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Mary Ellen Bates started her session talking about Google’s search operator “AROUND (#)” (yes, use all caps and put in a number for the distance between the two words, e.g. cats AROUND (5) toys).

Google Books has done data mining and through the Ngram viewer you can compare word usage over time, phrases as well.  Example: comparing the usage of kindergarten, child care, and nursery school.

Google is coping with content farms.  So there’s a nice trick to block crappy sites.  The option to block a domain shows up underneath each search result on the personal search results page.  If you click on that, then every time you do a search on Google while logged in that site’s results are blocked.  They support Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer (they say) but it only seems to work in Chrome, says Mary Ellen. Fishy, eh?

Using Wikipedia’s “concepts related to…” list can be helpful in pointing you to related topics, especially when beginning your research.  She points out that it’s a way of getting a bigger sense of the ecology of the information environment and finding that hidden disruptor on the periphery.

Yahoo does demographics, sort of.  Yahoo Clues shows queries by age, gender, what they searched before and after the search in question.

A nice feature in Bing is the NEAR operator between two words (autism near:5 vaccination).  Bing also lets you limit a search to sites linked to from a specific URL: trials. provides good disambiguation.  As soon as you type in your query it shows you all of the alternative uses of the word.  The page also live-loads at the bottom, so you don’t have to click to get to the next page.  And they don’t track your search results.

Blekko is a site that Mary Ellen likes.  Blekko blocks spam and content farms like eHow and allexperts.  The search results are therefore cleaner.  Also, is that it offers specialized slash tags – e.g. “/likes” which only returns pages your Facebook friends have liked (requires Facebook Connect).  /relevance does a relevance sort and /date does a date sort.  /rank gives you some additional information on why the sites are ranked the way they are.  This could be super-useful for SEO if you’re trying to raise your library’s pages rank for certain searches. [is awesome!] and lets you scroll back through time and skim through the life of a website.

Mary Ellen plugged Yelp as well.  The reviews have much, much useful information on local businesses. has been around for a decade, and has been rejuvenuated lately.  It’s an aggregation of what the author considers the best places to go for particular types of information.  If you’re trying to educate your users that there is life beyond Google, this is a good starting point for them.

When is good enough good enough?  She asks us: would you rather be perfect or successful?  How much is this information worth? provides a good social search.  You see aggregated and filtered results.  They associate positive and negative words with your search terms as well to rate how well the word/brand is rated.

Topsy is also a social search engine and lets you search for hashtags.  You can limit it by time and by date.  It’s searching pages that were linked to from Tweets.  Tweeps is a good way of getting senses of who follows the people you follow, and other social relationships in your extended circle.  Mary Ellen emphasized the importance of social search resources.

“CIL 2011: Super Searcher Strategies & Tips”

  1. Lea Says:

    Thanks for this very useful post– I am one of those people who depends completely on Google for my general web-searching (library school did a fair job at getting us out of the Google-box by having ys explore other search engines, but I reverted right back to using Google exclusively). It’s good to be reminded that there are other search engines out there that offer some unique things that Google does not– Blekko sounds interesting, and I will have to try that out!

  2. Tim Says:

    I’ve heard too many tales about Yelp; ad reps calling up businesses and telling them that if they buy ads, the reps can ‘make bad reviews disappear’ and some businesses that turned down the rep having more bad reviews show up instantaneously. I still go there from time to time, but take it with a grain of salt.

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