Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Acton Problem: Query vs Browse

Acton MBA - Get a great start on a great obituary
When searching for information, it is common to search using a search engine and browse to a final destination. About the only time you don't do this is if you take information straight from a snippet (the abstract provided with the search engine results). A distinction to keep in mind is that querying always depends on a search engine and database while browsing depends on a live Web page.

It's usually easier to retrieve results by querying rather than browsing. Browsing, in my opinion, involves more guesswork and the clues available are harder to follow to a destination.

Today I was searching for entrepreneurship programs that may serve as models for the TALENT program at IMSA. In the process, I came across the Acton MBA in Entrepreneurship. I wasn't familiar with Acton and was curious where it was located. Scanning the home page I could find no clues as to its physical address. That's not unusual. Links like Contact Us or About Us often contain email addresses, phone numbers and street addresses. But not this site.

The physical location doesn't just leap off the page at you. For a while I was wondering why the school wouldn't want to be found. Was it another elusive, Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus? And what's with that image? (I found the graphic shown above while image-searching Acton MBA.)

The location can be found with careful reading and I did find it after a few minutes of browsing (I missed at least one reference by not being careful). And I probably visited 10 pages before I recognized the name of a city. Along the way I found a brochure showing renderings of their new campus, including the skyline of an unfamiliar city. (Some of you will recognize because you've been there.)

That's where I found clues that I could include in a query. The name of a lake and the name of a street. Either proper noun combined with Acton leads to a solution.

Eventually I found at least three pages on Acton's site that mentioned the city. Never the state, however.

If you have a couple of minutes you might like to try finding the city and state in which this organization is found. See if you can find it by browsing or would a query have been easier?

The Acton Challenge


dlibrarian said...

I concur that our youth are not information fluent. Perhaps this is an outgrouwth of using the Internet for entertainment purposes which seems to outweigh using it for verifiable information.

InformationFluency said...

That's a good point. There are multiple purposes for using the Internet. Today I was shopping online--there the stakes are considerably higher than if I just want to stumble upon things or use it for watching videos or listening to music. Before I placed my order, I comparison shopped and then checked out the sellers' reputations and related postings. Took some time, but I'm more confident I got the best deal from a reliable source.

I'd recommend the same thing to anyone who wants to 'invest' seriously in information.