It’s not what you know, it’s what you learn

The more expertise you have on a topic, the narrower your thinking and the less creativity you may bring to a novel problem. As Shunryu Suzuki noted in the classic, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Recently, I was listening to an episode of Hidden Brain, one of my favorite podcasts. (Rebel With A Cause, July 23, 2018) Host Shankar Vedantam talked with Francesca Gino, author of Rebel Talent: Why it Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life. She has given much thought to the story of captain Chesley Sullenberger, Read More

Tapping into LinkedIn’s brain

As a researcher who looks a different industry or market every week, I’ve often tapped into LinkedIn’s advanced search options to find an expert or, better yet, a librarian who can point me in the right direction. (Pro tip: You can identify librarians by including “Libraries” as an industry filter.) And I’ve mined job listings to glean insight into the strategic direction of an organization.

Given the relatively professional level of conversation in LinkedIn posts, a search facet I have recently been using more often is Content search, which just searches posts. To get to Content search, just click the Search box in the upper left, and a drop-down menu will appear with search options, including Content.

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Finding people through Facebook Graph Search

Over the years, it’s gotten harder to conduct meaningful searches in Facebook. Sure… you can type in someone’s name and then browse through the profiles of everyone with that name (or something similar). But what if you want to find someone based on their profile—where they work, what degrees they have, and what their interests are?

Although the syntax is anything but intuitive, there are ways to construct a specific URL that executes a search that you can’t run by simply typing into the search box. (I’m indebted to Paul Myers of Research Clinic for a detailed page with the search operators necessary to build a Graph Search query.)

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Facebook privacy

As usual, I came home from the 2018 annual conference of the Association of Independent Information Professionals suffering from insight overload. One of the Snap Talks that caught my attention was “From CI to CSI: Using Social Media Apps to Gather Intel and Enhance Your Research” by Eddie Ajaeb of Nighthawk Strategies. He reminded us that the visibility of Facebook comments, likes and tags are determined by the post they’re tied to, not by the person commenting, liking or tagging a post. Even if your privacy settings restrict who can see your posts, if you engage in someone else’s post, that post’s privacy settings determine how viewable your interaction is. If you comment on a post that everyone can see, then everyone can also view your comment.

Pay attention to the little icon just below the original poster’s name. If there’s a globe icon (see below), your comments will be shared with everyone.

If there is a gear icon or an icon of several heads, the visibility of the post is restricted. You can mouse over the icon (see below) to confirm how private your comments will be.

 

 

Searching the Deep Web

I recently developed a private workshop on how to find deep web resources on a specialized topic, and realized that the secret to finding information in the deep web is know that it’s a very different experience than searching the open web. While deep web content isn’t indexed by search engines, you can use search engines to find pointers, leads and links to deep web resources. Even more than with most “traditional” searches, looking for deep web content means thinking like a detective — looking for clues, using your peripheral vision to notice references or footnotes, and knowing when to step back and reassess. Following are some of the key approaches I recommend for finding deep web content on a particular topic.

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Searching like the real pros

While I learn many of my search tips from my colleagues at conferences like Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian, I have found another way to tap into the expertise of search pros. Factiva is particularly good for finding specially-constructed, complex search queries that their internal search experts have designed for difficult or complex concepts. If I am having trouble getting the results I expect when searching a value-added online service, I pop the hood and see how the real search geeks would approach the topic.

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Is Google feeding confirmation bias?

In its ongoing effort to answer the world’s questions (and sell ads), Google has been putting increased emphasis on its “featured snippets” – the little boxes of text extracted from whatever source Google has calculated to be most relevant. If I want to see whether my dogs can catch the flu, I can quickly see that, yes, it’s possible.

However, a recent Wall Street Journal article (“Google Has Picked an Answer for You—Too Bad It’s Often Wrong“) looked at the increased frequency of these quick answers that appear at the top of search results. (Note that these are not the Knowledge Panels, which are sourced from Wikipedia and other neutral sources.)

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Mining the Ngram Viewer

Google Books Ngram Viewer is a nifty tool that analyzes all the text of all the books Google has digitized (over 25 million and counting) and lets you see the relative frequency of words going back to the 1600s.

What isn’t immediately obvious to most people is what you can do with Ngram Viewer — what kinds of insights you can glean from analyzing the text within books.

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Do you trust that news?

In its ongoing efforts to address the scourge of misleading and false news, Google recently announced a new feature that helps readers evaluate a news source they may not be familiar with. Now,  when you search for a particular publication, the Knowledge Panel – that preformatted answers box that often appears at the top of search results – includes information about that publisher.

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For Google, it’s location, location, location

I know… all Google is trying to do is help you get “better”, or at least more relevant, results from a search. And Google has assumed that you are your location — that where you are searching from really matters. Much of the time, that’s great. But for us professional searchers who search outside our own country, Google has just made a change that will significantly affect our search strategies.

Until now, if you wanted to focus your search on results from the UK and you were located in the US, you would go to the UK version of Google at google.co.uk. And yes, you’d always get different results than when you ran the identical search in google.com. However, according to a recent Google blog post, this trick will no longer work.

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