Learning from User Behavior – Now We Will Never Be Able Find Anything

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Learning from User Behavior – Now We Will Never Be Able Find Anything

Machine learning, AI, NLP – all the buzzwords will make search better, right? Wrong, I say. Please don’t use these technologies for search. To be blunt, if a system is going to learn from my behavior, I may as well give up, as I will never be able to find anything again. Seriously.

Let’s face it. If you are doing payroll, I can assume you got trained on how to use it. Do we ever train people on search? I highly doubt it.

Statistics abound on end user search behavior. One, from Baseline, states that more than 30 percent of end users spend more than five minutes searching for just one document or file, and 13 percent spend more than 10 minutes. Stop right there.

With our new high-tech search engine, how is it learning from my behavior, except to show me the wrong documents for 10 minutes, because I can’t articulate exactly what I am looking for, then show me the correct results by reading my mind?

According to IDC, if end users can’t find the information they are looking for within four minutes, they will abandon their search. What happens to the search engine? Does it know I abandoned the search because I was getting such poor results?

According to Gartner, an information seeker will use 2.73 words to find what they are looking for, and will try only twice. And Alexander van Deursen and Jan van Dijk came to the conclusion that users just don’t know how to search, with 56 percent constructing poor queries, and 55 percent selecting the wrong results more than once. I would be able to train search to continually show me the wrong results. Even Google tells you how to improve your search.

Are all these new technologies great? You bet they are, and eventually they will perform tasks we can’t even imagine. The issue is not with the technologies, it is with the enterprise searchers.

I am not sure the developers of these technologies understand that any business solution must address the base level of searchers, not the super searchers. There are still many end users, including executives, who struggle with enterprise search and forming queries that generate accurate results. What is the search engine going to learn from us dummies? We can’t expect everyone to search using the right words all the time.

I am one of those users who can never find what I am looking for. Do you have users like that in your organization? Did you teach them to search? How’d it go?

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