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Saturday, May 24, 2003


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Google Answers Researcher Interview: Omnivorous-ga

Interviewed: Google Answers Researcher Omnivorous.


What’s your first name?
Andy, but my friends call me Modest Polish Boy from a stunt I pulled in college.

Where are you from?
Originallly, Cleveland Heights, OH but now living in Mukilteo, WA (north of Seattle).

What’s your profession?
Computer marketing but like so many researchers, “between assignments.”

Do you have a homepage?
I run about six but am probably best-known for a specialty pilots page.

Any story behind your research nick?
Marketing guys think positioning is everything. You don’t want to be related to a single interest or profession, for fear that customers would say something like, “A lawyer would say that.” All ranging: so omnivorous-ga it was. I guess I might have positioning problems with vegans.

Omnivorous-ga on Google Answers

What was your first answer for Google Answers? What was your most recent answer?
I was approved as a researcher at the end of May, 2002, then read questions and answers for more than 2 months before answering this one looking for a canned analysis of a Harvard Business School case (Aug. 7, 2002).

The most-recent was #243 on headache specialists.

What kind of questions do you like to answer most?
Ones where the customer has already tried coaxing information out of the Internet. The conventional wisdom is that everything’s available on the ’Net — and it’s surprising even to researchers what’s there. But my guess is that old print material and information in databases is still 90% of information sources.

What were some of the most interesting discoveries you made during your research activity?
Look at who has an MBA
That socially responsible investing is proving positive financial returns
That the history of stall/spin recovery in aircraft is so poorly documented, as it’s one of the critical aspects of training new pilots. It was Byrd-ga who did the real work here, I just had a pair of extra notes to add.

Hypothetical Musings by Omnivorous-ga

You have one minute to convince a potential customer who doesn’t know about Google Answers to start using it. What do you say?
Read the answers that interest you. Then ask several questions yourself.

If an omniscient deity would be a Google Answers Researcher, which question would you ask?
I’d do a follow-up to one of my favorite answers, robertskelton-ga’s “What’s the secret of women?” by asking how differences in brain structure cause men and women to process information differently.

Which famous person, dead or alive, would make a great addition to the Researcher team?
Thomas Alva Edison.

Time magazine features Google Answers; what can be seen on the cover?
A ’Wizard of Oz’ kind of scene with the geniuses behind the machine — “The Wizards of Googlebot.”

Omnivorous-ga’s Favorites

What are your favorite research tools, on- and offline?
An almanac: I have two, one business and one “normal” almanac. They have summary statistics for lots of categories of information, but I’m really looking for the footnotes to see what organizations are providing the data. Then it’s off to the web.

Online: my favorite is the New York Times index and archive. It goes back to 1851 and it’s well-indexed online. My library has access to it through Proquest Historical Newspapers. It’s a good way to verify spelling or to find related terms in a search, even if the New York Times doesn’t always have in-depth information.

What are some remarkable less known websites?
This is hard to pick because it depends on what you’re seeking. I think that one of the most robust is RootsWeb, which is oriented to genealogical research. It has forums, family summaries, cemetery listings, links to the U.S. Social Security Death Index and historical accounts like this one that I wrote.

The researchers use it extensively on any genealogy questions so it’s hardly “less known” but few people know how deep the site is.

What are some of your favorite Google Answers by fellow Researchers?
Again I have to mention Robert Skelton’s “What’s the Secret of Women” but it’s asked in a humorous manner, answered with humor, and has links with a million perspectives.

Digsalot did a great job with a response here. A fine example of the breadth of background of researchers.

Omnivorous-ga’s Spare-time

Got any weird hobbies?
Nothing weird: I love to fly.

What are some of your favorite books, movies, and music albums?

Books: I read voraciously. What’s been good enough to read over-and-over?
In non-fiction: “The Encyclopedia Britannica,” 1945 edition. How great to have a resource that gives perspective on the world from 60 years ago!
A book called “The Mass Extinction Debates: How Science Works in a Crisis” is great because it describes how the conventional wisdom progresses on a theory from: “it’s absurd” to “it’s partially true” to acceptance. In the case of this book it was Alvarez’ theory that a comet caused the dinosaur extinction.
So much good non-fiction could be updated after 15-20 years. I loved “The Reckoning,” the story of the auto industry written by David Halberstam. But it’s dated now and truthfully there are other excellent works on world competition in the auto industry.
Every parent should read Frank Sulloway’s “Born to Rebel” on the importance of birth order in a family.

In non-fiction: “Tales of the South Pacific,” by James Michener. It was all-downhill after that book for Michener.
The Godfather,” by Mario Puzo. Well-researched historical fiction.

Movies: Casablanca, The Way We Were, Gettysburg, Out of Africa.

Music: An extraordinary album called “Curagiu” by a group called I Muvrini. I thought for a long time that its chants were in Latin, but it’s Corsican. John Barry’s soundtrack for “Out of Africa” is an instant reminder of teaching in Zaire. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” which was a breakthrough album in mixing bluegrass/country artists with popular musicians. Finally: just about anything by Dido.

Final words by Omnivorous-ga

What would be the title of your autobiography?
“Propeller Head”

Anything else you might want to say?
Google Answers is so entertaining that it should lead to at least 4 titles [which could be published by a new “Google Press”, similar to Microsoft Press — instead of letting other publishers grab the best titles]:


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