Rant: You Need To Google It.... Please

Frustrating and avoidable.

It's far too common and far too easy to fix.

Too many people, faced with a problem or question, do not look it up online. Whether it be finding a phone number or a camera specification or how to troubleshoot an application, most information is available with less than a minute of searching.

Whether it's googling some general piece of information, finding restaurant info on yelp or tripadvisor, surveillance information on IPVM, etc., the information is typically within reach.

Instead, people bang their head against the wall, trying to no avail to solve it themselves or ask other people to solve it for them (who then typically look it up online) or, worst of all, just give up.

It is primarily bad habits, that is my theory at least. I hope this is taught in elementary school today but for the vast majority of working people, this was not available / applicable.

Ask yourself: When you hit a problem or have a question, do you look it up online? How long do you wait to do so?

If you don't do it immediately, try it, force yourself to do it, and your productivity will improve greatly.

On the other end of the spectrum, aside from Yahoo'ing it (my preferenace), it's amazing to me how difficult it is to get some people to call tech support after a web search fails, like they're conditioned to think that is their only option.

On the other hand, I am sure a lot of tech support calls would not be needed if they simply looked it up online. I suspect that's why so many support lines repeatedly emphasize their website during the on hold audio recording.

Yes, that's the most common problem aspect, is people not making enough use of online info which many times solves the issue faster. I was just presenting another weird phenomenon I've noticed which always confounded me. Similar to how at my old job at a newspaper, many bad monitors were often thrown away without checking if it was under warranty. (Many times it was.) I think that is a actually a related issue maybe due to a lack of comprehensive thinking.

One of the problems with Googling/Yahooing/Binging/etc. most basic problems is that unless you're very careful with your search terms, you'll end up with dozens if not hundreds of hits, most unrelated to your issue, and probably even a few porn hits (those guys are masters of SEO). It can become very frustrating, very quickly, to try to sift through those results to find something actually helpful... and so it's just easier to call tech support, where (presumably) the person at the other end can parse your query more effectively than some web search engine.

Also, with more proprietary or "non-common" systems, finding useful info in the wild may be tricky as well, as most of the good stuff is locked in manufacturers' knowledgebases. Try searching in Google for help with Vigil DVRs and most of the results will probably be posts of mine... not very helpful if I'm the one looking for info!

Of course, when you DO call tech support, you're typically faced with the other frustration: first-level plebes reading from their script of things you've already tried six times. "Have you tried turning it off and back on again? Have you tried rebooting the router? Can I get you to stand on one foot and sing "Danny Boy" while thumbing your nose at the dog?"

Agreed, Matt. Yahoo'ing (bend to my will) or any web searching is almost an art sometimes; knowing how to put in a phrase or include/exclude key words. Kind of like when we learned Boolean in school.

Everyone should have a bookmark for a "Google tips and tricks" article (or Yahoo, as the case may be). Unfortunately a lot of people never learned Boolean either, so grasping some of those tricks may not come easy.

Matt, you get porn sites in your search results? What are you searching for?

I search for lots of basic things and the answers are almost always readily available, though presumably it depends on what considers 'basic'.

I agree, though, that advanced / niche knowledge can be hard or not possible to find but, in my experience, most issues can be resolved with searching, either on a general search engine or to specific sites that specialize in the topic you are interested in.

Matt, you get porn sites in your search results? What are you searching for?

"Camera"? ;)

I search for lots of basic things and the answers are almost always readily available, though presumably it depends on what considers 'basic'.

Finding "answers" is one thing. Finding the RIGHT answer can be a whole other thing. As an example: I tried googling the location of the hard reset jumpers for a specific older motherboard I was working on, since there was nothing actually labeled as such on the board (I've been building systems for a LONG time, so I have a fair idea what to look for anyway; there was nothing obvious in this case). I Googled the board make and model number, and "reset jumper". I got tons of hits on assorted hardware forums (Tom's, etc.), a couple from the manufacturer further down the list, and a few from online vendors (NewEgg, Amazon, etc.)

The vast majority of the results included references to the two terms, but not together. A few were general discussions of how to reset BIOSes, with maybe one or two mentions of the board in question in the course of discussion, but nothing detailing exactly where those jumpers were for THAT board. And one hit had the board model included in a poster's signature, but that was it.

The manufacturer's site, in this case, was painfully slow, and the links to download the manuals consistently gave me errors. I finally found a working link for the manual far down the list, in a small online reseller's support section.

