Tag Archives: Google

Why does Google hide ‘Advanced Search’?

Google does the weirdest things. It’s my favorite Search Engine, but (and perhaps because) it always messes with its algorithm, there are subtle shifts in how we could search.

The only reason I notice this is because I teach a class on Search Engines and Browsers to 4th and 5th grades. And though they use them the time, many are find it hard to tell the difference between a search engine and a browser –as many adults do.

There used to be a feature known as ‘Advanced Search’ – a dashboard on Google’s landing page, and also Yahoo. Now Google has buried it at the bottom of the site, next to ‘Privacy’ and ‘Terms’ – almost a guaranteed spot to be ignored! It is in a menu under Settings.

This dashboard is a very robust tool, letting you filter results by language, and file type etc. I try to break the habit of students type in any phrase or keyword into the search box, and get them to thing through what exactly they are looking for.

  • Is it a set of “Instructions”? O is it a “User Guide”? (For building, say a Solar Oven)
  • Is it the “How tall is the World Trade Center?” Or is it the “Storeys of WTC?”

There are more. The tech terms for these are called Search Operators. But a Dashboard for Advanced Search would simplify things. Over to you, Google!

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Posted by on September 17, 2015 in Education


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Hi-tech Augmented Reality goes low-tech with ‘Cardboard’

In May this year I previewed Augmented Reality glasses – the Google ‘Cardboard’ variety. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that Palmer Luckey, who came up with the clunky but amazing viewfinder called Oculus, is featured on the cover of the upcoming issue of TIME.

The plan this year is to feature Google Cardboard in a ‘STEM Talk’ in my class. As the TIME feature puts it content will be coming up soon that will enable us to learn in immersive environments. Using special or tricked out cameras that could record in panoramic view, students may soon be able to experience life on the Space Station, or that of otherwise inaccessible nomadic tribes.

Partnerships and competitors will soon bring this AR world into the mainstream. As would some GoPro hacks. I’m betting on Google cardboard, though it’s not as good as Oculus, (I could see schools more amenable to partnering with the Google folk, rather than Facebook, which now owns Oculus Rift).

It goes from this

to this







And it’s coming your way! Perhaps soon in my class!


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Balloons could add new flavors to the ‘Cloud’ and Digital Democracy

Most of you know how I dislike the word ‘cloud’ as a catchall for anything accessed online. So how about getting used to balloons? As in Google’sProject Loon that has been in the works for some two years, and now is supposed to be set to launch in Sri Lanka.

It’s a crazy, heady idea. Sri Lanka will be the first country to get ‘universal Internet access’ as TechCrunch put it.

I just got back from Sri Lanka, and did an extensive train and road trip with the family. I experienced first hand what connectivity is –and is not. The new, fast highways are obviously connecting more people to more opportunities. The Telcos are providing easy-to-get (via a scratch card) low-cost bandwidth for smart devices. There is growing free Wi-Fi presence in towns as diverse as Galle, Anuradhapura, Kandy and some places in Jaffna; even on a train we took to the hill country! Access does get spotty and sluggish at times, but the appetite for connectivity is growing in leaps and bounds.

And now balloons!

Here’s why I welcome this. Not for the obvious reasons, such as giving everyone including tuk-tuk drivers or election monitors the ability to tweet or upload pictures – which could be useful in and of itself.

Education: First sorely needed bandwidth to homes, schools and offices will change the game. I was at one outstation school, and the science teachers had to use a dongle to get online. ‘Universal access’ for schools would change the dimension of how learning takes place beyond the Google search. Young people could be empowered to create content and not just consume it. It’s about time schools got a better deal when it comes to connectivity. Why haven’t the telcos given schools a better deal? What will they do now?

Political participation. Sri Lanka has demonstrated that despite the dismal examples of governance, that democracy and citizen participation works. ICTA reported recently that “Sri Lanka has shot up to 74th position in the United Nations E-Government Survey of 2014, after climbing 41 places since 2012.” Nalaka Gunewardene goes into rich detail about how Digital Democracy is at work. Beyond elections, this will affect transparency and accountability, when everyone has an uplink, a camera and a voice.

There are obviously several more examples, which some of you might like to add. Please do!


