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The Brutality of Search

17 Jan

I have to thank Oleg Shilovitsky for the title.  In a comment in Jim Brown’s blog “A Maturity Model for Product Data Accessiblity?”, Oleg stated:

Think about differences between Google and Facebook. FB provides an additional angle of data access for individuals by trying to reduce “noise effect” created by brutality of search. 

The term set my head spinning.  I told Oleg I would use it (steal it)!

Two events, one historical, one personal, came to mind:

In 1948, Thomas E. Dewey and Harry S. Truman were locked in a battle to become President of the United States.  Truman was elected, and the most famous photograph of the campaign shows an elated Truman holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune, with the headline “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN”.  The trusty pollsters working for the Trib did a telephone canvas and determined that Dewey would win by a landslide.   Truman was elected, predominantly we assume, by people who had no telephones…

In 1960, my baby sister was born.  As she moved from infant to toddler, we noticed that she wasn’t speaking (In a loud Italian family with 6 kids, that could be easy to miss).   After conferring with family doctors, my parents loaded us in the car and we drove down to Baltimore to visit a world renown expert in Aphasia at Johns Hopkins.  He thoroughly tested Cathy, and diagnosed Aphasia.  He pronounced that she could hear, but not speak.  My parents enrolled Cathy in a school that specialized in this condition. 

We found out later that Cathy was hearing-impaired.  She was bright and precocious, and seemed to ‘anticipate’ what the expert was looking for at Johns Hopkins.  I believe this was not difficult, because he already KNEW what he was looking for.  He was looking for Aphasia!

The moral of the story? 

You will find what you are looking for.  Not necessarily the truth.

-RTR