Of course this is kind of an extreme case, and it was helped by the fact I had an idea what result I was looking for, so I could scan the results and eliminate several links myself. For the average barely-computer-literate user though, it can get very frustrating, very quickly, to just start working through links and scanning page after page of technobabble.

I agree, though, that advanced / niche knowledge can be hard or not possible to find but, in my experience, most issues can be resolved with searching, either on a general search engine or to specific sites that specialize in the topic you are interested in.

True, especially if the sites have their own search boxes, so once you find a site that you THINK SHOULD have what you need, you can enter a refined query there and not have to worry about results from completely unrelated sites.

My first source for info without question is a google search and google is really the only engine. My phone has access to more information than any library in the world and it is a resource that I rely on daily if not hourly. I almost never if ever get missed hits by porn when searching unless it is intentional. Just about every PDF manual or doc you would need is available online in unless it is something out of the ordinary.

If the product in question is something of limited distribution via a dealer only channel and they don't have a hot shot tech support team or dealer web portal then they aren't worth your buisness. Information and quick access to it is powerful whether it being via an online search OR a fast access tech team. I really dislike having to go through anybody with a tiered support system too. If I'm calling I need real help not a monkey reading out of a manual. Hello! I can read too! I think I might start another topic on this?

Of course not everything is available online but downloading a manual or a quick search for answers should be the first course of action before even dialing that number (which I quckily find after an online search)

Your point is valid, but as someone that came from the manufacturing side of things I will say that I'm astonished at how many calls do come into tech support from people that could be solved through the very basic troubleshooting steps. Even with a quick start guide with big letters and pictures included in the box is thrown away and ignored all too often. Believe me...those tier 1 tech support folks are annoying to those that use the resources available, but they're there because way too many lazy installers ignore it and just call tech support. After all...they're getting paid by the hour, so what's the incentive to do it the quick way?

Which brings up another (only slightly related) point -- why don't more integrators actually use the surplus margin in jobs to create an incentive program for their operations folks? This is something that is typically adjusted in the sales folks compensation when they don't have anything to do with the final bid (in my past, operations / engineering had to sign off on every bid to make sure that nothing was missed). If the job goes well, the sales person gets a higher commission, but if it goes wrong, they get less. To an installer, though, they get paid by the hour regardless, so more hours = more pay and more work.

Why not put a program together that requires operational sign off on every job, then any add'l profit that's earned from coming in under hours or what not is used for tech & engineering bonuses? That way, sales isn't benefitting more or less for an aspect of the job they're powerless over, and operations / technical staff have some skin in the game with the ability to earn bonuses?

Just my 2 cents...

NOTICE: This comment has been moved to its own discussion: Why Not Bonus Techs/Operations For Coming In Under Budget?

...unless you're very careful with your search terms, you'll end up with dozens if not hundreds of hits, most unrelated to your issue, and probably even a few porn hits...

True. What looks to be an insignificant change in word order can have qualitatively different outcomes. For example, non-ornithologists might shy away from seemingly prurient exact phrase search of "pair of great tits" (no snickering), even though it is actually a safe and common and query for those engaged in birdwatching.

If, on the other hand, you move the third term to the front of the phrase instead (not recommended), you will find your research made much more difficult, as you are forced to sift thru hundreds of mostly non-relevant items...

So you are telling me your searches accidently yet commonly return pornography?

No, it's actually saying the reverse, something that you would expect to return porn actually does not.

But it's not about porn per se, it's illustrative of how two different orderings of terms, either of which your average Joe would find virtually identical in meaning, can lead to disjoint and confusing result sets.

Which can lead to Joe being frustrated depending on which one he was to randomly choose. The decreases his confidence in his search-ability and can lead to his reliance on yours.

Granted there are those people who will not even try to Google something at all, like my mother, but more often people will say to me "It's not in Google" or "It's not in Wikipedia" and then throw their arms up.

Since you qualified the post as a "Rant", you are of course allowed some hyperbole, but do you really know a lot of people "banging their heads against the wall" before "just giving up"?

IMHO, the people who ask someone else don't 'bang their heads', they just automatically pick up the phone, and if no one helps them, then they search...If they can't find anything, that's when the real head banging and phone ringing begins...

But it's not about porn per se, it's illustrative of how two different orderings of terms, either of which your average Joe would find virtually identical in meaning, can lead to disjoint and confusing result sets.

