Sunday, February 10, 2008

Maximizing Internet searches in quest of knowledge Pt I

With the overwhelming wealth of information floating in cyberspace, I am often amazed how this intellectually rich and resourceful environment is under-utilized. I remember the days when research was leafing through book, after book or encyclopedia indexes in quest of information on a particular subject. At times we spent days, even weeks trying to find the information needed, comparatively speaking with today where, researching any given subject is often accomplished in a matter of hours.

With the advent of the Internet along with its wealth, finding information these days on a particular subject should be child's play, or is it? What tools are we missing that we still can't find what we are looking for albeit; it is more than likely contained in cyberspace. Having established that the information is contained in cyberspace, how do we retrieve it? Well hopefully this article will assist you in maximizing the power of search engines in order to facilitate retrieval of the information sought.

Some basics
We all know that a computer is basically just a giant calculator for the lack of a better word. It doesn't understand plain English, French, Italian, or any other language for that matter. It communicates with numbers, more specifically ones, zeros, or a combination thereof. It doesn't comprehend intent, only the numerical equations submitted via the input from carbon based interface, you. So how do we maximize the use of a computer in our quests for information? Well I guess we can start by learning its language, or better yet how it interprets what our requests are. My father had an old saying "garbage in, garbage out". So at this point you may ask what does this have to do with bonsai? Nothing! You may leave now or you may choose to read on.

Maximizing your Internet experience
We have established that cyberspace contains a wealth of information at our fingertips. How does one maximize retrieval of this information?

Research is a lost art to many these days. We are living in a society that not only thrives on instant gratification but one that expects maximum results from minimum effort. We seek answers to our questions and expect these answers to be forthcoming by a mere click of a mouse. Are we seeking answers or information? To me there lies a great divide between the two. In my opinion one seeks information from the Internet whilst discussion groups and forums provide answers. Is there a difference between the two avenues? Yes there is. Which one in your opinion will generate the best result?

It could be said that targeting a specific group, which deals with the subject at hand, will answer all our questions on a given subject. Are they answering our questions or merely adding to the confusion? More often than not, ill prepared individuals will find themselves in a state of total confusion after these altercations, one in which generated more questions than answers. So how can we maximize these experiences to the benefit of all? Through the judicious questions one asks search engines, vice generalities. Here are sample questions:

- Fertilizers
- Fertilizing bonsai
- How do I fertilize my bonsai? (Forums)
- "Understanding fertilizers" "composition of fertilizers" etc...

In your opinion which one will provide the best results? Which one better describes the information sought? When I research a subject, I have found that the greatest results are provided with the use of the last question, or a combination thereof, why? Because…

Question one in my opinion is too broad and will provide useless information at best. As we know every single page containing the word "fertilizer" will come up as a result. Some information may be of value, but very little at best.

The second question is a little more specific and will render good results, without the enormous amount of hits the first question generated. It will often lead you to bonsai forums, where a search on that forum will render similar results as question one, but at least it will be bonsai related. However, is there a better way?

The third question is targeted to a specific audience and will provide favourable results, providing the question is clear enough. One will find that such a question will generate discussion with good information, provided everyone understood what you are seeking. The answers provided would be specific to the question(s) you have asked.

The fourth question is the one that will provide you with the greatest amount of quality information, once again in my opinion. It is general, not tailored towards a targeted audience, but specific enough that it should answer all your questions. Why? Aren’t the reasons you asked the question in the first place, was to understand how and what fertilizers to use, and how they affect our trees? This is known as defining/refining a search. The computer knows exactly what you want and will quest cyberspace for the information, in a fashion not unlike a trusty retriever.

Post research
Undoubtedly your research answered allot of questions, on the other hand it probably raised some. This is a common occurrence and a by-product of research. What the research provided you with is a good foundation in generating more refined questions in order to cull the collected data. The purpose behind these subsequent dissections is to discard superfluous information, leaving you with a good foundation to later engage a targeted audience in an informed manner, which again in my opinion will provide you with a positively more enjoyable and informative experience.

It could be argued that hitting a given forum would have rendered similar results. I personally doubt it because we have seen it time and time again where it has indeed failed. Why is that?

More often than not, information seekers aren’t prepared to receive the information although they have asked a question. Once again why is that? In my opinion they failed to build a required database in order to decipher the given information into intelligible results. These research sessions take far less time, than research sessions of yesteryear. Are we that pressed for time that we don't have the time to do it properly?


How do I fertilize my bonsai?
You may use any fertilizer with a balanced NPK, provided it is used in accordance with the manufacturers recommended dosage and frequency.

What is NPK?
I rest my case!

I have often heard that cyberspace is but a collection of unedited and inaccurate data, and more often than not totally useless for research. Are we to believe that this is the norm or the exception. If one has conducted their research thoroughly, with specific targeted questions, it isn't long before any given uninformed but intelligent individual has the ability to decipher between the chaff and the wheat. I believe the Internet has provided an open means of identifying inaccurate data, vice promoting it. I have several edited and published references that contain inaccurate information. Should we now stop buying reference material?


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