Would you take a free taxi?

According to Google’s latest annual 10-K filing, over 85% of its revenue comes from advertising—yes, it’s actually listed as a risk factor. Seeing that, I recently landed on an analogy of what Google web search is like for professional researchers and info pros.

Imagine a taxi company that offers free rides anywhere you want to go. They’re practically ubiquitous, and a luxurious self-driving vehicle can be summoned on a moment’s notice. And did I mention that it’s free? How do they do it? Read More

What does a “value-added deliverable” look like?

When I give presentations and workshops about research strategies, I often include a mention of the need to create value-added deliverables after you’ve found all that great information. But what exactly does that mean? Isn’t everything you do added value, just because it took your skills and expertise to find the information?

Actually, value-adding is more than “merely” finding the information. It means transforming it into something more. One metric I use to evaluate a deliverable:

  • If most of what my client reads is my own writing, I’ve provided added value.
  • If most of what my client reads is others’ writing, I’m providing little value.

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Limiting Google News searches by time

At the Searcher Academy pre-conference workshop at Internet Librarian 2018 conference this year, I learned a clever trick from Greg Notess for conducting an advanced search in Google News.

When you’re just using Google web search (e.g., Google.com), along the top of the search results page is a button labeled “Tools”; click it and you’ll get a pull-down menu labeled “Any time” that lets you limit your search to results updated within the past hour, past 24 hours, past week, and so on. It’s a nifty option and I frequently use it to limit my searches to the past two years.

Google News doesn’t offer a similar option, so you can’t easily limit a search in Google News by date. If you type a query in the search box at the top of Google News, you may retrieve articles from weeks or months ago. As Greg pointed out, the way around this is to start your search in Google.com. In the search results page, click the link for News, then click Tools. Bingo – there’s a pull-down menu labeled “Recent” that lets you limit your search by date. I have been surprised by how many times this little trick has come in handy over the last couple of weeks. Thanks, Greg!




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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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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