Recent Events

A Google Gambol

Greg Noess

Search engine expert Greg Notess conducted a rapid tour of many of Google’s features that may not be well known. Some of them have been announced only in the last few days.

  •  A vanishing home page:  Many of the home page elements have disappleared until you mouse over them.
  • The site is customized whether you are logged in or not.
  • You can turn off some things.
  • SearchWiki is gone.  Some searches result in a “You have removved some results from this search” message, and you have the opportunity to view them.  There are stars that you can click on to see the results automatically.
  • Google can’t count.  The number of results is an estimate accurate to only 50%.
  • Search Suggest has changed.  It is more prominent, and the numbers are gone.  Navigational suggestions, images, and answers may appear, depending on the search.  Dropdowns for images, video, and shopping have been added.
  • Search punctuation:  + used to equate to an AND operator.  Now it reduces fuzzy processing and increases precision.  It can also be used to turn off most automatic stemming and synonymization.
  • The ~ (tilde) forces synonym searching and broadens searches.
  • The | (pipe symbol) can be used as an expliclit OR.
  • The * (asterisk) does not work as truncation.  Google has never supported single-word truncation.
  • But the * can function as a wildcard for an entire word, such as “searching for * * * noise”.  This varies in processing.
  • site:  restricts a search to a particular top level or full domain:  workshops, or “library worlshops” site:au
  • In hyperlinks, inurl: restricts a search to longer URL segments or specific words in a URL
  • filetype: allows searching for a specific file extensions.  So you can compare filetype:doc or filetype:docx.  Any file extension can be used.
  • link: returns pages linking to a specific URL.  Results tend to be incomplete.
  • cache:  older versions of pages can be found.  Images,  CSS, JavaScripts are not cached.  This can be used when a server is down to find and is equivalent to searching on the “cached” link in search results.
  • The Advanced Search page can be used instead of search options.
  • The “Show Options” link is one of Google’s best features and brings up a pane with many options.
  • A date calendar is available to specify the date range for a search.
  • Show Option: Discussions will return discussion forums or Q&A; the number of authors in the forum and the date are also displayed.
  • Show Option: Timeline displays a timeline of the search results.  A Wonderwheel view allows browsing through related terms, and is interesting to show.
  • Types of results:  Latest or Update give scrolling results from Twitter and similar sites.
  • “Real Time” Top Links was just announced and gives a ranked list of results, based on the most linked feeds.
  • Displays are changing.  Longer snippets are appearing.  Search terms are highlighted.
  • For some results with long URLs, a hierarchy is shown instead of the URL.
  • More added information can be helpful.  Datelines for news stories are shown.  Possibly malicious sites are identified by “This site may harm your computer”.  Author names from Google Scholar and publication dates sometimes appear.
  • Inline site clustering:  sublinks on a site allow direct access to pages on the site.
  • Site expansion: additional results from a site are integrated into search results.
  • Hundreds of factors are included in Google’s algorithms, and they change frequently.  A fast loading page gets a slightly higher ranking.
  • Adding &pws=0 to a search is supposed to disable personalization.
  • &filter=0 results in more than 2 pages per site and can result in many duplicate results.
  • Translation tools are available from the home page (click on Language Tools).   Terms can be translated and automatically searched.
  • Other databases (images, videos, etc.) can be searched.  Some forgotten or less used databases are Google Groups (old USENET archives), Search suggestions and authors can be searched in Google News.
  • Default news searches only search the last 30 days.  To find the news archives, go to the Advanced Search page and click on the “Archive search” link.  The archives have expanded and have more free content.
  • Some European press agencies are now hosted at Google.
  • Blogs have been integrated into news searches.
  • Results from RSS feeds now have blog searches in them.  Blog posts, not just feeds, are now indexed.  Sometimes surrounding text is searched.
  • Google Scholar used to have green triangles identifying items available free.  Now there is a column of links on the side of search results.
  • Patents and law case search option choices are available on the Scholar home page.  They cannot both be searched, so Scholar is now two separate databases.
  • Scholar still does not provide a list of their sources.
  • Google Books:  You can link to a specific page in a book.  Google Books also has periodicals in it.  A bound set of journals is a book to Google, so if you are looking for old journal articles, check Google Books.
  • Google Labs has relaunched and is now categorizing its applications.
  • Google Squared puts search results in a table.
  • Public Data Explorer shows results graphically moving over time.
  • FastFlip allows flipping through pages of newspapers and magazines.
  • Google Transliteration will transliterate words into different alphabets.
  • Browser size shows how pages will display in different browsers.
  • Search It searches several RSS feeds that are in Google Reader.
  • Google Docs is a good way to do surveys.
  • Draw Together is new in Google Docs in which you can share drawings, flowcharts, etc.
  • A new version of Spreadsheet is available; the new and old versions are both available.
  • Google Voice allows you to get a single phone number to receive calls from many other numbers.  An invite is necessary at present to use this.
  • A URL or text can be entered into Google Translation.

Recent Travails:

  • Hot Topics has 90% bad links because of spam.
  • Buzz has privacy issues.
  • A photographers group will sue Google over photos in books.
  • Market share has decreased for the 4th straight month.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today, and CIL 2010 Blog Coordinator

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