The other day as I was searching
Google for a scrap of esoterica —on which subject
Google reported several thousand entries—I reflected
on the question, “what did we do before Google?”
Well, we poked around in encyclopedias, dictionaries,
telephone directories, and the reference section of
the library, oh and maybe a few bookstores too. And
after a day of poking we may have come out with a paragraph
or two on the subject. Now we can find thousands of
entries as a reward for typing a few words.
In a previous article I talked about how to discern
the validity of a particular webpage. Perhaps we should
back up one step and talk about how to search. There
are dozens of search engines out there. Some, like Google,
Bing, and Yahoo are generalized search engines. There
are other search engines and directories that are about
narrowly focused topics, like medicine, construction,
Search technique is pretty much the same whether you’re
looking at general or specific search engines. The trick
is to come up with their right keywords and then to
eliminate the irrelevant information.
Let’s say you want to learn to knit a scarf. If
you enter just the word [scarf] in Google, on the first
page you get information about tying silk scarves, a
Wikipedia article on a scarf joint (joining pieces of
wood or metal end-to-end), shopping results for scarves,
an article about a woman charged with pulling the headscarf
of a Muslim woman in a southern Chicago suburban grocery
store. Add the word knit [knit scarf], and you get more
what you’re looking for: a number of how-to articles
and videos on knitting a scarf. There are still a number
of entries about shopping that I didn’t want to
include, so after the words [knit scarf] I added a minus
sign (-), and then the word shopping [knit scarf -shopping].
That didn’t get rid of the “shopping results.”
So what’s true in any shopping result? There’s
a dollar sign ($)! So instead of [knit scarf -shopping],
I used [knit scarf -$]. That eliminated shopping results,
or at least most of them. So the idea is to start with
a few well-chosen words, words that are likely to appear
on the resulting webpages. If the first set of results
doesn’t include what you’re looking for,
it may give you ideas for what words to add to get closer
to your goal.
By adding my zip code [knit scarf 80302], I can find
local stores and organizations that could help me in
my quest to learn to knit a scarf. Do you like Thai
Food? Type the words [Thai restaurant Boulder Colorado]
into Google and then drool over the results.
If I wanted to search for [scarf knitting patterns],
I could just search for those words, but the results
will include pages that have those three words on them
but not necessarily together. If I want to search specifically
for those words, then I would put quote marks around
that phrase, [“scarf knitting patterns”],
and I would get just pages that include that phrase.
If you do this and find that your results are too limited,
remember that the search engine is looking for exactly
that phrase and won’t find pages featuring the
phrase [“patterns for scarf knitting”].
And if you search for [“Joe Public”] you
won’t find [“Joe Q. Public”].
You can limit your search to a particular site by including
the phrase [site:domainname], for instance, [knit scarf
site:about.com]. If you only wanted video of knitting
scarves you could phrase it like this: [knit scarf site:YouTube.com].
There are lots of other tricks to limit or expand a
search, whole books are written about the subject. Check
out Google Hacks: Tips & Tools for Finding and Using
the World’s Information (http://www.amazon.com/Google-Hacks-Finding-Worlds-Information/dp/0596527063/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262964020&sr=1-1).
Here are some webpage references for more information:
Have fun googling (or binging or yahooing).
Please remember to balance your children’s lives
(and yours) with activities in the great out-of-doors!
Use google to find out how!
Karelle Scharff, information
technologist and the owner of Best MacSolutions is an
Apple certified help desk specialist and a member of
Apple Consultants Network (www.bestmacsolutions.com),
based in Ward. She provides training, service and support
to small businesses, home-based business and individuals.
Questions about classes or Macs? Call her at (303) 459-3363.