Category Archives: Search

Smarter than Google? The hunt for a ‘research’ engine

In my attempt to differentiate between Search and Research (a topic that I return to around this time in the semester) I found a current event with a point of focus: ‘Chasing an asteroid!’

As luck would have it, NASA just launched a mission, Osiris Rex, that is basically a space explorer that will be chasing an asteroid for two years, before it grabs a piece of it and hustles back to earth. Students love events like this, and quickly dig deep into finding information around it.

omnityAnd as luck would also have it, there’s a new Search engine called Omnity that promises to do better, providing ‘constellations of meaning.’ Smarter than Google, even! I wish it was true, and plan to find out shortly.

Sometimes ‘research’ involves going down that rabbit hole and unearthing nuggets of information that seldom shows up on a simple search query. Students will find out that although the mission will take 7 years the return trip will take longer than getting there. Why? What determines the timeline? Google sometimes lulls us into being content with unspectacular answers. It makes us unwilling to do probe deeper.


After all, it’s not enough to teach today’s students how to use Google and Bing, or even Wolfram Alpha, but emerging tools, as we go chasing after asteroids in class.

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Posted by on September 14, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Events, Search


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No magic eraser on the Internet. UC Davis learns the hard way

There’s a corollary to that old saw, “On the Internet, information lives forever,” and it’s this: “There’s no such thing as a magic eraser.”

But that doesn’t stop people from trying. Like this case of University of California, Davis and the ‘image scrubbing’ scandal. There are still companies offering services to clean up bad information by some dubious SEO work. But most experts say this isn’t possible. Search engines crawl, index and place information in so many places it’s not possible to delete a bad story once it gets out. Especially something has covered by the media, shared, and posted to several media channels. UC Davis reportedly paid two PR firms $175,000 for this magic eraser.

Is this a good thing that we cannot turn back the clock? It has given rise to a privacy right case known as the ‘Right To Be Forgotten’ right that the European Union fled against Google in 2012. It states that : “Individuals have the right – under certain conditions – to ask search engines to remove links with personal information about them.” A good Fact Sheet is available here. There’s a longer discussion in Stanford Law Review, here.

I feel sorry for US Davis, because the story they tried to bury has given rise to hundreds more – giving the original piece that much more links. SEO companies often advice as much: Instead of trying to delete a story try to generate enough good information that will push down (not take down) the bad.

Oddly enough, while Google has complied, it accidentally revealed data about these requests.

Which brings me to social media literacy and privacy. We ought to be telling young people the ramifications of over sharing, being in pictures –group shots or selfies –that they might regret later.


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How “Research” helped Jobs and Woz

Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been the serial entrepreneur we knew him to be, if not for his partner in crime, Steve Wozniac

I make this point to my students, when teaching them the power of collaboration, something lost in our education system that, until now favored the individual over the group; the bubble test over the team project. Common Core standards, adopted by my school (Arizona is one of some 45 states adopting them) urge us to break out of that mindset, and get kids to discuss more, debate, confront, and work as a hive mind.

So I use this example of Woz, where he describes how he stumbled over a piece of fiction about the ‘Blue Box’, and showed it to Jobs. They wondered if this device were possible, but didn’t stop at that. They snuck into a library one Sunday, and looked it up in a stack of journals.

In other words, Steve and Steve were doing their ‘research.’  Something that sounds anathema to today’s kids who like to imagine search = research. That supporting ideas will always be within a few keystrokes or clicks.

I particularly like how the Apple co-founders got started not in a garage, but a library.

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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Education, Search


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Searching for context, more than keyword dumpster diving

It’s frustrating to hear people say “I researched that” when they simply mean “I looked it up on Google.”

I believe we have diluted the word ‘research’ by equating it to a one-click action. I’m not trying to say that every topic under the sun needs a deep dive. I’m not suggesting that we turn fact-finding into some geeky task. I’m suggesting that we ought to train our brains to think that knowing something is contextual. There is no pat answer.

