Thursday, June 12, 2008

McAfee and the Search Experience

Andrew McAfee, Professor, Harvard Business School and noted advocate of Enterprise 2.0, offered an interesting example of information seeking.from his personal experience. Searching for a known item on a brand-name information service and on Google scholar, he was amazed to learn that he was more successful in his objective on Google Scholar than on the brand-name information platform. His point was that the current user experience with regard to information retrieval was incredibly frustrating and that the alternatives provided by organizations like Google or Wikipedia will inevitably be more successful over the long term because they offer a more satisfactory user experience.

McAfee suggests that expert, authoritative, and perfect are slippery concepts. He agrees that “Good enough” is not necessarily appropriate for all information queries; one might want a cardiologist to only accept the best answer. Name-brand information providers need to understand that improving the user experience is imperative. Google forgives his stupidity; his query structure need not be perfect to retrieve an answer. Google offers convenience in the sense of not requiring a sign-on or any form of authentication. Google can offer the power of serendipitous discovery. He sees the dynamism of Google's changing results as a positive thing as in fact information is not necessarily static.

The overwhelming message from McAfee was that whether one was discussing search on the local intranet, search on an advanced information service platform, or search for a simple information need, the current approaches in use by providers are failing the user. Rising populations of knowledge workers who have grown up with the Web and Google will not be satisfied with the current offerings and as McAfee points out, will walk with their feet.

Dave Kellogg has fantastic coverage of McAfee's talk here.

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