Google Master: Teleporting or Orienteering

My boss accuses me of being a Google master. Apparently this means that when she can’t find something using Google, she just sends me a request for the same search and I can come through for her. In fact, she claims that she does the “exact same” search that I do and I get results while she doesn’t. While I don’t believe that is necessarily true, I just read a posting on GigaOM that might shed some light on my “skills” (if, indeed, I have any).

Dating back to 1993, researchers have contrasted information-seeking behavior into two types: teleporting and orienteering. “Teleporting” means you try to jump directly to what you’re looking for (kind of like the “I’m feeling lucky” Google button). However, it could simply mean that you find the exact information you were looking for with a single search, even if it shows up down the list of hits. Orienteering is a “hunting” approach where you use local and contextual information to guide you, step-by-step, to the information you desire.

Anne Zelenka, in her GigaOM posting, illustrates this with an example for Jon Udell:

  1. Find [a New York Times magazine article about Olin College, a clean-slate redesign of an engineering school]
  2. Note the date: Sept. 30, 2007
  3. Search the Times archive for Sept. 30, 2007
  4. Restrict that search to the magazine section

I think that my initial goal of a search is to teleport, but more often than not, I don’t even know what I want to teleport to. My boss expects to jump directly to a paper. When she comes to me, she is more vague and expects me to find a foundation for a particular idea that may be spread out over various papers. Sure, I’ve occasionally had to respond by saying that her criteria is far to general to bring up specific information. But, by and large, I am able to hunt around using clues from previous searches to find what she’s looking for.

My final question is, what do you call a person whose search approach would be categorized as orienteering as opposed to teleporting:

  • Orienteerer (tongue-twister)
  • Orientator (don’t like words ending in tator, makes me hungry for French fries)
  • Orienteerist
  • Orienteerperson (as opposed the non-politically-correct orienteerman and orienteerwoman)

3 thoughts on “Google Master: Teleporting or Orienteering

  1. Orientonomer (think astronomer)
    Orientist (think scientist)
    Orientologist (think cereologist)
    Librarian (think inside the box)

    I like the idea of making the language gender neutral by taking all “man” syllables and replacing them with the phoneme “peep” (think people). So,
    fireman => firepeep
    milkman => milkpeep
    but also
    mailman => peeppeep
    manhole => peephole

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