

One thing is really, really clear. Our current concepts of search, and the way that results are achieved, are going to be undergoing significant transformations. The current orientation towards google-like results is a transitional and primitive phase. Let's learn about the other tools.

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