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)


It’s not often that we come across an article that compares Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar, and Microsoft Academic for citation analysis. Google Scholar Digest posted this study by Anne-Wil Harzing of Middlesex University, UK (June 13, 2016) Microsoft Academic versus Google Scholar, Scopus, and Web of Science: Anne-Wil Harzing’s case.

This article assesses Microsoft Academic coverage through a detailed comparison of the publication and citation record of a single academic for each the four main citation databases: Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, the Web of Science, and Scopus. Overall, this first small-scale case study suggests that the new incarnation of Microsoft Academic presents us with an excellent alternative for citation analysis. If our findings can be confirmed by larger-scale studies, Microsoft Academic might well turn out to combine the advantages of broader coverage, as displayed by Google Scholar, with the advantage of a more structured approach to data presentation, typical of Scopus and the Web of Science. If so, the new Microsoft Academic service would truly be a Phoenix arisen from the ashes.

Spoiler alert: Microsoft Academic was found to be stronger than Web of Science for publication and citation coverage, and at least equal to Scopus. “Only Google Scholar outperforms Microsoft Academic interms of both publications and citations.”

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.

RankBrain update

Gary Illyes from Google talked with Danny Sullivan at the SMX conference about Google’s search operation, ranking methods, points of interest to SEO masters. Barry Schwartz summarized the points in . Key takeaways from the Google AMA: RankBrain, Panda, Penguin, bots & more.

RankBrain is of greatest interest. It is Google’s application of machine learning to improve its understanding of the query and ranking of results. Danny Sullivan explains in
Google uses RankBrain for every search, impacts rankings of “lots” of them (June 23)

… what we’ve understood about RankBrain: it seems largely used as a query refinement tool. Google seems to be using it now for every search to better understand what that search is about. After that, another aspect of RankBrain might influence what results actually appear and in what order, but not always.

Mistrusting the algorithms

Thoughtful look by Nancy K Herther at Gaming the (Google Search) System (Newsbreaks, June 21). Google denied manipulating search results to suppress hostile content about Hilary Clinton. There is no way of knowing. But scrubbing results and removing content happens frequently. It makes us mistrust the system.

A recent BBC report notes that “with more than 90% of the market in much of the world, Google’s dominance in the vital and lucrative business of searching the internet is clear. But does its mysterious and ever-changing search algorithm have too much power? Does this one force exert excessive influence over the information we all access, the success or failure of businesses, the reputation of individuals and even which political ideas triumph?” Maybe Google should begin to embrace transparency in the search.

Google Maps 2010 vs 2016

Google Maps has changed its style of cartography over the past six years as is clearly seen in this article by Justin O’Beirne What happened to Google Maps?. Comparing maps from 2010 to 2016 reveals that Google provided more city names on maps in 2010 to today, and in 2016 it shows more roads. Both are inadequate, though roads without city names is more annoying and less useful. The author links it to changes at Google for mobile users: “Given these trends, it’s likely that Google Maps was optimized for mobile—and this explains some of the changes we observed earlier.”