Google removed reading level

One by one Google strips itself of the features that made  the Google search engine  excellent for web search. This time it’s the reading level search filter. Presumably it wasn’t used much, but that is hardly a good reason – not when it was a feature valued by a key segment of the user population.

Google Drops Another Search Filter: Reading Level, Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land (May 8)

Karen Blakeman, a professional searcher, is one who feels the loss. She commented in – Google dumps Reading Level search filter that feature helped to separate the technical, serious articles from “consumer or retail focused pages” – which I think we could call the trivial. She wonders, as do I, which of the few remaining advanced search features Google will drop next. Pray that it won’t be number range.

Site: for power searching

Site: is one of the most useful search operators at Google, Bing, Yahoo, Duckduckgo.  It permits searching the pages indexed by the search engine at that web site.  Form is site: followed by the domain name – eg – for everything in the  University of Toronto’s domain.  There are refinements – may search a subdomain – eg, or a subdirectory – eg

This video prepared by the Google Media team is very good – clearly describes how and when to use site: through good examples.  Find the video and Dan Russell’s introduction at Search Research — A new video on SITE: from Google’s Media team (May 4)

Of interest – Google Media Tools has many more helpful tools and tips.

State of Search April 2015

The thrill that people in the search business used to have in showing others the power of Google has gone. Instead, there is alarm or dismay over Google’s dominance.  This shows in Karen Blakeman’s slideshow presentation – New Google, New Challenges  (April 2015) in which the presentation begins with a review of Google’s clashes with Spanish newspapers, the EU, France over the search algorithm. There is a growing view that Google oversteps and oversells. Its current direction may be artificial intelligence – which may improve search and definitely unnerve us more. At slide 44, Blakeman recaps useful syntax at Google. There aren’t many alternatives for broad web search – pretty well reduced to Bing and DuckDuckGo. is on Blakeman’s  list, but my experience has been that the search engine is often overloaded. Presentations closes with some tools and techniques for searching social media.

Books and Tips for Investigative Research

Matthew Gilley, at Press Gazette, has extracted  Ten ways for investigative journalists to check their facts when using search engines and social media,  (Apr 16) from a new book – The Verification Handbook for Investigative Reporting

The first two tips are about using search engines about which we could say much more. Basically – learn the syntax and have several search engines at hand. I recommend using DuckDuckGo from time to time, and to being diligent in searching out specialty sites.

The next eight tips concern analysis of what you find – check and check again. There’s considerable mention of User Generated Content – or UGC – which will be helpful to journalists.

“User-generated content (UGC), like Youtube videos, can be useful to investigative journalists, but should also be treated with caution. If a video claims to show a certain place, a journalist can find satellite imagery of that location. Comparing landmarks (or road layouts) in the video and the satellite image can establish whether the video was indeed filmed where it is supposed to have been, and even the exact position of the camera.”

This is the second of two books with contributions from journalists, editors, and researchers on verification techniques and tools. Both are available online for viewing, downloading, or purchase. Must reads!

  1. The Verification Handbook: A definitive guide to verifying digital content for emergency coverage with ten chapters of tools and techniques.
  2. Verification Handbook for Investigative Reporting: A guide to online search and research techniques for using UGC and open source information in investigation with ten chapters and three case studies.



I hate to drive eyeballs to this nonsense piece from The Telegraph in the UK.  Why men are better at Google than women, Andrew Shanahan, The Telegraph (Mar 31)

It purports to present studies that show men search more effectively on the web than women. This conclusion has been arrived at from a study on gender differences done in 2002 of children in a grade six class in a Canadian elementary school. The other study, from 2003, on Search for Information  was of 28 grade eight students searching on “how mosquitoes select their prey”  on the web and in the library. The author mentions a third study (without a citation) concerning brain function that claims to prove that women are more intutitive, and men better at reading maps – that old chestnut.

Please – do not bother to create a search engine for women. Rather – maybe women would like to show men how to validate findings.