Lisa Louise Cooke Search Tip

Lisa Louise Cooke has a new tech-tip video for genealogists – Speak Google’s Language: Google Search Operator Basics. Many will know these two tips – using quotation marks and using OR – but Cooke’s explanations are elegantly simple and enjoyable. Where I would have been tempted to talk about building up concepts, she keeps it very simple by showing how to use OR to search on two formats for a person’s name.   The book she mentions (in her store) is one of the best guides to using Google I have ever come across.

Dealing with null results

Love this line from Greg Notess’ article Tips for Avoiding, or Celebrating, Zero Search Results in Information Today — “Only librarians like to search; everyone else likes to find”.

Notess examines the reasons for and the significance of a null set of results. Mostly, searchers need to know the structure and scope of the database; literary and academic databases are much different than Google; specialty searches such as for patents take special skills.

Researching ancestors through other people

Information about an ancestor might be uncovered by searching for people who lived nearby. Amy Johnson Crow recommends this technique in a recent posting – How to Find Your Ancestor by Researching Other People (Sept 15). Sources might be census records, marriage certificates, wills, directories.

Our ancestors did not live in a vacuum. They had extended family members, neighbors, business contacts, friends, and maybe an enemy or two. (Elizabeth Shown Mills refers to these “other” people as a person’s FAN club — friends, associates, and neighbors.)

Searching privately

Helen Brown gives us a good reason to use a search engine that does not track searches or pitch ads – Because it’s none of their business (Sept 8).  Of importance to the professional researcher, the filtering done by search and ranking algorithms may cloud results. Solution – use tools that don’t track but do have a broad reach. She offers a comparison of 13 search engines that indicates for an engine whether there are ads, personalized results, or  tracking.

Some to particularly note are:

Disconnect Search – web version of browser add-on. Operates through a proxy server to direct your queries to the search engine and the results back to you. See short video about the browser add-on. Also – more about Disconnect in Information Week — Disconnect Search: Google In Private (Mar 2014)

Duckduckgo – Bing-based but more of a meta search engine. Does not log any personally identifiable information.

Startpage – does not store personal history. But even more valuable is that  search results can be viewed  through the IxQuick Proxy. See StartPage Proxy Explained.

Oscobo in the UK claims to store no personal data. I suspect the web search results come from the Bing database. It also searches Twitter.

I have also used Carrot2, a meta-search engine developed in Europe (mostly Poland) that clusters search results by topic. Its web search uses Google and Bing. Carrot2 doesn’t promise privacy but as an intermediary it blocks personalization.

But for full privacy you may want to consider access through a virtual private network. Paul Gil at About.com explains why — 10 Reasons to Use a VPN for Private Web Browsing

Microsoft Researcher for Word

Writers and students may be interested in the new search tools Microsoft has added to Word, and some new tricks to Powerpoint and Outlook.

Microsoft wants you to write better, stay focused and bore fewer people, TechCrunch (July 26)

With Researcher for Word, the team is now building a new tool into Word that helps you find information regarding the topic about which you are writing. Those sources can be online journals and encyclopedias, history databases, national science and health centers, as well as other trustworthy sites, and you can import formatted references directly into Word.

There is a longer description in Microsoft just made it way easier to write a research paper with Word , The Verge. (July 26)

Researcher uses Microsoft’s Bing Knowledge Graph to query content from the internet and then pull it straight into Word. Microsoft has a curated list of trusted sources and reference materials which the company plans to expand upon over time. If you add source material, it will even automatically create the citation in your bibliography as part of your research paper. If you’re a student using Office 365 then Researcher is available immediately, and Microsoft is planning to bring the feature to mobile variants of Office in the future.

At PowerPoint there is a new Zoom feature for forming and moving to sections more easilty.

How to build a web alert

Tremendous article by Tara Calishain at Research Buzz on how she built an “information trap” (ie a web monitoring program) on a subject she knows little about for a client, her husband using methods for building vocabulary. In this she shows the selective use of several advanced Google search features as well as Google Trends. She records it all in her One Note folder. Lots of pointers for novice and expert.

Anatomy of an Information Trap, Part I: Starting From Scratch, Research Buzz (July 12)