Tapping into existing resources
The web is filled with false promises. It is also rife with useful information, neatly organized it and ready to exploit – in the very best sense of the word. To know how to sift between the great the the awful requires savvy, and an understanding of tapping into existing resources. So many real opportunities fall by the wayside, simply because of a failure of communications between the supply side and the demand side.
Consider the (now) old gripe that these days, all you have to do to find the answer to any question, is to “google” it. While it is not true, it still makes some people feel a certain lost naivete about life. All the same, it should not be misread: You really can find a great deal of information online.
Of course, anyone reading this, already knows that the web has the world’s largest public collection of data ever created by mankind. The challenge is: What do you do with that sort of access to so much knowledge?
Tip: The quality of the life you lead is often associated with the quality of the questions you ask.
Think about that for a minute. If you spend your life asking questions about one subject, you may well end up knowing quite a substantial amount about that subject. If you tend to ask smart, thoughtful, probing questions, you will tend to get responses in kind. If you tend to ask really simple questions and stick only to those, you will tend to get only simple answers back. This concept is very much what the half-joking phrase “Garbage in, garbage out” expresses, in so many words.
So, how do you know what’s useful and what’s garbage?
How do you know how to ask your questions?
What method do you use to sort out good information from bad information?
If these seem like very basic questions anyone should know, then congratulations. You have a leg up on all the people alive right now that have no idea that these questions about questions even exist.
When it comes to information retrieval on the Internet, you should know these are the very basic free resources most commonly used for all nature of general information processing.
Of these well-known sites:
1) Three (Google, Yahoo, Bing) of them are mainly popular as search engines
2) Two of them (Yahoo and Bing) are essentially merging more and more into one entity.
3) One one of them (Facebook) is (at press time) mainly known as the world’s largest social networking website.
4) The other mainly social media entity among them is Twitter, which, while it may contain vast amounts of time-sensitive useful information, also is the cause for some of the largest amounts of junk information. About half (or more) of all Twitter accounts are believed to be non-human accounts, robot accounts, spam accounts, fake accounts, throwaway accounts, etc.
5) The last one is a major storage database of historical and current content published online.
Note that I am not linking to these above sites, except for The Internet Archive, because for those other sites, you can typically just type their names into your browser, or probably just click a button in your browser somewhere, to get to them.
Also at press time, about half of the world’s searches were conducted on Google, and Facebook and Twitter amounted for a huge chunk of the remaining half, mostly dwarfing even the largest search engines that compete for a slice of Google’s market share.
What makes these giant repositories of information so useful? Well for one thing, they are free. What’s more, they each offer their own flavors of organizing and presenting information, even if they all have some similarities. Their user experience with their interfaces are built since many years, by professional information designers, webmasters, graphics designers, and unfortunately too many people in board rooms with no clue about design or form or function. Luckily, the people who actually code the site are often much smarter than their bosses who order them to carry out their plans. And so it is that many of the best web sites, are those where the engineers, db administrators, coders, designers, and other technically savvy people actually put together useful resources that anyone can exploit and contribute to, freely.