Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Google it, just a little bit more with Boolean logic

The other day, I wrote about searching the Internet in attempt to help people trying to catch the tech bus learn more and get better search results from directories and search engines. The title of the post was “Google it, just a little bit.” This post is an attempt to explain some of the logic behind my previous post for those of you that are still chasing the tech bus.

First, remember the difference in the address box and the search box. Second, use directories (e.g. Yahoo) when looking for companies or people. Third, use search engines (e.g. Google) to do research or to look for encyclopedia type information. Last, learn some basic search tips to make searching the Internet work for you. See my previous post if any of this sounds confusing or visit Patrick Crispen’s power point in html format.

Today, I am going to discuss the latter of the aforementioned tips by introducing you to my friend Boolean. What a name! Boolean is like Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Everything must be logical or it doesn’t matter. Boolean is a logical system of algebra using set theory and operators such as "and", "or" and "not", the basis of binary computers and some solid modeling operations, described by and named after the mathematician George Boole (1815-1854). For our purposes, that is all we need to know about Curious George.

The basics of Boolean are actually just using quotes rather than not using quotes. Search for “lostjohns” or “lost johns” but not lost johns. Good enough! Also, the plus sign is rather useful +lostjohns +blog +cave Try it in Google and see what happens. Minus signs or dashes are also useful. If you want my blog minus my first post that talked about a cave you can try this +lostjohns –cave and you end up with my other post minus the cave post. If this still seems foreign check out my previous post about Googe it, just a little bit.

Let’s move onto Boolean searching and see what we can make of it. Shall we? Boolean search techniques are not rocket science. Well, maybe they are in the fact that they are based on George Boole's 'Mathematical Analysis' and 'Investigation', or boolean algebra, AKA boolean logic. Simply stated, Boolean searching uses OR, AND, NOT, and NEAR.

Good enough! We will begin with OR. OR is a match any search technique. You use the command like this:

lost OR johns

which results in more hits than I care to look at. This means that everything under the sun (e.g. on the Net) will show up. I don’t really have a need for this so I seldom use it.

Next, we will use AND. AND is a cool function that requires that the other word be present. You use the command like this:

lost AND johns

That’s what I’m talking about. My blog is the fourth hit. Try it!
Let’s move on to NOT. NOT excludes items from the search results. You use the command like this:

lostjohns NOT cave

It’s just my blog now and nothing more. Imagine that!

Last, but not least, we can use NEAR. NEAR is used in order to specify how close terms should appear to one another. You use the command like this:

lost NEAR johns

Okay, I really don’t see the use in using near. Not because my blog didn’t show up on the first page, but because most search engines try to keep related items together or NEAR.

Note: Caps must be used to distinguish the Boolean search (i.e. OR, AND, NOT, NEAR).

Nesting (). Nesting is a process that allows you to create complex queries. You use the command like this:

lostjohns (bishop NOT cave)

Complex queries may also be established by using pre-existing advanced search features provided by most major directories and search engines. For example, Google Guide is a great advanced search area provided by Google. There is some cool search information here as well. I personally hate to take the time to fill in boxes when I can apply learned searching tips because I can type faster than the pages load and be on my merry way.

Okay, if you haven’t figured it out AND is like + and NOT is like – Pretty cool isn’t it?

I hope this helps. Maybe we can Google it some more later…If I’m missing something please let me know. I typically make more than my fair share of mistakes, but I keep coming back. So, in the words of the Terminator, “I’ll be back”. Wow! I forgot power searching. Oh well, I have to have something to discuss later…

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Blogger Terri said...

Thank You!
I have never been able to find the information I'm looking for on the internet. I just bang my head in frustration after half an hour of searching. These instructions might just save my aching forehead.

3:54 AM  
Blogger WBishop said...

We can only hope. Good luck!

12:14 AM  

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