Lessons from Childhood: How to search for things that are hard to find

tennisball.jpgIn my teen years in the Dominican Republic, I used to play a game my friends called playball. The game followed more or less the same rules of baseball; we setup bases, hit the ball and ran to score. The main difference was that we played in the middle of the street and we used no bats or pitchers. We threw the ball up into the air ourselves and hit it with our bare hands.

Obviously we didn't use real baseballs, which would have been incredibly painful, but rather bright green tennis balls. It wasn’t uncommon to hit the ball hard enough that it will land in a monte—the scrubby woodland areas nearby. In no time at all the ball would grow dirty enough from our monte homeruns that it would turn a dark green color. You always had to pay close attention to the trajectory in order to find where it landed. We lost many balls over the years.

Why was it so difficult? The dark green balls blended in with the bushes so well that it was very hard for us to tell them apart. The balls had no distinctive features to make them stand out. Later, we used bright orange balls and those were really hard to miss. Search engines face a similar challenge… Read more