Sunday, January 27, 2008

Get Wise to Google

Librarians have mixed feelings about Google. It is a great search engine. We have to admit it. We use it ourselves, though we try to use other tools, too. What bugs us is that we see too many library users who get so Google-habituated that it’s the only tool they think to use. That’s a problem!

If you are going to use Google, or any search engine or database, use it wisely. Get wise to Google. Find out what makes it work and how to make it work better for you.

The best place to begin finding out about any search engine is the help pages that search engines offer now. Google is very generous that way. They have very good help pages, if you will just take the few minutes to read them, and check them from time to time, to keep up to date. Here are URLs for the two most helpful parts of the Google help pages:

This is a quick reference with explanations for a very large number of special query forms. It has neat tables laying out in quick outline how the system works. There are lots of aspects of Google that most users never take advantage of. What a shame. It’s like owning a Porsche and driving it 20 miles per hour all the time. This baby has power that you are missing out on – find out how to shift up, and corner, and do all those cool sporty things you’ve been missing out on!

his is another section of the Google help pages. These explanations are more in-depth on a smaller number of operators. Very helpful. For instance, you can create a query that requires the words you are searching for to be all in the title or all in the URL. You can pull up a web page and display what other websites link to it. Pretty cool capabilities.

EZine Buzz is a blog devoted to improving your chops at Google searching. It’s pretty good. We noted only one mistake, where the page still lists a 10 word limit. Now Google allows 30 words in a search. It may be that the entry was put in and just not updated. It is, after all, just one entry on January 21, 2006. Still, it is full of good ideas and pretty helpful .Here is EZine Buzz’s own introduction:

Web Search Basics

Searching in Google doesn't have to be a case of just entering what you're looking for in the search box and hoping for the best. Google offers you many ways—via special syntax and search options—to refine your search criteria and help Google better understand what you're looking for. We'll dig into Google's powerful, all-but-undocumented special syntax and search options, and show how to use them to their fullest. We'll cover the basics of Google searching, wildcards, word limits, syntax for special cases, mixing syntax elements, advanced search techniques, and using specialized vocabularies, including slang and jargon.

Librarians hope you will expand your searching horizons beyond Google. There are other great web browsers you ought to know about. For instance, there are meta-search engines that are able to do a creditable job searching more than one search engine at once. They have to be able to create a workable query for each search engine from what you keyed in, and then bring back the results. Ideally, they would sort out the duplicate results, though I don’t think I’ve really seen one that oes. Chris Sherman, at Search Engine Watch wrote a wonderful review of the current crop of MetaSearch Engines and Meta Crawlers, so I won’t try to go there. See the review:

This is a great website to visit in order to broaden your horizons on web surfing generally. There is also the excellent Search Engine Showdown:

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