COLLEGE PARK, Md. – As online search tools are refined and developed, it becomes increasingly important to learn how to learn, Google’s head of search quality and user happiness told about 200 faculty, staff and students at the University of Maryland.
“Metaskills of the future” should include how to manage attention; research; search online; and assess the credibility of information found online, Dan Russell told a standing-room-only crowd Friday at the Inn & Conference Center.
“I want you to stay in touch with what’s coming out, what’s available, and what’s new,” Russell said. “I am trying to effectively move our conversation from a prediction about what the future is going to be, to thinking about how we can make us all better consumers and users of it.”
The future of information delivery is social — well beyond Facebook and Twitter — fast, dense, evolving and local, Russell told the interdisciplinary crowd.
Google has determined that about 162 million books have been published in the history of the planet. So far, it has scanned and made searchable about 15 million books, he said.
Users’ easy and quick access to information is changing conversations, and changing the tone and outcome of meetings, Russell said. “The speed of intellectual work speeds up,” he said.
As search engines evolve, so too must the way we ask and frame questions, he said. He said his young son was able to find something he had thought was unfindable: a song played at Stanford athletic events. His son searched on the first line of the lyrics, which ran something like “oh, oh, oh, oh,” Russell said. “I was functionally fixated,” on old search techniques, he said. “My son wasn’t.”
To be search literate, he said, we need to be educated enough to know what’s out there. Three-D models of cathedrals and other notable architecture can be found on Google, he said. Long-gone neighborhoods can be found through a time-slider on Google earth, he said.
Despite the advances, he said, some questions are still very difficult to frame, and some information is still hard to find–such as the population of Japan in 1490.
In his role as head of user happiness at Google, those may be issues he’ll have to tackle.
He said he has learned that happiness is linked to the speed in which a person is able to do a basic search on the Internet.
–By Rabiah Alicia Burks, with Chris Harvey