The haystack

It’s easy to be wowed by what a magical job the search engines do in finding you just the right needle in the haystack.

The fact is that search engines are very good at fairly simple searches, and very good at finding information about single products, services, people and ideas.

But they’re terrible at connections, at rankings, at horizontal results. They can’t help me find the 25 most important up and coming artists in the United States. They can’t help me find six products that are viable alternatives to something that was just discontinued. They can’t help me rank the service of four accounting firms.

There’s a giant opportunity. (Many opportunities, actually). It’s to collate and slice and dice and rank domain-specific knowledge and surface it. There are some areas where this is done extremely well (restaurants, for example), but in most cases, it’s not done at all.

Organizing the world’s information is a laudable goal. But we’re only an inch down the road.