Sunday, 6 May 2012

Context Searches In Google

I have put up a page for the more straight-forward Google tips that I will keep updating. In this post I want to talk about some search tips that may help you find what you are looking for.

What can I do with Twitter?

The image on the right is a use case diagram. In software engineering it is a high-level view of a system. The diagram on the right appears to be for an eBay-like system. We can leverage this knowledge whenever we are trying to find out ways to use a particular product. So for any of you who continue to dismiss the value of twitter, try searching for "twitter use cases".

I need this for kids:

This question best resembles where solving problems with Google is an English exercise. I wanted something bright and colourful because it was to be used by primary school students. My ah-ha moment was when I realized that what I was looking for was a poster. Sometimes adding for ~kids* helps.

* the tilda(~) means that Google will search for words that are the equivalent of kids, such as children.

I'm a little hazy on that

This is one that I am predicting will work better in future. As part of my HDip I did a module titled 'Business Communications'. As part of that module I learned the correct way to write a PowerPoint presentation. One of the key lessons was to minimize the amount of words that are used. My prediction is that as more people receive formal training on PowerPoint presentations, more correctly-written presentations will bubble to the top on Google when you add 'ppt'* to your search.

* Or more formally 'filetype:ppt'

A recent example of where this was useful to me was when I had a discussion with friends over perfect and imperfect competition. I had confused the 2011 Cheltnam Gold Cup Winner's equilibrium in imperfect competition with perfect competition*. The correct-style presentations enable me to cut straight to the gist of what I am looking for because the meat should be delivered by the speaker. Obviously if I were struggling to understand something I would search for a format that I could learn in my own good time.

* I had never realised that perfect competition does not occur in real life but is simply a benchmark against which other types of competition are measured.

I'll learn that in my own good time

This involves searching for something that is both comprehensive and printable*. The obvious answer is to add 'pdf' to your search query. My use case** for this query is when I am trying to research something. I don't want the information spread over multiple pages; I want the details that would be left out of PowerPoint and other formats; it is of a length that I would want to read it offline.

* I've never tried searching for printable.

** Outstanding writing technique: relating the end of the article to the beginning.

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