Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
This is Leo Notenboom for askleo.info.
I often get asked questions that boil down to "how do I get better at using my computer". Many people have a basic level of frustration using their PCs because they can't necessarily find the answers to all the questions they have.
In fact, it's one reason sites like Ask Leo! are so popular.
And that word - find - is the key.
If there were one skill I would recommend that everyone invest in it's using search engines such as Google more effectively.
It's frustrating to watch people take wild guesses of what to search for, and then quickly give up in frustration when their answers aren't at the top of the results. The search engines try to interpret what you're looking for, but they can only go so far. The better you can state your query, the better the results you're going to get.
The most common mistake I see people make? Starting out way too specific by including every term they can think of to narrow down the search from the beginning and then giving up when what they want isn't in the results. Even using a naturally complete phrase or description often results in poor results or missed search engine hits that would have been relevant.
The second most common mistake? The exact opposite: using only one or two words and then giving up after getting lost in a flood of irrelevant results.
Effective searching involves, of course, knowing what to search for - what words and phrases and partial phrases are most likely to get you what you want. But really effective searching also means knowing what to do next. Refining and adjusting searches is as important as that initial search - perhaps even more. It involves understanding just a little bit of how search engines work, and using that knowledge to pick the right things to search for.
And yes, while I've positioned this as a "computer related" skill - it really does apply to anything you might look up on-line, computer related or not.
I'd even go so far as to say that principals of effective searching should be taught in school and made available as an adult education course as well.
It's that important.
There are several on-line resources to get you started, and I've included some links in the notes for this podcast. The problem, though is that many cover only the mechanics of the search engines; how to use various features and options. I'd like to recommend my friend Tara Calishain's excellent book Web Search Garage, which includes a section on searching effectively - exactly what I'm suggesting you learn how to do.
As you probably already know, there's a wealth of information out on the internet - if you can only find it. Searching more effectively will get you there, and get you there with less frustration.
I'd love to hear what you think. Visit askleo.info and enter 11146 in the go to article number box and leave me a comment. While you're there, search over 1,000 technical questions and answers on the site.
Till next time, I'm Leo Notenboom, for askleo.info.
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