IQ tests, searching, intuition and patterns

I’ve been reading a series of posts about sensemaking on the Creating Passionate Users blog, and part of it (perhaps the part on intuition) reminded me of IQ tests. Why, you ask? Because every one of those quicky IQ tests I’ve taken that you can find online or at the bookstore has basically two components: a weird amount of trivia knowledge (vocabulary, etc) and pattern recognition. Is that really intelligence?

In my experience, a large part of being able to recognize a pattern is experience, or seeing something like it in the past. In the same way, past experience influences my searching strategy. I’m the guy people ask when they’re trying to find something online, because I do a better job of finding what they want than anyone else around. I think the only reason I do this is because of my experience—I recognize the kinds of phrases people would use, and I tie together fragments of remembered knowledge. For example, instead of searching for what people ask me about, I search for what I think they’re actually looking for. See any parallels to stuff like UI design? Jon Udell blogged about trying to teach people how to become a good finder by following his thought process. But I think that’s impossible, because nobody possesses the same skill set and the same knowledge.

In summary: past experience determines future success.

Old-fashioned names

I came across a fun link on a post from one of my regular feeds, which gives story ideas to journalists for the next day’s paper. The US Social Security Administration actually lets you look at the popularity of names over time, so I put mine in over the past 100 years.

The Y axis is popularity ranking, and the X axis is the year. I was #56 when I was born, already about 50 years past my name’s peak at #6 in 1934.

The popularity of my name over time