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Monday, February 02, 2009


This is likely my last post in the Tool Set series. This post likely will be quite a bit different because I'm convinced that most people have used different search tools enough that they are pretty comfortable with their current search behaviors. My intent here is to possibly expand the options for the average knowledge worker to be able to search a bit better than they do today. This is by no means comprehensive and I welcome suggestions.

Other Than Google

My first recommendation is not to always default to Google. Yes, I personally use Google 95%+ for searching. But I do sometimes jump to other search engines. In all honesty, my bigger switch has been to leverage Networks and Communities (i.e., people search) than to leverage other search engines. That said, it's worth consulting resources such as:
For example, when you are new into a space, it is sometimes helpful to start with Clusty or Grokker. I happen to be a fan of facets as a mechanism to explore a space, especially when you are new to that space. For example, if you are brand new to authoring tools, you might do a search:The facets in Grokker (shown on the right) - help to give you a sense of the space. It also helps you refine your search before you go into Google. The fact is that searching for "authoring tools" is probably not quite what you want. You probably should be looking for "eLearning authoring tools" or "help authoring tools" or ...

At the other end of the spectrum is when you want a more comprehensive search and want to make sure that you've not missed important sites/pages. According to Search Engines / UC Berkeley -
Less than half the searchable Web is fully searchable in Google. Overlap studies show that more than 80% of the pages in a major search engine's database exist only in that database. Getting a "second opinion" is therefore often worth your time. For this purpose, we recommend or Yahoo! Search. We no longer recommend using any meta-search engines.
That last comment is quite interesting - and while I'm not sure why, I personally don't use meta search engines, but I will periodically check other search engines such as Ask and Yahoo to see what they have to say on a topic.

While I'm on the topic of alternative search engines, I definitely need to remind everyone about Google Scholar and Google Book Search . One of my favorite searches is to do a book search and include only those books where I can see preview or full view (via advanced search).

Other Resources
Evaluating Information

I'm not going to spend time on this, but at some point, I need to create a good cheat sheet or set of mental models that would help us identify what is good quality content. Obviously, we do this a lot. You search and then filter through to figure out what might be helpful.
Search Basics

Some basic, introductory material.
Google Operators
In terms of the specific Google operators that I use quite a bit:
  • - Helps me get rid of stuff that doesn't apply.
  • OR - When several terms apply.
  • .. as a quick date search. In other words, 2007 .. 2009 for recent materials. There's a better date range via advanced search.
  • filetype: I often use this to find examples. filetype:ppt - Often use OR or the "~" to expand your search when looking for examples can be a good trick.
  • site: I use this to search a particular site because most site searches are not that great.
  • inurl: I use this to search gov, edu type sites.
It's not that many operators, but it often surprises me the percentage of people who use Google all the time and don't know these operators, or don't know where they apply.

More on Boolean searching and search operator usage:

Image Search

I do a fair amount of searching for images. Primarily I use:
But there are a lot of sources out there, especially if you need royalty free sources:
Other Posts in the Series


Nancy Devine said...

terrific post. there's so much to explore and consider here, that i'm not sure where to start. but i will start.
i teach in a high school. today might be a good day for students to experiment with some of the tools you've suggested here.

Lars Hyland said...

There's also a relatively new search service called pipl aimed at searching the deep web specifically for people. Not sure how effective it is at this stage but it can pull up a lot more structured information about individuals.

Christopher Coats said...

thanks for the round up. I am with you as far as my use of Google for research but am still a little wary of just sending students off with it to do research. While the ads bother me in a classroom setting, I think the almost automatic inclusion of wiki pages and other user-generated sites is a problem for students off in search of easy info. I've seen a few engines that appear to try to cut through the excess and offer more reliable resources.. some that seem to use a similar approach to google but with a human hand guiding the process.... one recent addition to this class is I find it a safe balance between google and more a more refined, direct search. Thanks for the posting.

John said...

For looking at different facets of a topic try Its results are in a graph format and with a little practice, can really help you find the big picture.

Carol Whittington said...

Wow Tony, this is a fantastic set of resources. I think that just about anyone could find something they didn't know about searching the internet here in this post. I know I found many new things to go try myself and will be sharing this with others. Out of all the Tools posts, this one may be the best just for the depth of information. Thanks again!

Neelesh said...

Good stuff, man.
been receiving ur RSS for a long time, but visited ur blog after a few months now.Keep up the good work.
I also like , especially for my technical searches.

Carlos Gallego said...

What a nice post...The information that is shared are very useful. Keep up the good work looking forward to read some updates regarding this matter.