We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know by Geri Spieler

May 2, 2012

Writing Tips

Geri Spieler, CWC member and writer

One of the biggest concerns I had as a newspaper reporter was being assigned to do a story on something I didn’t know well.
I learned that if I don’t know what questions to ask, I’m at a huge disadvantage and at risk for being misled.
This is where I began to do some major research. I wasn’t about to be taken advantage of due to my ignorance on the topic. How would I know what to question? I was vulnerable to all kinds of misinformation.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Now I’m going to date myself: I am old enough to remember going to the public library and using the card catalogue to do my research
I know, I must be a dinosaur.
I never trusted just one book for my reference as again, what else was available to me? The same is true for today only in a different context: We have the Internet.
Think of the Web as a virtual library. The analogy is I’m using is not to go only one search engine such as Google to do our research.
I know Google is huge in it’s compilation of data. I love Google. I use it every day and find fabulous information. Google opens up the world in amazing ways. No question.
Yet, Google is like using one book for all your investigation. There are more “books” available to us to find the information we are looking for besides Google.
The differences in these virtual books ranges from marginal to quite significant in what is available on any topic.
Below is a short list of some of these sites:

Search engines, such as Google, are rate the information based on mathematical algorithms. Basically, it is a popularity contest. The Web sites that get the most hits get the highest rating. In addition, the companies that pay the most money also get great placement. Below is a short list of search engines:
Alta Vista
All The Web

Directories are compiled by real people. Directory panels evaluate a Website and then categorize it based on content only.
AboutUs.org – a wiki-based Web directory.
Ansearch – Web search and directories focusing on the United States, UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Best of the Web Directory – Lists content-rich, well-designed Websites categorized both by topic and by region. This is a paid for service.
JoeAnt – A community of editors from the now-defunct Go.com volunteer-edited directory.
Open Directory Project (a.k.a. ODP or dmoz) – The largest directory of the Web. Its open content is mirrored at many sites, including the Google Directory until July 20, 2011.
Starting Point Directory – A human-edited general directory organizing sites by category.
World Wide Web Virtual Library (VLIB) – The oldest directory of the Web.
Yahoo! Directory – The first service that Yahoo! offered.
Metasearch engines are search engine sites that may include from 10 to 90 search engines on one site.


Try an experiment. Pick a simple topic, such as “publishing” and look it up in several of these various “books.” I’ll bet you will be surprised at the wider amount of information you retrieve from each of them.
Remember: We don’t know what we don’t know.


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