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.

Privacy Check Tool

Here’s a quick check to do before clicking on “I agree”  to those long, dense user agreements. This tool converts the legalize  to understandable English.

PrivacyCheck Offers Free Tool to Analyze Privacy Policies, University of Texas (May 5)

The Center for Identity, a research organization at The University of Texas at Austin, today released PrivacyCheck, a free browser extension that scans privacy policies online and illustrates the risk of sharing personal data with any given company. Currently available for Chrome users, PrivacyCheck gives users a simple, fast way to make informed decisions about privacy.

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.

Private Search

Blur Private Search is a new search service for making your web searches private. It operates as a plug-in to your browser (home page says Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, or Internet Explorer), and can be toggled on and off. Requires registration and login to use. See Blur Private Search: How It Works

ReadWrite described the benefits and operation of  Private Search  in this article How To Blur Your Search Tracks On Google (Apr 17)

Private Search provides a new made-up identity for each individual search. It then funnels the request through an SSL tunnel, so that the search is encrypted—even Abine can’t see what you’re searching for. And every phrase or topic you search appears as if it is unconnected to previous searches, since each query is sent through Abine’s server with an entirely different IP address (which is yet another avenue by which websites can track people).

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.


Facebook – not so good for following

I don’t really “get” Facebook, but Tara Calishain at ResearchBuzz pays attention and she says — Please Don’t Like Us On Facebook (Because There’s No Damned Point) (April 22). Facebook has changed it algorithm for posting to your timeline – it will be more friends, and less “pages” that you have liked and wish to follow.

“Generally speaking, Facebook friends will get more exposure, Facebook Pages will get less. And it’s to the point that I feel I need to ask you to not “like” ResearchBuzz News on Facebook. “

I’m with her – what’s the point of setting up a page? Tara Calishain lists other, better, ways for receiving her updates on web resources for searchers.