Ready for a free consutation?
Click Here

{Tapirs: Blog}


Google: The essential soft skill

I.T. and all of its related technologies, software, programming languages, scripting languages, processes, and tools is so vast and ever expanding that no one can possibly hope to know everything about it, and anyone who says they do is definitely lying.

Not even pete, the oracle who sits in the dark corner of the office, the same place he has for years as no one wants to ask him to move in case he makes some comment that is hilarious to him but leaves everyone else feeling a little less intelligent.

Not even that contractor you've hired with the immaculate C.V. at the extortionate daily rate who strutted into the office on day one and told everyone they were doing it wrong. Even he doesn't know everything, but I'd bet he knows one thing very well how to "Google it"

Obviously, Google isn't the only search engine out there and it wasn't even the first but it has become synonymous with I.T., "Google it" is almost as identifiable as the phrase "have you tried turning it off and back on again". But if Google is not your search engine of choice then feel free to change it to Bing or Yahoo or other for the rest of this article

Have you tried turning it off and back on again Roy from the IT Crowd

THE soft skill

Search for information about (someone or something) on the Internet using the search engine Google.

This is the Oxford English dictionaries definition of the verb Google, and how did I find that out? Why I googled it of course

And just in case you've never seen a google search before, where have you been?

Searching for something on the Internet is so easy, so why aren't we all highly paid contractors or [insert name here] the oracle sitting in our darkened corner

Well I think the answer comes in two parts

The search

It is fairly critical to Googling something to actually enter a search string, you won't get far without it, but mastering the right thing to put in your search text is important.

Sometimes this is simple if you are trying to figure out an error it might be as simple as putting the exact error you got in there and adding the name of the application throwing the error.

Or it could be a more complicated search in which case carefully picking the correct keywords or phrases can mean the difference between your answer being at the top of the results and you having to search through several different websites that might mention a word you've searched but be completely irrelevant to what you actually need. Of course, you might be lucky that what you want to search pops up on Google suggest after you type the first word or two, but if not then here are a few things to consider when picking what to search for.

  • Be specific, in order to narrow down your result you want to narrow it down so that you don't end up with millions of useless results
  • On the other hand don't be too specific particularly in technical terms as you might miss out on results where they talk about what you want but don't mention the specific term
  • Is your search around a specific product or application, try to put in a technical query as you don't want sales pages when you all you need is a tutorial on setting up SSL

The analysis

So now you have the results of your search back what do you do with the millions of suggestions returned in a ridiculously short time - "About 11,800,000 results (0.54 seconds)" for our search above - how do you know which ones are useful, which ones are reputable, which ones will give you hope of finding an answer only to have unanswered questions?

Unfortunately, this bit comes with experience, after years of trawling through pages that are dead ends or answers that just don't work no matter how much you tweak and play with the code. Eventually you get to know that if you get a result from stackoverflow then you'll go to that first, or perhaps an answer from a blogger you know knows what they are talking about and you'll avoid the ones that tease you with answers but won't reveal them unless you subscribe to this or that or that if you don't find what you are looking for in the first couple of pages to redo your search slightly tweaking what you are looking for. All of these experiences add up to help you analyse your results, to not spend to much time down rabbit holes and to know when your search text just isn't going to give you what you want.

The truth

So next time you are at a meeting or having a casual chat at the coffee machine and someone says "I'll take that one away" or "I'll look into that" 9 times out of 10 that translates to "I'm gonna go Google it as soon as I leave here" call them out on it, tell them not to be embarrassed by it we all do it. Or next time someone asks you a question and you think to yourself "why don't you just google it" maybe take them by the hand and show them how you would search for it and how you would analyse the results.

And remember; those who know, Google. those who don't should definitely Google.