Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Searching the Internet ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Searching the Internet
Category: Computers > Internet
Asked by: mattjasonh-ga
List Price: $2.50
Posted: 11 Jan 2004 07:09 PST
Expires: 10 Feb 2004 07:09 PST
Question ID: 295268
Why has searching the internet become a more progressively stressful
experience in the past 2 years, so much so that internet users are
willing to pay untrained researchers, often to the tune of over $100,
just to avoid the stress of finding an answer to an often, from a
research point of view, simple question?

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 11 Jan 2004 07:17 PST
Can you give an example of a ca. $100 question that you consider a
simple research task?  This will help researchers focus on specifics
in attempting to answer your question.

Clarification of Question by mattjasonh-ga on 11 Jan 2004 09:50 PST
I would prefer not to, as my question is research in-itself for a
sociological peice, and this would make my queery sound as if it was a
personal attack on this serivce, or others, or even perhaps individual
researchers. I asure you it is not.

I do however wish to help you in any-way I can so I will post several
links which I have quickly searched for, but would prefer it if I
didn't get individual address to each one of the questions.

My article will be focusing on the ways people have found, do find,
and will find information on the internet. I am curious to know, from
an internet researcher's perspective, a little about why we have seen
a shift towards paying for people to find information for us, or just
not finding it at all; in contrast from easilly finding it for free
ourselves back only a few years ago.

Subject: Re: Searching the Internet
Answered By: read2live-ga on 11 Jan 2004 10:16 PST
Hi, Matt,

I would argue several of your points.  

For instance, I don't know that "searching the internet become a more
progressively stressful experience in the past 2 years".  It always
has been stressful, it always has been hard work.  Searching may even
have got easier: the advanced search facilities of many search engines
today takes all the hassle out of the complicated syntax needed for
advanced searches.  It may have got harder: as the volume of
information on the internet increases and as the search engines get
better at finding and indexing it, so it may be harder to find any one
strand, or combination of strands of information.

I don't think Google Researchers, if it is Google Researchers you are
referring to here, are untrained.  They may sometimes lack formal
training and qualifications in internet searching,  they may be
self-taught and their areas of expertise may be specific rather than
general (but so may be the areas of expertise of professional
searchers), but the screening process used in recruitment of Google
Researchers does make sure that Researchers have search and reference
and answer skills.

No-one said searching the internet is easy, and it is a mistake to
think it is.  Nor are all answers to be found on the internet.  Many
amateurs may miss out on the best information, many are too easily
satisfied by the first answer they get:  "Most people think they do a
pretty good job searching the Web - because they never know what
they?re missing."  Mary-Ellen Mort: "The Info Pro?s Survival Guide to
Job Hunting," Searcher 10 (7), July/August 2002

General search engines satisfy the general searcher.  "Remember that
the search engines are designed first and foremost for the general
searcher, the one who enters a few words and hopes to get one
moderately good answer, or at least an interesting site that will
distract from the original information request."  Greg R Notess: "On
The Net - Unusual Power Web Searching Commands,"
Online, Nov/Dec 2003 <>

Above all, searching takes time.  I would suggest that those $100
questions are not as easy as they look, if they were then the searcher
would have found his/ her answer.  They are more complicated, they
take time, they involve multiple search in not so obvious places.  The
searcher may not have that time, may not have that expertise, may not
have the background knowledge to know which avenues of search to
pursue and which to discard, may be too easily distracted.  "The Web
is a procrastination apparatus: It can absorb as much time as is
required to ensure that you won't get any real work done."  Jakob
Nielsen: "Information Pollution," Alertbox, August 11, 2003. 

Finally, I would suggest there are no dumb questions.  If the inquirer
does not know, then the inquirer does not know, and the question is
real (however easy to someone else who does know where or how to look
for the answer).  Take that notion and throw in the time factor, and
it becomes a matter of market value: how much is having the answer

I did say finally, but I have an extra thought.  Don't forget the
Google Answers community, those comments and asides and, so often, the
common working together to make sure the inquirer gets an answer that
satisfies all round: there is added value there, often worth far more
than the basic answer.

No search strategy to share, I'm afraid, just some of the sceptical
comments I've collected recently.

Hope this answer satisfies, but if not, please ask for clarification
before giving a rating.

Best, r2l
Subject: Re: Searching the Internet
From: bowler-ga on 11 Jan 2004 13:28 PST
I have often asked the same question especially since individuals
public library has trained professionals already on staff and willing
to answer your question for free.  However, I can understand the
willingness for people to pay another these amounts of money to do a

First, just because the internet is there and someone has access to it
doesn't mean that they will instinctively know how to search it.  I
come across people every day that have no clue how to search the
internet.  The search terms are either too broad or too specific or
they simply search for the wrong thing.

