lies & spin
page considers how people are navigating the web and retrieving
It covers -
is a more detailed discussion of search
behaviour (along with pointers to academic studies),
complemented by notes on search
Andrew Odlyzko, one of the most perceptive analysts of
the 'New Economy', argued in a 2001 paper
that "Content is Not King".
Odlyzko's research is highlighted in the intellectual
property and electronic publishing
guides elsewhere on this site. He argues that although
the net is primarily regarded as a content delivery mechanism,
connectivity has mattered much more than content and email
is still the true 'killer app'.
That primacy of connectivity over content explains the
enthusiastic embrace of SMS
(Short Message System) and the anaemic state of WAP.
the NAS Signposts study
In March 2005 the US National Academies - scientists and
engineers - released a major report
on Signposts in Cyberspace: the Domain Name System
and Internet Navigation. The report had been announced
in March 2001 as a two-year study
into web searching and the domain name system.
The project was to examine the impact of technological
developments and policy changes on the domain name system
and other mechanisms used by individuals in finding online
It included exploration of intellectual property concerns,
in particular dispute resolution mechanisms and treatment
of trademarks. As we've noted
in our discussion of ICANN, use of a specific domain name
is often disputed: what the NAS describes as
as an honest conflict among multiple, legitimate claimants;
sometimes by cybersquatters seeking to profit in the
secondary market for domain names; and sometimes by
those who wish to post negative information or parody
a like-named organization.
project encompassed the effect on domain name allocation,
addressing and searching of trends such as
growth in the number of internet users and sites
the growth in embedded computing devices
of permanent personal and object identifiers.
report seeks to identify, describe and evaluate emerging
technologies that affect internet searching. Approaches
considered include -
of generic top level domains
name assignment, addressing and indexing schemes
directory structures for locating information or sites
user interfaces for accessing information.
study considers the potentially competing interests of
domain name owners and intellectual property owners; the
different interests of large multinational corporations,
small business owners and individuals; and public interests
such as freedom of speech and personal privacy.
recent academic work
The report is expected to extend more restricted academic
studies such as Lara Catledge & James Pitkow's 1995
paper Characterizing browsing strategies in the
World Wide Web, Linda Tauscher & Saul Greenberg's
on Revisitation Patterns in World Wide Web Navigation,
Cockburn & McKenzie's International Journal
of Human-Computer Studies paper (PDF)
on What Do Web Users Do? An Empirical Analysis of Web
Use and Erik Selberg's
thesis Towards Comprehensive Web Search.
There are pointers to other studies in the Design
guides and in the discussion of search
behaviour elsewhere on this site.
six clicks of separation?
In July 2001 Albert-Laszlo
The Physics of the Web suggested that the typical
number of links in the chain connecting any two sites
is a mere 19, ie the internet version of the famous 'six
degrees of separation' connecting most people.
That notion was first proposed by Stanly Milgram
and Ithiel de Sola Pool but questioned by Judith Kleinfeld
in a 2000 social network study
A discussion is
here; we have explored personal networks in our consideration
of online social spaces and sites such as Friendster.
An exploration of the number of email links between people
is underway as part of the US Small World project.
They are placed in context in Bernardo Huberman's crisp
The Laws of the Web: Patterns in the Ecology of Information
(Cambridge: MIT Press 2001) and Six Degrees: The
Science of A Connected Age (New York: Norton 2003)
by Duncan Watts.
For broader questions of information seeking a useful
starting point is Elaine Svenonius' The Intellectual
Foundation of Information Organisation (Cambridge:
MIT Press 2000) and Preferred Placement: Knowledge
Politics on the Web (Maastricht: Jan van Eyck Akademie
Editions 2000) edited by Richard Rogers.
Research by Chun Wei Choo, Brian Detlor & Don Turnbull
may also be of interest. Apart from their Web Work:
Information Seeking & Knowledge Work on the World
Wide Web (New York: Kluwer 2000) we commend the paper
on Information Seeking on the Web, the paper
on Information Seeking on the Web - An Integrated Model
of Browsing & Searching and their First Monday
'Information Seeking on the Web - An Integrated Model
of Browsing & Searching'.
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