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On Gary the Guppy and Google...

Published by Mark Bodnar

<Bear with me... I'm going somewhere with this...

Does a fish truly understand the water in which it swims?  

If H20 pervades the entire world of Gary the Guppy from the day he's born to the day he, well, turns belly up, does he ever consciously think about it at all? 

Sure, he instinctively learns to move through it with adequate efficiency, and he senses the world through it, but does he ever just pause in his perambulations and reflect on the nature of the clear stuff between him and the ceramic castle at the bottom of his bowl? Does he ever think that water has its own properties and that if he were to truly study and master them, he could, just maybe, be as powerful as a shark?

We may never see the world through the eyes of little Gary, but pondering the philosophical implications of his situation may teach us something about the unseen medium through which our own species -- Humanus Researchus -- swims.  I'm referring, of course, to Google.

We live in the Age of Google. Yes, there are other search engines with their own little slivers of marketshare, but how many of them have been verbified? How many do you turn to when you need to know the GDP of Botswana, the weather in Maui, or the names of ancient Mesopotamian gods? Where do you go when you need to know the address of the local swimming pool and what time the little learners will clear out so that you can do some laps?

And yet, how many of us really think about this Google thing that surrounds us? How many do more than just toss in some words and hope for the best, waving our wee flippers because that's worked in the past? 

No more! Let's pause, breathe, and look closely at this thing we take for granted. Let's learn its shortcuts. Let's study its structure.  Let's discover how to research even more efficiently by site limiting, phrase searching, and file-type focusing. Let's tighten up those ridiculously long result lists with the tiniest little minus sign or with the magic of AROUND. 

Let's be sharks, not guppies, in the world of (re)search.

And let's start our transformation by scanning the SFU Library's new guide to Search tips for Google and Google Scholar.


-- Mark


Mark Bodnar

Business & Economics Librarian


Image credits: 

  • Guppy: http://wallpapers.hdwallpaperhdpictures.in/images/fish-coloring/fish_bubbles-coloring/ 
  • Shark: By Sharky.png: Kaldari derivative work (converted to SVG): NativeForeigner (Sharky.png) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASharkybw.svg