Secondly, people use this service as they would say a temp service. 
They simply don't have the time or have too many questions and wish to
farm out the research.  I've read a few questions that the user has
stated that to obtain the amount of research they received would have
literally cost them thousands of dollars.

Lastly, today's society we pay everyone to do things for us.  Nobody
washes their own car any more for example.  They sell peanut butter
and jelly in a sigle jar, and every type of food premade.  It is
simply a convenience to have someone else do things for you.

But I must refute your statement that the researchers, at least at
this service, being unqualified.  There are many excellent researchers
who provide excellent research for a very cheap price.  Read this
comparison between Google Answers Researchers and librarians at
Cornell University:

Actual test:

Just a few thoughts.

Subject: Re: Searching the Internet
From: apteryx-ga on 11 Jan 2004 13:34 PST
Hi, mattjasonh--

I'd like to comment on your question if I may.

As a frequent user of GA, I post questions in two categories: 
relatively serious and relatively frivolous.  The classifications are
entirely subjective:  they have to do not with the content of the
question itself but with how badly I want to know and why.  For
instance, my question about the leather purse
( was serious
because I really, really wanted to find it (and did).  My question
about commas in the time of Swift
( was frivolous
because it was a matter of pure curiosity and was posted mainly for
entertainment; and yet it also shed light peripherally on a topic of
professional interest to me.  I figured that one would be fun for the
researchers as well as for me.  (A number of researchers have said
they enjoy my questions.)

The rate I offer, at which I arrive by a highly idiosyncratic
computation that I won't explain, typically reflects the degree of
seriousness to me as well as how easily obtainable I expect the answer
to be.  As a check on my calculation, I usually relate it to the cost
of a pizza.

As I remarked recently
(, my QSH
(curiosity hormone) tends to run high and I am interested in a lot of
obscure things, so I use GA as a plaything as much as anything.  One
question invariably leads to another.  You ought to see all the stuff
I *don't* post because I can find it on my own.

I typically post a question after I have done a fair amount of
searching myself.  "Fair amount" varies, depending on how curious (or
serious) I am and how much time I can afford right then.  I am most
likely to post a query when I get way, way too many hits on my own
and/or can't think of ways to zero in on the answer; for instance,
searching on "the" (
was going to be hopeless.  GA researchers are skilled at choosing
search terms that help eliminate irrelevant results.

Much more important to me, GA researchers represent a broad spectrum
of fields with their individual knowledge and expertise.  I don't know
how you can say "untrained researchers" when some of these people are
professionals or gifted amateurs in fields as diverse as cooking,
medicine, eastern religions, criminal justice, out-of-print books, and
classical languages.  By virtue of their own knowledge they can move
more rapidly and in a more direct line to an answer than I could do on
my own--just as I could do if you asked me a question in my own areas
of specialty.  And they also have some favorite resources and
techniques that they have accumulated or devised over time and that I
would not acquire unless I too spent hours and hours at it every week.
 Although I don't know the behind-the-scenes mechanisms for GA
researchers to pick up questions to which they want to respond, I know
it is self-selecting in that researchers can choose to answer
questions on subjects on which they are already knowledgeable, so it
is not the case that a randomly assigned researcher has to start cold
in an area in which he or she is as ill-versed as the questioner.

Finally, it is not as if the answer to a question had to come from one
and only one source and the task were to locate that one source.  For
most subjects, there may be a wealth of material, and it is necessary
only to fine *enough* information to answer the question and not
necessarily to find *all* the information that exists about the
question.  That is where the researcher's judgment and discretion come
in, and that is the other thing I pay for.  I think you'll agree that
that is worth something in itself if you'll look here: for Pinkfreud's
answer and the comments of some of her colleagues on the question of
the quality of information offered by researchers.

So I do not agree that the process of searching has become more
stressful.  I has become more complex, probably simply because of the
increase in number of sites on every imaginable subject.  That's one
reason to call upon people who are good at it--and fast.  Often
someone claims a question of mine in less than five minutes after
posting.  But don't discount the entertainment value, which includes
interaction with the intelligent, fascinating, multidimensional, and
often quirky personalities that make up this community.  I could spend
a lot more per hour of enjoyment at a movie theater or a bar and get a
whole lot less back.  Couldn't you?

GA customer since June of 2002

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy