Sunday, July 1, 2012

Descriptive Search: My Dream App

In the name of research blog posts, writing essays, or just finding interesting information for myself, I often conduct very unusual Google searches. And despite extensive use of "", +, -, and advanced search options,  I am left paging through hundreds of hits that do not feature the type of content that I want. For community service projects that I participate in, I am often searching for person stories of those affected by bone marrow failure diseases, as I was as a child, but I end up with every hospital int he country's description of the diseases. For one paper in college, I researched the feud between Percival Lowell and the lead astronomer at Harvard in the early 1900s, but my Google search returned every academic article on astronomy in that era, because they were contemporaries.
In my ideal world, there would be a tool that would allow me to describe the type of sources I am looking for, and would generate corresponding results. Similarly to the way that Siri can search your immediate area to find restaurants that are still open and serve the exact dish you're looking for, this search engine would be able to find the personal blogs and updates of families dealing with serious illness, or the actual insults that early 20th century astronomers hurled at each other from the pages of scientific journals. I hope that one day I will be able to type/tell my search engine "I need writings from Percival Lowell insulting the location of the University of Chicago's observatory" and I will be given the editorial Lowell wrote doing that very thing. Or, I might ask for "the blogs of young adults who have survived bone marrow transplants" and be taken to a selection of potential new connections. Given the major advances in technology that have made Siri and all that the IPhone 4 can do possible, I have high hopes that descriptive search might be available in the not-too-distant future. This scholarship is sponsored by