With every answer, search reshapes our worldview

Our search engines tried to impose structure and find relationships using mainly unintentional clues. You therefore couldn’t rely on them to find everything that would be of help, and not because the information space was too large. Rather, it was because the space was created by us slovenly humans.

Source: Weinberger, D. (2017). With every answer, search reshapes our worldview.

Interesting article on how search algorithms have changed as the web has grown in scale. In the beginning, we got results that were determined by precision and recall  (although optimising for one meant reducing the importance of the other). Then relevance became necessary to include as the number of possible results became too large i.e. when you have 100 000 articles that match the topic, the search engine must decide how to rank them for you. Over time, interestingness was another concept that was built into the algorithm; it’s not just that the results should be accurate and relevant, but they should be interesting too.

Currently, there’s interest in serendipity, where search engines return results that are slightly different to what you’re looking for and may serve to provide an alternative point of view (but not so different that you ignore it) and so avoid the filter bubble. As we move forward, we may also begin seeing calls for an increase in the truthfulness of results (which may reasonably be called quality). As I said, it’s an interesting article that covers a lot with respect to how search engines work, and it useful for anyone who has ever told someone to “just Google it”.


Chromium: changing the default keyword search

I just came across a pretty cool feature of Chromium…keyword searches.  I know that this idea isn’t new, and now that I know about it, it’s clearly documented in the Google Chrome help pages, but I’ll put up some screenshots anyway.

You begin by typing the URL of the site you’re going to (Chromium will suggest the search you might be looking for):


Press Tab to bring up the site specific search option in the address bar:


Chromium will a few suggestions that might be useful to you:


I noticed that Chromium tells you it’s using a keyword to make the suggestion, which made me think that there must be a way to edit your preferences for what the keyword for each site should be.  A short search later showed that it’s actually pretty easy (although not necessarily intuitive) to edit the keywords.  Right click anywhere in the address bar and choose “Edit search engines”.  In the screenshot below you can see that I’ve changed my keyword for a Wikipedia search from, to wp.


You can find some more useful tips on working with Chromium at The power users guide to Google Chrome, from Lifehacker.

conference physiotherapy

SAAHE conference 2009

I’ve noticed that I’m getting a few hits from search engines with people searching for “SAAHE”, so I can only assume that with the conference coming up in a few months time, interest is on the rise.  The SAAHE conference is an annual meeting of the South African Association of Health Educationalists in Cape Town (I always thought “Educators” would be better, but who am I to judge).

I’m busy putting together an abstract for a presentation that I’d like to give at the conference, but can’t decide what I want to talk about.  In the physiotherapy department at my university, we’re using blogs for reflective practice in the ethics module that I teach, wikis for collaborative group assignments in applied physiotherapy, Google Docs for collaborative authoring and peer review both within the physiotherapy department and in the faculty journal, Twitter and Google Docs with undergraduate research groups and finally, a comparison of the use of social media in education among South African and American undergraduate physiotherapy students.

With all of that on the table, it’s difficult to choose a favourite.  Maybe “An overview of the use of social media for education in a South African physiotherapy department”?  That way I get to talk about them all 🙂

Here’s a link to the conference site: