Thursday, May 16, 2013

Answer: What's YOUR search challenge?

Quick update for readers...   (I'm actually traveling today, so I'm writing this in San Jose airport... waiting for a flight to Orange County.)  
SJC at 7AM, Terminal B, Gate 20

So far I've gotten about a dozen suggestions--all excellent!--that you'll see in the weeks ahead.  As I said, I'll be sure to give credit to the original author (although I might edit them a bit).  

A big thanks to everyone who sent in a challenge.  As you can appreciate, it's actually fairly hard to write and test-out these challenges.  I typically spend about 1 hour to write the challenges (even the short ones), and then about another hour to write up the answer.  As I work through the challenge, I take notes along the way, which I always advocate for search questions that aren't trivial... which in this blog is most of them...

Since I've been doing a lot of work on MOOCs recently, it occurred to me that writing tests, quizzes, and short questions is much like writing Search Challenges.  They're not easy to create. Sure, as a longtime teacher I've written my share of tests and quizzes, but until I started writing them for the blog and for, I never really spent a lot of time working through the solution.  After all, I knew how to solve them, so why bother to do all that extra work?   

The reason, as professional teachers will tell you, is that little things will reach up and bite you.  "Simple" questions sometimes have unanticipated extras, additional complications or sub-problems that need to be understood (and solved) along the way.  Moral:  Test your problem before assigning it to your students.  I think it's okay to hand out difficult (or even unsolvable) problems, but you (as the teacher) really need to understand the complexities involved. 

And that, my friends, is what makes writing Search Challenges so interesting!  Crazy-hard problems that I wrote 2 years ago are now trivial.  Problems that seem easy, sometimes are immensely difficult to find.  What's more... this changes all the time as the web changes (for both good and ill) and as search engines change, increasing capacity, crawling of content and indexing ability.  

Thanks for your contributions.  My email door is always open for new ideas and suggestions.  If you come across a difficult-to-search-for problem in your daily life, let me know!  I might be able to help you out, or at very worst, we can make it into an interesting search challenge for everyone to learn from ! 


Search on. 

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