It’s interesting to see the number of posts on the disappearance of Steve Fossett and the call to help finding him using tools like Google Earth. I read about it on a post written by Michael Arrington at TechCrunch. What I find interesting about it is two fold.
- Why do people like to assist in finding a person they most likely only know via the media?
- Google Earth brings the whole world to your desktop, but the case of finding Steve Fossett shows that any single human cannot interpret such large amounts of data. It is still like trying to find a needle in a haystack
To me it seems that the answer to the first question might be that we tend to want to belong to something useful or worthwhile. The Internet has made it possible to call many people to action. Now we can all play part in large, visible projects. Our contribution is suddenly important, no matter how large it is. And finding a person in need is definitely worthwhile. There might not be any personal glory in it, but that is not the most important reason to join in. Would we also help out if an “unknown” person would be missing? I personally think we would. It would perhaps take longer for the call to action to become visible in the blogosphere, but the reasons to join in would remain the same.
The second point hits on a feeling I always seem to have with new applications like Google Earth. It is fascinating to see and use the first time (be honest, who hasn’t looked up his own house or peeked in the garden of a well known celebrity)? But after a while the fun factor wears off and I tend to get lost in the fast amount of possibilities or data. The Internet provides infinite possibilities, but my brain can’t handle that. That is the main reason we tend to use search engines, rss feeds, actioning sites, news portals etc. But, I haven’t found a single site yet that really delivers what I am looking for when I need something. Try finding a vacation for a family of 6 people (yes, with seats next to each other in the airplane, and a location to stay where you can actually sleep in the same house or apartment). Or finding a picture with a tree in it. On Flickr I get nearly 3Mln hits, but I never know if the tree I’m looking for is there. And browsing all of them is not an option.
Actually, what often works best for me is when somebody I know helps me to find what I want. My friends know me, and can match the things that they know I like to the experiences they have had themselves. So if a friend tells me they know a good place to go to for vacation or dinner or whatever, it often turns out to be a valuable tip. I look it up on the Internet and find it easier to filters things out, making the Internet become small and personalised for me again.
Any similar experiences out there? How do you handle the unlimited amounts of data you have access to?