Came over a little strangely at a meeting in London recently trying to explain how my most recent search engine project for JISC will have “not working” programmed into it. Stuff on the Internet isn’t described clearly enough and searchers don’t really know what it is they want – so let’s stop worrying about it.
It’s my first search system with a ‘philosophy’ rather than a muscular search algorithm. It’s taken me 12 years to finally accept a little rectangular search box is too thin a passageway to transfer our complex aspirations to even the most sentient super-computer search engine.
What I’m saying is Serendipity (making fortunate discoveries while looking for something unrelated) is a fruitful relationship that has always existed betwixt humans and the world they inhabit, and the Internet is just the same. The first library of written work was, in fact, assembled just to make dusting easier, but it became the first in a long line of information Serendipity Engines. But even the mighty Google – the fabulous super-athletic Gatekeeper of humankind’s greatest ever collection of stuff, cannot (yet) read our minds. If you know what you want and how to express it then you’ll get it, but if you don’t Serendipity is there to help.
Somebody, most recently Coldplay, once warned: “…when you get what you want but not what you need…” …then you’ll learn nothing new. So many smarter people than me are trying to achieve the ultimate, to give everybody just what they want every time they ask, even if nobody in that chain even knows what that is. The best of luck but I’m getting off the merry-go-round. So here’s to Serendipity; it gave us Penicillin, it makes us buy crap in supermarkets and it gave us most of the smartest thoughts we ever had.