How People Re-find Information When the Web Changes

Unknown author (2004-06-18)

This paper investigates how people return to information in a dynamic information environment. For example, a person might want to return to Web content via a link encountered earlier on a Web page, only to learn that the link has since been removed. Changes can benefit users by providing new information, but they hinder returning to previously viewed information. The observational study presented here analyzed instances, collected via a Web search, where people expressed difficulty re-finding information because of changes to the information or its environment. A number of interesting observations arose from this analysis, including that the path originally taken to get to the information target appeared important in its re-retrieval, whereas, surprisingly, the temporal aspects of when the information was seen before were not. While people expressed frustration when problems arose, an explanation of why the change had occurred was often sufficient to allay that frustration, even in the absence of a solution. The implications of these observations for systems that support re-finding in dynamic environments are discussed.