Search mavens and gurus

Danny Sullivan celebrated 18 years of writing about search – search engines, algorithms, optimization, marketing – in April – and I’ve been reading his work – mainly at Search Engine Land for most of that time. (Danny Sullivan: 18 years covering search)

Tara Calishain at Research Buzz, another long timer, noted that she published the Official Netscape Guide to Internet Research in 1996.

Which got me thinking about how long I’ve been teaching and blogging about web search. Sandra Wood and I developed The Internet Guide, a web-based comprehensive, self-study course on searching  the Internet in 1996.  At that time searchers also needed to know about  telnet and ftp, mailing lists and usenet. TIG, as we called it, was used by librarians in public libraries across Canada for four or five years  through an agreement between the Faculty of Information Studies at the University of Toronto and Industry Canada’s Library Net and VOLnet.


When that contract ended,  I moved  the web-search content into Web Search Guide, a free self-study course on tools and strategies . Around that time (roughly 2002), I began this Internet News blog. I closed the self-study course in 2012  because it was ihoplelessly out of date, but continue with the blog, somewhat as a personal notebook.

Over these years I owe a great deal to other writers on search. In no particular order, they are:

  • Danny Sullivan for his detailed analysis of how search engines work. Fortunately for all interested in search, he continues to contribute substantial articles to Search Engine Land, which he founded.
  • Chris Sherman for search strategies. Sherman, with Gary Price,  wrote The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can’t See. He tweets @CJSherman
  • Gary Price  for curating resources  for librarians from the beginning of Internet time. Follow his posts at  InfoDocket or @Infodocket.. Shirl Kennedy also contributes.
  • Genie Tyburski, a law librarian, for her valuable articles on professional search.  She started Virtual Chase in 1996. Follow her now through Twitter. @GenieTyburski
  • Greg Notess for his substantial website on websearch,  and regular column in Online. Notess also wrote, Teaching Web Search Skills, which helped many search more effectively. Greg @notess tweets occasionally.
  • Tara Calishain, the maven of ResearchBuzz, for teaching me many tricks and approaches to search through her free e-newsletter in the late 1990s, and her books, Web Search Garage, Google Hacks – both editions. Tara continues to gather and observe with a wry humour. @ResearchBuzz
  • Mary Ellen Bates, for her presentations about web search at conferences,  occasional postings, and tweets @mebs.  She too has been generous with her time in helping  information professionals.
  • Karen Blakeman in the United Kingdom for providing a wealth of tip sheets and advice on search strategies and business research.  (RBA Information Services founded in 1989. @karenblakeman)
  • Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea, for explaining so clearly what he learns about the operation of search engines and the intentions of the designers through patent filings.
  • Daniel Russell, Google’s search guru, for the Search Research challenges – especially the answers.  Find him at Google Plus.

I’m sure to think of other names the moment I post this. Follow these gurus through whatever means they are most active: Google Plus, Twitter, or blogs.

What Heartbleed means

Heartbleed bug in the OpenSSL type of encryption technology used on many web servers is of grave concern – enough for Revenue Canada to close online submission of  income tax returns and accessing accounts until it can fix the security hole.  The bug has made it possible for usernames and passwords to be leaked.  It may be necessary for us all to change our passwords on all accounts.

‘Change every password everywhere’: Heartbleed’s threat to Web security , Michael Liedtke and Anick Jesdanun, Globe and Mail via AP (Apr 9)

An alarming lapse in Internet security has exposed millions of passwords, credit-card numbers and other sensitive bits of information to potential theft by computer hackers who may have been secretly exploiting the problem before its discovery.

Canada Revenue Agency shuts online service to guard against Heartbleed bug by Tu Thanh Ha and others, Globe and Mail (Apr 9)

The Heartbleed security bug has forced Canada’s tax agency to block public access to its online services just three weeks ahead of the April 30 deadline for filing personal income tax.

Slideshare for staying up to date

Slideshare is an excellent source of presentations for getting a quick overview. Acquired by LinkedIn in May 2012, it has content on business, travel, technology, career planning, and likely any topic you might search for.  Users upload  presentations, infographics, documents, videos, PDFs, and webinars. Viewers may easily follow favourite contributors and people in their LinkedIn network, and get updates on featured presentations.


For web searchers two to follow are:

Mary Ellen Bates – Super Searcher Tips from a session at Computers in Libraries. She mentions as method for digging more deeply into Google’s index; also searching Twitter and some other social media searches; and some bits on Google Scholar

Karen Blakeman – How we really search: the end of Google’s supremacy – presentation at Southampton University, UK.  She covered social media, main web search engines, some specialty engines, images – much more.


Verifying information on the Net

Is what you just read in Twitter or in a blog true? How do you verify user-generated content? Dan Russell of Search Research  recommends Verification Handbook — one you should read

The Verification Handbook is a collection of short chapters about how-to-verify-social-media-information. It’s edited by Craig Silverman of the Poynter Institute (an organization you should know about) and the creator of the blog Regret the Error.

The book - Verification Handbook: Definitive guide to verifying digital content for emergency coverage – is free. Mathew Ingram, formerly of the Globe and Mail and a media expert, is one of the many authors.

Bing and Google drop search terms

Karen Blakeman asks Is Bing dropping search terms? (Mar 1), and it likely is. Gone are the days when we could count on search engines searching for ALL our terms. Too often our search terms are nowhere to be seen – even on large results sets.

Karen gives two ways to force Bing to include all terms. Interestingly, use the Boolean AND, or the prefix inbody:xxx

At Google we need to use Verbatim search, or intext:xxx. Don’t know about AND.

Google Syntax Tour

Melanie Pinola at LifeHacker offers students tips for searching Google. Hack Tricks – Google Search (Jan 25)

This is a fast tour of using syntax at Google–  such as site: to limit to a website; filetype: – to find a pdf or image file; intitle: to look for words in a title of a page. There are more.


  • Google discontinued ~ tilde for finding related words
  • Author or inauthor used to work for News and maybe Blogs – doesn’t now. Does work in Scholar but may not be reliable.

Article also has tips for Google Books and Scholar.

Of interest: Google Drive has a research tool – will grab the citation in the style you choose (MLA, APA, or Chicago).


Presentation on cost-effective searching

This presentation by Marcy Phelps at Internet  Librarian 2013 goes through the steps and approaches the information professional will want to employ to search quickly and effectively.

Cost-Effective Searching: Online strategies and practices to get the most for your search dollar and your time.

Has a couple of tips on using Google.  I wouldn’t use OR to the extent mentioned here. Google does more semantic interpretation of words and less keyword matching. Therefore, expanding a concept with OR may muddy results too much.

Greatest value is the reminder to use specialty sites – find them, collect them, know them, use them.

Marcy Phelps has other presentations at Slideshare – would be good to follow her for tools and techniques.