Friday, November 4, 2011

Seeing the Not So Obvious

I love this sign. I first came across it yesterday as I was trying to find a Prezi on 'achieving information fluency' I thought I had uploaded. Here's the file I was trying to find, but in the process I searched Prezi for the title and found this instead. If imitation is flattery, I'm pleased to see our Model of Digital Information Fluency being replicated on the Web, albeit a bit deconstructed and the source not cited (tsk, tsk, tsk)*.

But back to the picture. It seems an appropriate metaphor for the type of skimming that untrained searchers do. Notice I didn't say 'students.'

Almost any Web page has information clues that may be valuable, but go overlooked because something else obscured the clues or made the information seem irrelevant. That's the message of the sign. If you can't read it, the small print at the bottom says "Also the bridge is out ahead."

Elsewhere I've likened this carelessness to prospecting for gold and leaving nuggets lying on the ground in plain sight.

Whether it's information about ownership or authorship, freshness, structure, purpose, accuracy, bias, etc., there are clues to be found.

Starting to see the not-so-obvious is sure to involve the following:
  • read with purpose - does the information match expectations or the reason you clicked on the page?
  • slow down - sifting through mountains of details is something that would seem to take speed, but it may take longer because of overlooked information;
  • don't let the obvious stuff distract you, stay on track (n.b. - there is a counter-argument that I subscribe to when the purpose is creativity and inventiveness (in that case distractions may help);
If you have a fourth point to add to this list, I'm open to it. Comments please.

Here's a Challenge to test that hypothesis. Try the Broadway Challenge: Find the URL of a site that lists the number of shows to open on Broadway since (and including) 1984.

Google some keywords (e.g., Broadway shows 1984) and skim the first page of results. The answer is there. Do you see it?  What clues give it away?

This Challenge used to be a lot harder when it was first created. Back then you had to find a database of Broadway shows. That's no longer necessary.

* As for the origin of the sign, of which there are many copies online, any clues?

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