It’s true, I enjoy the weekday game show “Millionaire” with host Meredith Vieira. It’s pretty much a guilty pleasure for me and I blame my mom for getting me addicted. But watching the show has helped me hone my Google skills. It’s a challenge to find answers to questions before the contestant has time to answer, especially those that don’t seem to have any simple search characteristics. And my goal is to get the answer in the text included with each search result, preferably in the top three.
This is how I found out that the Blorenge is a “mountain” in Wales (I live in the Rockies so “mountain” seems like an exaggeration; see the photo below). I also found out that despite the game’s claim that “Blorenge” is the only word in the world that rhymes with “orange,” there is another word that also rhymes: “sporange.” Take that, “Millionaire.”
One that totally stumped me was a hairstyle with an artist’s first name. I’m trying to remember which artist it was and can only remember that it wasn’t Salvador Dali. Maybe it started with an “M”? When I did get the search result I wanted it was because I used my mom’s guess in the search, which turned out to be correct. A search with the other three names got me nowhere.
But all this leads me to what often happens when I do a search: I end up on Wikipedia clicking from one piece of trivia to another. Just as an example, one day I started with Calvin Coolidge, went to his predecessor Warren G. Harding, then found out that many political historians attribute Harding’s success in first newspapers and then politics to his wife Florence Kling DeWolfe. The couple is buried in the lovely Harding Memorial in Marion, Ohio, but not with Harding’s dog Laddie Boy. Despite rumors, the favored pet is buried elsewhere.
All this demonstrates some of Wikipedia’s finest qualities: narrative and interactivity, which add up to “discoverability.” In her article “You Can Get There From Here,” Amber Simmons talks about the importance of narrative to learning, particularly with Web sites. As she says, “All human communication revolves around storytelling,” and I think my Wikipedia searches demonstrate that. I begin with one piece of information and then end up clicking link to link, looking for a story. The way Wikipedia embeds links allows me to choose my own adventure, so to speak, to create my own narrative.
You don’t have to be on Wikipedia to enjoy discoverability; you can also get it with random links you may find on blogs (like mine, hint hint) or on friends’ Facebook and Twitter accounts. Or with many online news stories.
What are some of the ways you enjoy learning online? And does anyone know what hairstyle I’m trying to remember? Guesses? Maybe I should call Mom and ask her. Before the Internet she was my own personal Google — that is when she wasn’t sending me to the dictionary or encyclopedia. : )