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)

Socratic Search

Socrates Search directs us to think as Socrates would in order to explore and examine – not just accept the first result. Ted Hunt, a graduate of the Royal College of Art in the UK, has developed a search engine that is based on Google Custom Search and assists the user in applying the Socratic method. These are: Seek Clarity, Challenge Assumptions, View Evidence, Explore Alternatives or Consider Implications.

Socrates Search Engine

Results do differ – or at least are reordered according to the button clicked. The custom search might be selecting  particular sources, or perhaps adding search terms. Would be nice to be able to see under the hood. For now – an interesting approach – and a reminder that we would do well to apply the Socractic method.

See Ted Hunt’s Socratic Search invites Google users to question their assumptions in dezeen (June 24)

Importance of words

In web searching, as I said many times in my classes, it’s all about words – picking the exact ones for locating what you need. Dan Russell at Google shows how true this is in  a search challenge to find terms that would have been used in earlier times.

What was that word again? Effective searching with old terms. SearchResearch (June21)

the language of the past is somewhat different than the one we speak (and write) now.

As a consequence, when you’re trying to search for historical content, you sometimes (often?) have to shift your language to accommodate the way authors in the past would have written.

He lays out three examples – the strategies – types of sources to look for, the search terms, and results.

Top Level Domains – proliferation

Top-level domain codes used to be useful to searchers in limiting to a type of site (gov, edu) or country (uk, ca). That was when codes were fairly pure and few. For several years the generic codes have been expanded, and country codes have been used for other than the country (eg tv). Wallace Koehler writes Top-Level Domain Name Explosions: Teapot Tempest in Online Searcher (May/June). He describes the situation well, providing an account of the proliferation over the past 10 years. Personally, I think the growth and confusion made using top-level domains in a search query nearly useless, but I will agree that searchers should know enough about TLDs to recognize and assess them in search results and occasionally use as a filter. “Just as website owners must engage in defensive registrations of sTLDs and ccTLDs, web searchers would be wise to be equally defensive when delving into the web.”

Search lesson from a master

The master is Dan Russell at Google. If you are a school librarian or teaching students research skills, following Russell’s posts is essential. This one in particular conveys valuable lessons – Why research skills matter more than ever (Search Researeh, Mar 11). Don’t just throw some keywords into the search engine. Make sure you have some background knowledge – and if you don’t have it, get it – to assess the results. Think critically. Be aware that people have biases, that new information or theories may have been discovered, and that some sites are fraudulent.

Business Research – resources

Business research expert, Karen Blakeman, has released a new presentation – Business Information; key resources and search strategies [Edited] (Mar 9) This is mainly directed to researchers dealing with the United Kingdom but it has many points and resources of interest to anyone researching business information, markets, and statistics. For example, Karen provides advanced search techniques to use at Google.

Compound concepts

Ever draw a blank – have part of a name or phrase and can’t think of the rest? Dan Russell shows some techniques to fill that void in Answer: How to find compound concepts (Search Research, Feb 29)

One tip I would add is enter what you already know, especially useful when looking for place or person. Eg – who plays duchess in Downton Abbey, or do a “fill in the blank” sentence – * invented electricity — where * is the blank. This can provide the answer more quickly than just the words invented electricity.

Russell also employs the * as a wild card.

Teaching information literacy

Teachers and librarians striving to teach information literacy to their charge may be interested in looking into Credo, a service and tool for building information skills.

The Importance of Being Information Literate by Brandi Scardilli, Information Today (March)

– “Credo is a reference content aggregator, which means it hosts curated collections of reference content on its platform. ”
– “Credo’s platform works with any publisher so that libraries can access the reference content from a unified source. ”
– “Credo’s information literacy solution, Literati, has expanded to include custom-branded versions for individual libraries. Additionally, Credo bases the skill sets it covers in its Learning Outcomes Courseware on ACRL’s information literacy framework. The three core skills students need—information literacy, critical thinking, and communication—are Credo’s focus.”

Taking issue with search tips

Newbies to web search may find this posting about advanced techniques at Google useful.

11 Advanced Searches To Bookmark To Become A Google Power User, Dan Price, MakeUseOf (Feb 19)

It’s a good starter list – though I’m going to quibble about #1 to “exclude words” with a minus sign. Never use it mindlessly. Could easily exclude what you want. I recommend adding words to describe what you do want than swat at flies removing single word.

#4 Finding local news – good to remember the operator location:

#5 I’ll also point out that link: is completely unreliable, never complete, and may soon be dropped by Google.

#9 Number range is valuable – possibly the best search feature Google has now. It’s great for date ranges, prices, zip codes – anything numeric. Please use it a lot so that Google doesn’t drop it as it has so much else.

#10 – using OR. Oh no. Yes you can search on more than one concept at a time using OR, but you can easily be overwhelmed by results – as happens in that example search. Google has no clues on how to rank, other than to figure that results with all the terms are better. If you use OR, do it carefully to incrementally examine aspects of your main search concept. Watch the syntax too. By rights should use quotation marks to insist on “Google Docs”. A better way to do that kind of sweep is to AND all the terms in order to find an article that examines them all.