blog:Search Engine Techniques

Introduction

I wasn't exacty sure what to expect when I signed up for this class. I originally questioned whether or not I would learn anything useful and if the class was worthwhile to take. Now, just a few weeks in, I can forget about any doubts I had regarding this class. I've already learned quite a few new and useful tools to aid my searching of the Web. Last class we continued our learning of Web search techniques and there are some cool tips and resources I'd like to share with you. I'll explain the new tools I learned using the exercises I ran through in class.

Google Sets

The first question wanted us to come up with a list of 30-40 cities in Michigan. To generate this information I took advantage of a neat web page designed exactly for this kind of stuff known as Google Sets. The way Google Sets works is you go to the Web page and enter in the text boxes as many related items as you can (up to 5), then press an icon either to generate a large list of similar items or a smaller list. The website is very self explanatory and easy to use. So for this question I entered the names of Michigan cities that I knew for sure like "Detroit", "Lansing", "Ann Arbor", and "Flint". I pressed the large list icon and sure enough I proceeded to a page that listed off roughly a hundred other cities in Michigan. I think Google Sets is a great Web tool that could prove to be quite useful in the future. Often times I'm thinking of a group of things and for some reason I can't remember the last piece. Now that I've been introduce to Google Set I won't have to sit there and waste time trying to remember that bit of information.

Search Engine Commands

The second question asked us to identify how many types of poodles there are. I used my longtime companion, the Google search engine, to help me with this one. I also put to use some new tricks I learned to make my Web queries more efficient and effective. So to answer this question I entered "there are * types of poodles" into the Google search engine. Several things about this query make it quite effective in returning the sort of information and pages I am looking for. First, the use of quotations ensures that only result pages with that exact phrase are returned. In addition, the * provides a single or multiple word "filler" such as "various" or "three" so my search doesn't exclude useful pages just because they aren't an exact match. Sure enough, after I entered this search query into Google it returned a list of Web pages that could provide me with the kind of information I needed. Here is the Web page that shows the results of my query. I used very similar search query strategies to answer questions 3 and 4 which asked me to find how many people there are in the United States and how many teams are in the National Rugby League.

Snopes

After I finished the class exercises I continued to meander the Web and take advantage of another new tool I learned about in class. We were introduced to a few websites that clear up confusion about any rumors or myths you may have read in the newspapers or heard about on TV. Something that has been all over the news lately and will continue to be for some time is the presidential election race. As with any campaign and contest for office, competitors are always making derogatory and sometimes inaccurate statements about each other in hopes of turning the public in their favor. With this in mind I used the website Snopes to find the reality behind some of the stuff I have been hearing lately. Results for Barack Obama can be found here. Results for John McCain can be found here. After going through both these sites I found answers to a few of my questions in addition to reading some other interesting tidbits. I had a good experience with Snopes and would recommend using it to others. The website has a bunch, around 50, different categories in which to find answers to myths, including business, love, food, and search.

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