This is exactly what I tend to find. Sometimes a plain English phrase returns more useful results (such as John's "what is the current time in Zimbabwe?"), sometimes I find it works better to start with the most relevant words to my search, then add "modifiers" to try to narrow it down. Often it only takes reversing two words to produce better (or worse) results. Sometimes more words is better, sometimes it just creates more confusion.

It becomes second nature once you start to become proficient...

This is something that was taught to librarians and corporate researchers years ago, but as you say should be taught in school at a young age vs. posting on social media sites....waiting on hold for an answer should be enough of a deterrent/incentive.

I think the older generation were faced with less access to available data. There is also the aspect of pride that comes into it. "I am the expert so I must solve it no matter how long it takes"

I am always impressed not with the amount of data avaialble online but that people have gone out of their way to document it.

In my work, I do not waste time. I allready have a full plate. If I have a problem and the answer requires me to find people or read books, my first point of contact is google, if its in my face I take advantage of it, if its not then I go thru the flow and find it with what resources are available to me.

Whoa whoa whoa! You are stealing my thunder man. People think I am a genius that gets things done in no time. Once my secret is out I will probably have to get a real job.

Lol, fortunately, I think your competitive advantage will hold for a long time....

I'm in the same boat! I don't have all the answers. I just have resources to find them. Google, IPVM, a network of colleagues.

People are always surprised when I just type exactly what we are talking about and don't know into Google and the right answer comes up in the first three results 99% of the time. There's no secret chant required...just type "best hot dogs in allentown pa" or "is google satellite view really satellite images?" into the box and go.

I've long maintained, being an "expert" in a subject includes knowing who to ask when YOU don't know the answer :)

Who said, "The key to true wisome is realizing that we truly know nothing at all"? Might have worded that wrong, but it has stuck with me for years. Simple but deep. Also, I'm convinced that I coined the term, "Common sense isn't that common", but I'm sure someone beat me to it years ago.

When I get people asking silly things (usually by email), I will respond with a link to http://lmgtfy.com/ It helps get the point across how simple it really is...

Try this one for example: http://bit.ly/1At26eo

You're in good company.

It's snarky but yeah, I know the feeling...

See also: http://bit.ly/thDXg5


I have the solution: http://bit.ly/1McQ6Wt


Seriously, in defense of the googleless masses, sometimes the question is harder than the answer. Once you know the right terms for what you are talking about, bingo!

I was looking for category cable splicing techniques the other day and thought I had seen most all of them. Then Ethan posted a 'consolidation point' connection, and I found several new products, just using that term. Mainly because those mfrs. don't usually like using the word splice anywhere around their reputable product. So you need to try many different synonyms, as well as ask yourself how people are likely to refer to a certain problem, in the case when you come back with nothing good in your search.

I have dozens of other even better examples that I am unable to remember, I swear.

"sometimes the question is harder than the answer."

You're abnormal... Take that as mostly a compliment :)

Seriously, though, I mean the average case where someone does not know straightforward information, like how to change settings in their web browser or enable a function in an office application or what a generally accepted term means.

Und. B is SO right here, though. A majority of people I deal with consider "the hard drive" to be that big beige box under their desk that everything plugs into, so when they want to look up something computer-related, they don't even have the proper terminology to start with.

Even my own boss, who considers himself computer-proficient, when I tell him to go to a specific website, will open Chrome, which starts up with the Google homepage, and then type the site he wants into the Google search box (not just the name of it, but the actual URL), and click on the resulting link... rather than simply typing the URL into the address bar.

I look up stuff on-line immediately. I am almost always rewarded with relavant information and have been doing it long enough to know how to find my way through the crap straight to the good stuff.

It brings to mind a pet peeve of mine, though. Especially as it relates to technical subjects: lack of dates and version information in technical solutions and material.

Nothing worse that trying to figure out if Blamzangle behavior is a known bug with a workaround, only to find someplace where somebody says "upgrade to the latest version" or "turn off Magic Option in the settings" with no information about which version they're talking about or even a date on the page! Drives me nuts.

