The New York Times has a good article about searching the internet today. It points out some often overlooked techniques as well as ways that tools like Google can be used to provide better results.

It also alludes to special purpose databases and the time and expense that is associated with them. It doesn't get so deep as to mention services like West Law for doing for legal research. The article also didn't address that there are many ways of finding information on the internet. Often things that can't be found in Google, for example, might be revealed by directories like Yahoo or DMoz. In addition there are many free databases of information that are not completely searchable by google. Things like property records and marriage licenses are often in these databases.

On the same day the Times has a really saddening article about the state of people helping people. The premise of the article, supported by a handful of people they talked to is that technical people (geeks) are tiring of helping friends and family solve computer problems. Several of the people they talked to go beyond not wanting to help and are hostile towards technical neophytes.

These folks seem to have missed that technology is only as good as it's helpfulness. If you give me a technological way to do something that is easier to do another way there is no reason I should use technology. A law school tech support person in the article disparages faculty for their lack of understanding of technology. He seems to miss the point that they are lawyers and professors not computer programmers. For them a computer is a tool, make the tool too complex and they won't use it. For my generation and many before it typing was not a skill that everyone learned in school. We were taught how to use pencils, pens and paper. A few people in vocational tracks took typing but for the college bound typing was considered something we'd have somebody else do for us. When I worked at the Colorado State University Vet Teaching Hospital I knew many very intelligent professors. Many of them relied upon the transcriptionists of the typing pool to type and send letters. These professors know a skill for giving dictation that I have never picked up. They could do amazing things for saving animals and making them more comfortable. They were not, nor should they have to be, technology experts. Many a veterinarian I met was a mediocre typist at best. Technologists look down upon them as not having a basic skill. I'd suggest we should appreciate people's skills, thank them for their contribution to the world, and give them a helping hand to make sure technology remains a tool not an obstacle.