Google Search Improvement

Google makes many changes every year to search – some we are barely aware of, some we don’t like at all, some that are loved instantly. This past year, according to Google’s  head of search Amit Singhal, Google made 890 “improvements”.

Google Made 890 Improvements To Search Over The Past Year, Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land (Aug 19)

He doesn’t say what they were but does list highlights in last 10 years (which is a very long time). Of his ten, I think the most valuable were:

  • Autocomplete – stroke of genius – see the variation and choose one that best suits our intent.
  • Voice search – I love this on my iPad.
  • Knowledge Graph – information nuggets frequently have the answer, or at least a good overview.

World War One in the London Illustrated News

Archive material from the London Illustrated News and the “Great Eight illustrated magazines”  1914 to 1919 will be available at the Illustrated First World War site.

Browse the wartime pages of the Illustrated London News in a new online archive, First World War Centenary (Aug 13)

The project means that for the first time in 100 years, the public will be able to browse the wartime pages of The Illustrated London News and its sister titles; discover paintings, illustrations and sketches by war artists; and read articles, many of which have not been seen since they were first published.

Website has

  • timeline to the war
  • ILN articles – that seem to be timed to the current week 100 years ago
  • War artists who were illustrators.
  • A blog

Bing goes conversational

Bing has added conversational search by which it uses previous searches to interpret  the current query and select results. Begin with a question such as – who is the prime minister of canada – get the answer – then ask – what party does he belong to – Conservative.

Google announced conversational capabilities with the Hummingbird update, but it doesn’t carry on the conversation the way Bing does now.

Bing Launches Conversational Search, Amy Gesenhues, Search Engine Land (Aug 13)

Information Today – August sampler

Information Today is offering a sampler of articles from its August publications for download.. Among them is one about researching for competitive intelligence.

In Online Searcher, DuPont’s Peter M. Murphy talks about his company’s competitive intelligence (CI) news delivery practices, how his team seeks ways to improve news harvesting, his curation techniques, and DuPont’s goals for meeting customer needs.

WW1 Prisoners of War database

Here’s another resource of war records for the  researcher into World War One  – the names and information about people held in the prisoner-of-war camps.

New, Free Website Has Millions of World War I Prisoner of War Records, Genealogy Insider (Aug )

Records were collected by and are made available through the International Committee of the Red Cross — http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/

Records include the ledger entries for prisoners, some postcards or pictures of camps, and a few personal accounts.

Must have been a mammoth job to digitize it all – see the video at http://grandeguerre.icrc.org/en/MakingOf

Information Retrieval Techniques

It takes experience and discipline to be skilled researcher. Judith Tinnes, in this article on the art of searching for terrorism literature, presents a very thorough and clear description of the research process and types of online resource and provides sound advice on how to track down the best material. It is the best article I have ever read on information retrieval techniques: It instructs the reader in matters of approach and tools, and includes detail on techniques such as those of snowballing, citation searching, and citation analyses. You don’t need to be researching terrorism literature to benefit from this, but the topic does give it an extra frisson.


The Art of Searching: How to Find Terrorism Literature in the Digital Age
by Judith Tinnes, Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol 7, No 4 (2013)

This guide provides an overview of information retrieval techniques for locating high-quality literature on terrorism and counter-terrorism. Starting from general considerations on conducting a literature search – taking into account the specifics of terrorism studies – instructions are provided on how to find particular literature types by using different search methods and information retrieval systems, followed by information on how to refine a search by employing focused search strategies. The explanations are enriched with numerous links to recommendable resources. The included examples are focused on terrorism studies, but the general search mechanics can be applied to other research domains as well.

Wikipedia Affected by Right-to-be-forgotten

This has become ridiculous. Why did the people who objected to entries in Wikipedia not go directly to it and seek removal?

“Right To Be Forgotten” To Blame For Removal Of 50 Wikipedia Links From EU Search Results, by Amy Gesenhues, Search Engine Land (Aug 6)

“According to a release today from the Wikimedia Foundation, 50 links to its Wikipedia site have been removed from Google search results in Europe on account of the recent Right to Be Forgotten legislation.”

Reference Works Online

Reference sources have been moving to online for several years. This article in Online Searcher takes a good hard look at the pros and cons of online reference products. Ease of access has  greatly improved, but authority may not be clear and the online version of a reference work may not be complete.

The Ebb and Flow of Reference Products , By Denise Beaubien Bennett, Online Searcher (July / August 2014)

“Have reference sources eroded in quality in the online era? We’re all aware of the challenges facing us and our users in vetting (or not) the authority and credibility of free sources available online. But the quality of contemporary vetted sources is worth examining in its own right.”

Many excellent online reference works are commented upon in this article.

Google features

Google features come and go – almost always without explanation.

Jon Wiley, a search designer at Google, spoke briefly about this – mostly it is to avoid bloatware. Removing features, he said, “is one of the toughest but most important parts of designing products – deciding what to trim as you move forward”

Google Search Designer Explains Why Some Features & Tools Get Axed, Search Engine Land (Jul 28)

And – Google may have added a new timeline to the Knowledge Graph.

Google Testing Timeline View In Knowledge Graph, Search Engine Land (Jul 28)

“Google is testing a new knowledge graph interface for showing a timeline of data, facts and knowledge in the top carousel section of the Google search results.”

Whether to use the Boolean OR

Aaron Tay in this blog post takes on the thorny topic of whether using the Boolean OR in a search query is really worthwhile even at proprietary databases such as Web of Science of EbscoHost. He is so daring as to write, “that I believe increasingly such a search pattern of stringing together synonyms of concepts generally does not improve the search results and can even hurt them. ”

Why Nested Boolean search statements may not work as well as they did, by Aaron Tay, Musings About Librarianship (Jul 14)

I have been teaching very selective use of OR in web searching. Mostly it’s not needed and when used can muddy the results. But it is still beneficial for the searcher to analyze the question to identify concepts and know when to expand a concept. We no longer need to expand for spelling variations and less so on synoymns EXCEPT when we want to control the word use.

Article seems to give balanced account of need to use OR in some databases (such as PubMed), and the much looser approach with the Web.