Tuesday, July 31, 2012

U Pick

The raspberries are ripe in Cap-Pele but there are no pickers.  At Vienneau farm, it's self-serve only, with pint boxes available to anyone who is willing to venture out to the berry patch and help themselves.   A pint of U Pick berries costs $2.00, while the same amount sells for $4.49 at the supermarket.

We spent a pleasant hour at the farm this morning working our way along the thick row of old growth raspberry bushes, selecting fruit for freezing and jam-making.  The task requires patience and discernment.  There are no shortcuts in the painstaking one-berry-at-a-time plucking method.  Each cluster includes some under-ripe pale berries that cling tenaciously to their green caps, unwilling to let go prematurely.   Right next to those are the over-ripe maroon berries that have a tendency to explode into juice or drop to the ground at the slightest touch.  The premium berries - the ones you should aim to collect - have the healthy blush of a red rose, release from the stem with a gentle pull, stay intact when dropped into the box and do not stain your hands or clothing during the harvest.  You have to hunt high and low for the best berries, moving into keyholes cut at regular intervals along the row.  These prickly, intimate niches allow the picker access to the very core of the bushes where, surrounded by protective vegetation, the perfect berries hang hidden from view.

Berrypicking is used as an analogy for research methods, particularly when describing how people go about finding information on the internet.   Experts who understand the dynamics of search engines suggest that programs designed to encourage a meandering style of research are the most effective and most user-friendly.  The terms of a search naturally follow a winding path, adapting and changing as we gather information, picking up facts and ideas one delicious tidbit at a time.   Marcia J. Bates, Professor of Information Studies at the University of California wrote a paper on this subject entitled "The design of browsing and berrypicking techniques for the online search interface." 

Discernment is a crucial skill for anyone relying on the web as a library substitute.  Some questions to ask as you wade through layers of rumour, folklore, urban myth and creative writing looking for straightforward answers:

Accuracy - Can you verify the facts?
Authority - Who is writing and what qualifications do they have?
Objectivity - Is this personal opinion, biased reporting, or propaganda? Is the information presented in order to sell something?
Currency -  How up to date is this info?
Coverage - Is this an in-depth analysis or a superficial gloss-over?

Search engine meandering has a definite appeal for people who like to find unexpected things en route to valid information about a specific topic.  The internet gods not only smile on distraction, but pardon a dose of deception, too.   One can easily be misled when the path to information is neither straight nor narrow.   Just look at the quote I found while researching this topic!

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