What Was the Question Again?

A tall, blond, blue-eyed student came up to me at the Information Desk a few weeks ago and asked, “Do you use a stapler?”

Uhh, yes… I use a stapler… But the librarian in me kicked in and after a little probing, I discovered that the young man wanted to use our stapler.

There was an interesting article on the quality of information in the Internet and the use of semantic technology. Basically, it is about how semantic technology could be used to search and retrieve quality information. In my work, I am constantly trying to teach students how to discern quality information or sources of information. If I want to find the location of the nearest post office, I would certainly hope to get the correct address, an updated map, the buses that get there, the post office’s opening hours and perhaps a little help on what landmark to watch out for before I press the bell (yah, I get disoriented very easily). Ask anyone who has been using the Internet, how to locate the nearest post office, and they will give their fave site for locating places. They don’t tell you how to search. The search itself is never the issue. It is figuring out which site would give you what you want that counts.

Yes, of course, the search engine still matters. Yet, I am wondering about the questions we ask.

“Do you have annual reports?” is usually translated to “Do you have 10 years of Sales Turnover of XYZ Co.?” We get that a lot.

The article I mentioned tells us that “the underlying idea behind semantic technology is to teach computers how the world operates”, my question is do we even know how the world operates?

  1. Hmmm… I read that article in the Straits Times yesterday. And your question is pertinent indeed.

    I’ve never bought the idea that the future of the web is in semantic search. It’s a lot easier to teach people to ask the right questions.

  2. Author The Naked Librarian

    Teaching people how to ask questions is one tough one. How we ask questions depends very much on how our old noggin is wired through culture, years of learning a specific way, personality, etc. TNL read a couple of articles related to this last weekend. Will be posting soon.

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