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David Lee King

The ReadWriteWeb needs Sexy Librarians



In December, the awesome blog ReadWriteWeb posted a couple of great articles about how librarians are needed (and even linked to Michael Porter’s flickr photo of Michael and yours truly battling it out on Guitar Hero). That’s all dandy!

But the ReadWriteWeb just posted Deconstructing Real Google Searches: Why Powerset Matters … I’d add “real BAD Google searches” to that title. Sure, the point of the article was to point out the perils of current search engine searches/results, and to show why a semantic-based or a natural language search engine would be better. And ultimately, that really might be the case.

But my librarian self kicked in as I was reading the post, because the author obviously needed the help of us sexy librarians! Here are the search examples given:

  1. what are movie spears made out of?
  2. car hit by bicycle
  3. Famous science fiction writers other than Isaac Asimov

Librarians… I ask you. Are these good Google queries? Hmm… I’m hearing a resounding “not.” :-)

And this is a great example of why we’re still needed. Yes – there’s the web. Yes – there’s Google. And yes – there are extremely smart people that write great blogs like the ReadWriteWeb. But does that mean everyone knows how to search? What happens if the semantic web or true natural language searching kicked in tomorrow – would that negate us? No – we’d still encounter people asking why they get 50 million hits when they type “I need to find stuff on cars” or whatever into search engines.

I’m thinking we can improve the ReadWriteWeb‘s search examples mentioned in the article – let’s have some fun and help them out (not that they’ll notice, but heck – we can try, can’t we?). So – here are my “better” suggestions on structuring the three search queries:

  1. what are movie spears made out of? Why not try zulu extras spears instead?
  2. car hit by bicycle – how about “bicycle accident” “hitting car” or car “hit by bicycle” or even “car damage” bicycle?
  3. Famous science fiction writers other than Isaac Asimov – hmm… why not try “science fiction author” famous -“isaac asimov” instead?

I found better results … but I don’t consider myself to be an expert searcher by any means. What do you think? How can we improve those searches? Librarians, show your awesome search skills! How would YOU do the three searches?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://deborahfitchett.blogspot.com Deborah Fitchett

    For #1, movies spears props looks promising.

    For #3, yes, the search works far better if the user learns the secret special syntax. And I suppose the minus sign isn’t terribly cryptic compared to some of the other secret syntax; still, it would be pretty cool if Google’s engine could be taught to interpret “other than”, “except”, “but no(t)” and such as a minus sign by itself.

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  • http://www.chamberlain.net.nz/blog Simon Chamberlain

    I wouldn’t go with the -“isaac asimov” element, because then you’ll eliminate any page that contains his name (which would probably be a lot of relevant pages). Better to just search and then exclude IA from your results. (I guess it depends what you are trying to do: I’m assuming the query is looking for a list of famous authors – so it doesn’t matter if you get a list that says Asimov, Clarke, Dick, Heinlein, etc – you just ignore Asimov).

    But hey, I’d probably just go to Wikipedia because they probably have just such a list…or find a list of different SF book awards and then look up the homepage for each award.

    Maybe throw in the plural of author and add writer/s as well.

  • http://www.chamberlain.net.nz/blog Simon Chamberlain

    I wouldn’t go with the -“isaac asimov” element, because then you’ll eliminate any page that contains his name (which would probably be a lot of relevant pages). Better to just search and then exclude IA from your results. (I guess it depends what you are trying to do: I’m assuming the query is looking for a list of famous authors – so it doesn’t matter if you get a list that says Asimov, Clarke, Dick, Heinlein, etc – you just ignore Asimov).

    But hey, I’d probably just go to Wikipedia because they probably have just such a list…or find a list of different SF book awards and then look up the homepage for each award.

    Maybe throw in the plural of author and add writer/s as well.

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  • http://cogscilibrarian.blogspot.com/ Stephanie Willen Brown

    I like this post because I’m always looking for good examples of bad searches for my reference / advanced reference classes @ Simmons. It’s hard for me to think of bad searches — so these, and the back story @ readwriteweb are very helpful.

  • http://cogscilibrarian.blogspot.com Stephanie Willen Brown

    I like this post because I’m always looking for good examples of bad searches for my reference / advanced reference classes @ Simmons. It’s hard for me to think of bad searches — so these, and the back story @ readwriteweb are very helpful.

  • mara

    Yoicks, you actually recommend putting -isaac asimov in the search? So you don’t want to see a list of the 100 greatest sci-fi authors just because it includes Asimov’s name??

  • mara

    Yoicks, you actually recommend putting -isaac asimov in the search? So you don’t want to see a list of the 100 greatest sci-fi authors just because it includes Asimov’s name??

  • davidleeking

    Mara – you’re right. Like Simon pointed out above, the search should include Asimov – and then just ignore him to get your list.

  • davidleeking

    Mara – you’re right. Like Simon pointed out above, the search should include Asimov – and then just ignore him to get your list.

  • http://gnome-home-road.blogspot.com/ Cheryl

    Here’s an old fashioned idea that will work even if the power goes out…. use Genreflecting- :D

  • http://gnome-home-road.blogspot.com/ Cheryl

    Here’s an old fashioned idea that will work even if the power goes out…. use Genreflecting- :D

  • http://deborahfitchett.blogspot.com/ Deborah Fitchett

    For #1, movies spears props looks promising.

    For #3, yes, the search works far better if the user learns the secret special syntax. And I suppose the minus sign isn't terribly cryptic compared to some of the other secret syntax; still, it would be pretty cool if Google's engine could be taught to interpret “other than”, “except”, “but no(t)” and such as a minus sign by itself.