Google must know this. It stepped up to the late with the release of what it calls the ‘knowledge graph.’ (I am not a big fan of the term. It has a hint of Zuckerberg;s ‘social graph,’ doesn’t it?) Nevertheless, if you haven’t noticed the contextual info showing up on Google, take a look.

If you’re into the deep dive thing, Google does have a few tricks it tends to hide from the general public.  But there are more. Try these:

Google Scholar –
It provides pages from books, PDFs, scholarly literature, peer-reviewed journals, material found via Google books, and even court opinions. Duke University encourages students to use it!

Patent Search –

Lexis Nexis –
This is not a free service, but it combines information from legal, academic, and corporate knowledge databases.


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Imagine John Lennon in 140 characters

Interesting statement from Yoko, on John Lennon’s anniversary:

“He would have been writing statements and sending them out to the world as a blogger and a tweeter.”

Of course working with word limitation forces the mind to pack meaning into powerful images. Consider how Lennon’s Imagine curtailed to 140 characters would have been just short of hitting the spot:

“Imagine there’s no heaven It’s easy if you try No hell below us Above us only sky Imagine all the people Living for today Imagine there’s no”

The famous refrain, however just takes 109 characters: “You may say I’m a dreamer But I’m not the only one I hope someday you’ll join us And the world will be as one”

On a related note, this tribute was nicely done by Google:

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Posted by on October 11, 2010 in Buzz, Search, Twitter


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Are you a Hootsuite or Tweetdeck person?

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide the world into two sets of people, and those who see us as one big blob of humanity…

OK, more seriously, while presenting Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, at the webinar on Thursday night (it was Friday in Sri Lanka)  it struck me that these two interfaces, while similar in terms of dashboards, appeal to two types. After all, Hootsuite is a web-based application – no downloads necessary. There are some who are not very comfortable with apps that don’t reside on their computer.  Tweetdeck on the other hand, is a slick application that resides on your desktop (now also for the iPad and iPhone. Both are great search engines in their own right.

In my experience Tweetdeck gives you a lot more search results.

Tweetdeck Advantage: Try this: Look for “Floods in Pakistan” on Tweetdeck. The Search within Tweetdeck gives you a real-time feed of tweets. BUT you could get a broader, deeper set of results by going to, and searching there. The same phrase gives you this. It is a lists of Lists, that also give you a snapshot of the number of followers of that list and the number of tweets a day by people on that list.

Hootsuite gives you a lot more filtration.

Hootsuite Advantage: To conduct the same search on Hootsuite you could either do a quick search using he magnifying glass icon and it brings up a floating column with results, or you could create a permanent feed. But what I like about Hootsuite is that you can then sort through those results using the pull down tab and selecting ‘filter.’ This is very useful when searching for a keyword, organization name or hashtag within the results.

So what’s your dashboard preference? Does it say something about your work style? How does it simplify your search?

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Posted by on September 6, 2010 in Search, Social Media, Workshops


Replace dirty filters! Stop content clogging up your pipes!

On last Friday’s webinar I asked Dave Barnhart to co-present with me on the final in this 6-part series on Passport To Digital Citizenship. Dave is a social media coach who runs a successful business practice around blogging strategy, micro-blogging and web content. Steve England was also on hand with his mobile marketing insight on how all this plays out as we take our tools and our content into a wireless world.

In this session I focused on filters and deep drilling!

We had previously taught attendees how  to create content, leverage the channels, connect and interact with audiences. So in this final seminar, I asked them to consider what it might be to be on the other side of the equation -as recipients. Too Much Information (TMI) is clogging up the arteries, and customers, readers, listeners and viewers may be filtering us out. What do social media filters look like? How do they provide us with deeper insight?

We’re talked about  Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Bloglines and much more! It was a great rounding off of what we do a both communicators and recipients!

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Posted by on September 4, 2010 in Search, Social Media, Sri Lanka, Workshops