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Forget students even, I'm an adult with a compulsive information-seeking habit, as I suspect a lot of other HN readers are. I know who Harriet Tubman is, but I don't know all there is to know about her, so on the date that her $20 bill debut was announced I Googled her and read parts of her Wikipedia article, the same way I am constantly doing for all sorts of current event topics.

How can wanting to learn more possibly be demonized? Would we rather have a situation where a big influential vote affecting the future of an entire nation comes up and no one does any research about it?




My specific comment re: students was in reference to the perpetuation of "people who were searching 'what is the EU' have already voted on Brexit". That falsely assumed that those searches were from people who had already voted on the topic, suggesting lack of proper background information for such an important decision.

Young students are a group who may likely search for this information after the vote when it had a major impact on their country as before the vote it wasn't necessarily important for them to have detailed knowledge about it.

I'd hope we would never penalize someone for trying to get background information, no matter how "simple", before making an important decision, regardless of whether they're a student or an adult.

To an even broader point, imposter syndrome is hard enough when you just feel like you're behind on your fundamentals, let alone when you are actually behind on your fundamentals. Improving yourself should never be stigmatized.


The only really valid part of the linked article is the point about how you can't make sweeping generalizations based on a very small sample size and a (relatively) small trend.

Concluding that people probably know what the EU is while searching very specifically using the phrase "What is the EU" is no more accurate or truthful than concluding that they don't know what the EU is.

The author says at one point, "perhaps we can more likely conclude". Perhaps we can. But perhaps we shouldn't make any conclusions and just stick to the thesis that the press should know better when reporting facts?


True, the article gives no basis to conclude that people searching "what is the EU" already know what it is, but it seems like a fair default position. I might search "history of the EU" or "Mitt Romney bio" to get a certain kind of content outside of current events and gossip. I could also see other people with similar (limited, but much greater than 0) knowledge searching "what is the EU" or "who is Mitt Romney" for exactly the same reasons.

The less clueless-sounding queries have spikes on Google Trends that appear very correlated with the "who is"/"what is" spikes, for what it's worth.


Agreed. That's how to do sensible searching.

I didn't know how exit would happen via "Article 50", so I couldn't search for that term.

This election cycle has demonstrated that Google is acting politically, not a neutral repository with great search tools.


> Would we rather have a situation where a big influential vote affecting the future of an entire nation comes up and no one does any research about it?

Funny enough, that's exactly what happens in the US though...


> Would we rather have a situation where a big influential vote affecting the future of an entire nation comes up and no one does any research about it?

The key there is that the research is happening after the vote. They story being told about searches is wrong, but if it was true it would be notable.




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