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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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Our Web. Our Conversation. Our House Rules

The 'shape' of our Internet

It’s not everyday you get an email from Vnt Cerf, a.k.a. the father of the Internet.

His email yesterday read: “You spoke out and showed that, when we stand together, we can prevent bad policies from hurting the Internet. You proved we can stop something, but now it’s time for us to start something.”

He was probably referring to my joining in on the online petition in January, in support of massive, worldwide protests against SOPA and PIPA. Some 7 million people signed that petition. Apparently such widespread laws could ‘break’ the Internet.

Now, since there is talk of a renewed attempt to get those laws passed (read the recently published White House Intellectual Property Report) Vint is calling for you and me and your next-door who walks around with her face buried in her tablet, to do something about it.

The newly worded act talks, among other things (such as fear of China) that “U S innovation and creativity (needs to be) protected around the world and allow Americans to do what they do best—out-innovate, out-compete, and continue to lead in the global marketplace in this decade..” yada, yada, yada.

We’ve heard this blathering before. Funny how other nations are out-innovating, out-competing, and out-thinking us –sans such laws.

Vint makes a good point. It’s not enough for us to be always reacting  to legislation. We ought to be demonstrating to the people pushing for these laws that the value of openness outweighs  the value of putting handcuffs on every node of the Net.

The call to action is a tad too simple, if you ask me. It is a web site called Start Something. Basically you are asked to complete the sentence “The Internet is the power to…” You could have your say on Twitter, Google or Facebook.

I am not convinced that adding to the noise as to what the Internet is, will make the lawmakers do a double take. The content creators of this world, the thought-leaders, and social media evangelists ought to come up with a deeper, richer conversation.

What would you do? 

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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Technology


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Online Privacy for the rest of us

If you didn’t see the blackout yesterday in protest of the Online Privacy Acts going through the House of Representatives and Senate (known by their acronyms SOPA and PIPA) it’s time to pay attention.

It won’t be trampling on the Wikipedias and the Facebooks of this world alone. Google, Reddit, and Craigslist, WordPress, Mozilla, and O’Reilly also protested the acts.

As Shel Holtz rightly noted in a great insightful piece, SOPA threatens much of the content residing on websites of organizations “as long as it resides on a .com, .org or .net domain. All it takes is for a user to upload a video, a photo or a presentation that violates someone’s copyright—even if it’s someone singing a cover of a song at a party—and under SOPA, Internet service providers could be ordered to block the domain name.”

Even those involved in advertising and SEO work.  Even Higher education! Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, according the ReadWrite Web.

I just submitted an article for publication on infographics, so this one caught my eye. It summarizes the issue well. But…. does that mean this blog too could come under scrutiny by the SOPA police?

If you care about having your voice heard, you can sign the petition here.

Updated: The House of Representatives statement on the blackout, says that this was a Wikipedia ‘publicity stunt.’ In a press release (responding to the claim that some organizations had dropped their support of SOPA) it stated that ““Contrary to critics’ claims, SOPA does not censor the Internet.”


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Quotes for the week ending 17 April, 2010

“I write essentially 7,000 words every week for the blog and for the paper and all that stuff.”

AdAge on the New York Times Reporter, writing fro DealBook, who resigned for ‘accidental plagiarism’

“If you get the chance, grab a video camera (or a smartphone) and head to your nearest Tea Party. Who knows, your footage could dispel some false accusations; citizen-journalists are turning in the most reliable kinds.”

Lachlan Markay,  of Dialog New Media, on the Tea Party infiltrators.

“To all the Twitter lovers out there: this is NOT the first sign of the apocalypse….People will not desert Twitter for this. It’s inevitable — technology services need revenue.”

Josh Bernoff, on Twitter’s business model that might involve advertising

“Her brand is Teflon, ubiquitous and so strong that a book like this is not even going to dent it….The media is not going to give this story a second life.”

Michael Kelley, in Advertising Age, on Kitty Kelly’s latest unauthorized biography on Oprah

“Wait, Who Says My Tweets Belong to Google or the Library of Congress?”

Slate’s Heidi Moore, on the news that Twitter content from as far back as 2006 is being archived in the Library of Congress

“Weave in your personality. Sure it’s business, but you don’t want to be a social media sleeping pill. Avoid dry and boring messages, posts and links.”

Susan Young, at on the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Successful Social Media Communicators’


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