From his recent blog entry, "The Needle in a Haystack Problem":
Google is amazing partly because it goes so far in helping with the haystack problem. Want a part for your 1957 drill press? You can find it on Google.As a matter of fact, Google does "help with finding experts when the problem is hard to define, or when interactivity is required." Pamela and I bought a used Saturn last year that turned out to be more of a "project car" than we have bargained for. It had something wrong with it, something hard to define. We googled the symptoms, and found http://www.saturnfans.com/. Saturn Fans has a forum devoted to interactive troubleshooting of mechanical problems. I've seen where people have even shot video of of their running car, uploaded it to YouTube, and solicited advice on how to fix that pinging noise, or whatever it was.
But Google doesn't help with finding experts when the problem is hard to define, or when interactivity is required. And just about any solution you can dream up has a friction problem: once the system is in place, it will get used too much, by too many questioners, and suddenly it won't be interesting enough for the masses to listen. For example, Craigslist suffers from a decreasing signal to noise ratio (it's a lot less fun to browse than it used to be).
Google is not a panacea. It's merely a gateway. True, if no one has established a destination, you're pretty much SOL. My Mistubishi's transmission acted up last year as well, and I searched for a forum similar to the Saturn forum. Nonesuch exists.
But hey ... isn't that why Seth Godin started Squidoo? So that people could find and fill those niches? He references this at the beginning of his blog entry, for crying out loud!
You know what I think the problem is? We have grown to expect that the universe of knowledge is 1) one click away and 2) absolutely free of charge. We forget that we live in a world where individuals aggregate content provided by other individuals, and this body of information we call knowledge. When someone hasn't taken the time to aggregate that content for us, well then. It's time to post a bitchy blog about how unfair life (or Google) is, rather than seeking out example of where it's done right, and attempting to duplicate those successful actions to satisfy an overlooked need.
Then Seth drops this gem:
Let's say, for example, I was an executive recruiter. Surely, I would benefit from interrupting every person on the planet to advertise a great new job. But I couldn't do it every day or every hour...I don't even know what to say. This statement flies in the face of everything I thought Seth stood for. An executive recruiter would benefit from blasting every person on the planet? Even my Grandmothers in Arkansas? My sister-in-law's toddler? The guy who sold me a cheeseburger yesterday?
Weak, Seth. Weak.