Another pet peeve--the dead thread. Guy gets on forum with a lot of detailed information about his problem ("hey, I have the exact same problem!"). He goes back and forth with several helpful souls who help troubleshoot and offer things to try ("Nope, tried that, didn't work"). Then the thread goes dead. Did he ever find a solution? If so, what was it? Towards that end I appreciate people who come back to the forum and are sure to post their solutions. I recall years ago I had an obscure driver/bios revision issue with an old PC and could find dozens of dead threads on the internet that described my exact problem, with no solutions. When I finally found the solution, I was so frustrated by the lack of solutions I made sure to post it to FixYa. Over the years I've gotten periodic notifications from FixYa that thus many hundreds of people have tagged my solution as "helpful." So while the problem is listed all across the internet, its posted solution is maybe in a few locations.

Then the thread goes dead. Did he ever find a solution? If so, what was it?

Source: IPVM Ari-chive.

When all else fails I follow my then sixteen year olds advice and search YouTube. When my plasma TV took a dump I was going to replace it. Old and big, not worth the effort. Searched YouTube and for 10 minutes of easy work and $2.00 in parts it has worked for almost four years and still going.

And there you have it...YouTube IS Google. Sorry, Yahoo-er (I left that singular because I assume the previous poster might be the only one left).

I think the real problem, solutions are we all want, answers Now, and we all want a solution or someone to get the solution now. The search engines give fast, encylapedia results fast. So to solve these situations in a timely manor ( Now ) we defer to the Google, Explorer type engines for a fast solution.

Many time's we are the solutions provider and the client ( customer ) wants an answer, someone to provide that in a hurry or quick amt of time.

we get lazy as we depond on the tech supports of the world. and forget how to reason out problems or think out them logically and read the manual.

A long time back I remember a distrubutor who gave out a saying when you would pick up materials from them.

It read (Real Technicians Dont Read Instructions) That being said and some truth to an extent.

A certain amt of real workmanship is due to experience or solutions found in past experiences in the field. Training, Education, Background

The real dilima is that we get dependent on fast , inet based answers and not deductive reasoning.

Some types of experience have to be field learned and not Google learned.

Google does not always give the solutions found in the field.

Or what do you do when you find that the solutions provider is Not Right and you found the answer as you were searching. some Bias, and lead to a sale of thier product or service, not a solution from what you have in place.

Googling is easy. Knowing what to Google is the hard part. Also tricky: understanding what Google says, and figuring out what to believe and what to ignore.

For what specifically?

There's lots and lots of things that google provides precise results for: what is your IP address, how do i forward emails to another email address in gmail, what time is it in zimbabwe right now, where do i find cpu usage on my computer, etc.

Clearly, that's not everything. As we have discussed above, the more niche the query is, the more likely it is not to have a perfect immediate response.

I still contend that searching first is almost always more efficient than (1) trying to solve it yourself abstractly and (2) asking any specific individual (unless you are absolutely sure that person is an undeniable expert in the field).

Loved the Rant!

Said practice is way too common on LinkedIn of all places.

Think about it, your looking to make points with a would-be-employer or you come across someone whom your impressed enough with to think about offer the guy or gal a job and then said person asks that dumb question that had been ask a million times before or that everyone should be able to find on there own and there asking you to answer the question for them.

It's one thing to ask a question to generate a conversation, it's another to show the world just how lazy one really is... and that's not a good thing!

Becoming a common practice, just google it, then sort thru the pile of results to see what you want.

Not as easy as it sounds sometimes

Google answers based on algos the constantly update and refine. If you want a great example of how your brain compares to the masses in search try this link: http://www.googlefeud.com/

Someone made a "Family Feud" game using Google Search terms - it's pretty funny. We actually have put it into the family game night rotation

All I can say is, common sense prevails. A smart person will use the tools at the right time in the right place and know how to take advantage of them.

Here you go: How to be a Google Power User Just print this out and paste it next to your computer and you will be a pro.

Ross, thanks. Embedded below:

How to be a Google Power User - Via Who Is Hosting This: The Blog

Source: WhoIsHostingThis.com

This is a really old (2008), but really interesting article about how Google may be changing the way we think:

I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle...


Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”

And yes, I read the whole article...

Could just be that the author is getting older and his attention span is naturally decreasing, too.

Or the quality of material he's picking up these days may not be what it once was.

I find it harder to get "absorbed" in a long read these days, but more often I find a rambling style and/or poor language just makes it hard to focus on, and I just want to skip the crap and get the meat of it. I can still pick up some old books by favorite authors (Alistair MacLean in particular) and find them hard to put them down - always "just one more page".

TL;DR :)