Sunday, January 8, 2012

Search Challenge 001

The first online Search Challenge I created was, and is, the Broadway Challenge.  This has gone through a number of iterations in the past several years, as information has become easier to find with keyword queries.

The first Challenge was something like: How many times has Funny Girl been performed on Broadway? The information could not be found by merely googling Funny Girl Broadway performances. Extra effort required finding a database of Broadway shows and checking the statistics about Funny Girl.  Eventually, this number could be found just with a Google search.

The next iteration required finding a page that listed the number of shows that opened on Broadway by year, starting in 1984. In time, a number of new sites appeared that satisfied this challenge, so it was hard to keep updating the correct answers.

Today I updated the challenge again. This time, the task is:
What is the earliest Broadway show for which both the opening and closing dates are published?

The earliest Broadway show can be found with a pretty simple search, but its opening AND closing dates are unknown. By the way, I had no idea that shows appeared on Broadway as early as 1732. Did you?

I wanted a challenge that required more than just a query. Keyword searching has progressed to the point that you can fairly easily find what you are looking for (whether it's accurate is another question). So the new challenge involves search strategy.

Strategic searching means that some thought goes in to where the information may be located and how to extract that information efficiently. I'll put more detailed information about that in the comments section.

If you're ready to try the challenge, here it is:

1 comment:

Carl Heine said...

Strategies that work:

1. Find a database of Broadway show statistics. There is a database for most types of specialized information including this.

2. A keyword query will have little impact on finding the opening and closing dates. Become familiar with how the database provides its information.

3. If the database has a search engine (most do), use that to narrow your search. In this challenge, that query requires no keywords. Make best use of the search tools the engine gives you.

4. "Earliest" is an important clue. This word however is too general. In search terms a much better term is a specific year.

5. Once you've narrowed the search to a date range, you have to scan the results carefully.