Familiarity Breeds Content

EP Editorial Staff | May 1, 2003

People who really need information are more likely to seek it from other people—especially people they know.

bob_baldwinThat is what University of Washington researchers discovered when they tracked a group of engineers to find how they obtained information vital to their work. The engineers usually chose human sources over written ones and were three times more likely to choose familiar people over experts they didn’t know.
The study by UW Information School professor Raya Fidel and assistant professor Maurice Green is scheduled for publication in Information Processing and Management.

The researchers analyzed more than 600 pages of transcribed interviews to understand the engineers’ thinking and performance in doing recent work tasks:

  • Nearly all the engineers (97 percent) consulted another person at least once, while 77 percent searched the Internet and intranet sites at least once.
  • Among situations in which a person was the source consulted, it most often was a co-worker (31 percent of cases), followed by an outside expert (29 percent).
  • The most common reason for selecting a person as a source—by a factor of more than 3 to 1—was that the engineer knew the person.

“The human side of information-seeking is so important,” Fidel said. “This shows that companies would benefit from encouraging richer social connections.”

We would encourage everyone in a position to do so to in turn encourage maintenance and reliability personnel to expand their network of professional contacts by supporting their attendance to at least one respected industry event each year. MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY provides a list of major events scheduled for the next few months on the first page of its News section (pg. 9), and a more extensive list on our online calendar.

Knowing that trusted sites on the Internet are frequently consulted sources for helpful information, as confirmed by the research, we have enhanced the search capability of our web site to provide easier access to our article archives. Check out the story on page 9 for an overview of the improvements, or better yet, visit and give it a try.

Like the subjects of the research, we at MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY tend also to seek information from the people we know best. MT





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