You Are Google's Guinea Pig, So Get Used to It, Stupid

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You Are Google's Guinea Pig, So Get Used to It, Stupid

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Google People-Watches

Russell says Google "spends many hours in the field, watching people search and listening to what they say as they do this." Such comments bring to mind the phrase, "Big Brother."

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Google <i>Is</i> Making Us Stupid

Nicholas Carr may have been right when he suggested that Google is making us stupider. Russell writes: "We find that searchers often turn so quickly to Google that they don't really think too much about what they're actually searching for." The subtext is less thought and more reliance on Google for information. As an example, Russell noted that one person he shadowed spent 10 minutes searching for a ferry schedule but only thought of adding the word "ferry" later in the search.

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No, We Were Stupid from the Start

Russell inadvertently offers a counterpoint: He argues memories of our own behavior are unreliable, so it is impossible to give an accurate account of what we did or did not see on the results page while actively searching. In other words, we were a few cards short of a full deck from the start, or at least we're mindlessly lazy while we search.

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Field Study Is Essential to Glean Search Intelligence

Russell notes that people's search behavior in the lab is often different from behavior outside the lab because people will work harder to please a researcher. Thus, Google researchers must ignore certain things and rely on field studies for insight into how people search.

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Google Follows the Eyes

Russell says Google tracks searchers' eyes to see how they scan search results. Google has determined that humans execute a very rapid scan and assessment of each result as it is seen. "In those milliseconds between the eye landing on the first fixation and seeing a few results, all kinds of decisions and choices are made-nearly all of them subconsciously."

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Empirical Evidence Shows Google Makes Us Feel Stupid: Old vs. New Adanced Search

Is Google making us stupid or just making us feel stupid? Google's field studies unearthed the idea that many people who went to the previous version of the Advanced Search page were turned off by the page. Russell argues that words and phrases like Domain, Usage Rights and Safe Search can be a bit much if we're not sure what they mean. Why continue doing something we don't understand? Thus, Google makes us feel stupid and we rebel.

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Google Gets Smart, Redesigns Advanced Search

Upon learning why users spurned Advanced Search like a smelly Stilton, Google redesigned the page, removing terms that were unclear to the average user and moving seldom-used features, such as numeric range and date searches, to a part of the page that was expandable with a click. The programmers also put a query builder region at the top of the page, so that as we fill in the blanks, the box at the top of the page fills in with the query that we could type. Again, Google is doing the thinking for us, enabling us to ... anyone? Be stupider! That's right.

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End Result

After Google made Advanced Search easier for us to use, the number of users that left the Advanced Search page dropped significantly, though the number of Advanced Search page users didn't increase significantly, according to Russell. Ultimately, Google expects that more users, who presumably don't want to think a whole lot about search queries, will flock to Advanced Search. Thus, people like it when Google lets them be stupid.

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