Friday, 12 August 2011

The internet as an repository of knowledge.....

A friend of mine has spent the morning at an antiques fair, and come back with a rather nice little silver pendant. It is the figured of winged Isis, the Egyptian mother Goddess in the form of a stylised animal figure but on the reverse is a runic script which translates as Celtic Magic Isis Design. So we have an Egyptian deity with a norse inscription and a Celtic motto. Beyond that it is hallmarked sterling silver. My friend wanted to find out a little more about it so I got on to Google and ha a little trawl and within twenty minutes I had found the maker, the date and the symbolic significance of the item. It transpires that it is a part of Masonic regalia that has been modified for use in magical ceremonies as an altar piece.

It is quite amazing how easy it is to find information online about the most obscure or specific subjects given a logical turn of mind and an understanding of the way search engines work. It also never ceases to amaze me how many people struggle to find the information they are looking for even on fairly common topics. The trick, I believe, is to treat the internet, and search engines in particular as you would a child. Make your instructions and requests clear and concise, have a good idea about what information you are looking for so that you can filter out the wheat from the chaff. There is a skill involved in effective searching and in analysing the results.

Work is constantly ongoing within search engine companies and University Computer Science departments to come up with more and more complex search algorithms to refine searches and even moving towards "learning" algorithms on the verge of artificial intelligence to refine search processes further, and to make searching more intuitive. We have a long way to go to perfect the system, but the internet is a truly useful learning resource when used effectively, and will become even better if allowed to grow and develop as an open source resource. It will be interesting to see where it goes....

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