The Human Side of Search

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9-3 search
We recently introduced an upgraded, internal (“Intranet”) search capability, and it created something I did not expect: a stronger sense of community.

This new corporate search engine makes knowledge available to the UMT team by drilling into the trio of content – the heart of the user’s search; permissions – the way that the organization chooses to offer specific content to specific audiences; and metadata – data about the document itself.

I initially did not ascribe much value to that third one, which includes things like the size of a searched file, how many pages it has, and what format it uses. However, one of the metadata elements is the name of the document’s author. When I started to use the search engine, I read the title of the document and decided whether to open it or not. When I found a document that fits my needs – one that provided an interesting chart or offered a new insight, as minor as it might be – I felt satisfied. Yet somehow, unconsciously, the author’s name was retained in my mind. After a while, I realized that I do notice this piece of metadata, and soon enough I found myself searching for those particular authors that produce great stuff.

It did not take much time before the documents I opened started to have a sound track. Now that I knew the author’s name, I started to feel as though the author was talking to me. Every page became not just a set of information, but rather peer advice, almost like a recommendation from a friend. The search became enjoyable. It made me feel part of an even broader network. Suddenly, opening a shared document had another dimension. It became an intimate interaction with a team member on a subject we were mutually interested in. I started to imagine how my peer was thinking when he/she created the slide or chart, and I imagined how he/she might have presented it.  I felt like I could better access the thinking that went into creating the document. And when I started talking to the screen and commenting on the content of the document as if my buddy was in front of me rather than just the computer – the search became is as good as it could get.

I had never considered this side of the search – the enjoyment derived from the process. So, to my UMT teammates – thank you all for your contributions, and keep them coming! If others feel the same way as I do, then we are creating virtual communities – and that is a powerful thing.