Friday, 28 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 20:

Search for Similar Words

Not sure you're thinking of the right word for a query? Do you worry that some web pages might use alternate words to describe what you're thinking of?

Fortunately, Google lets you search for similar words—called synonyms—by using the ~ operator. Just include the ~ character before the word in question, and Google will search for all pages that include that word and all appropriate synonyms.

For example, to search for words that are like the word "elderly," enter the query ~elderly. This will find pages that include not just the word "elderly," but also the words "senior," "older," "aged," and so on.

And here's a bonus tip: To list only synonyms, without returning a ton of matches for the original word, combine the ~ operator with the - operator, like this: ~keyword -keyword. This excludes the original word from the synonymous results. Using the previous example, to list only synonyms for the word "elderly," enter ~elderly -elderly.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 19:

Include or Exclude Words in Your Search

Google automatically ignores the words "and" and "or," these and other small, common words in your queries. These are called stop words, and include "and," "the," "where," "how," "what," "or" (in all lowercase), and other similar words - along with certain single digits and single letters (such as "a").

Including a stop word in a search normally does nothing but slow the search down, which is why Google excises them. As an example, Google takes the query how a toaster works, removes the words "how" and "a," and creates the new, shorter query toaster works.

If you want these common words included in your query, you can override the stop word exclusion by telling Google that it must include specific words in the query. You do this with the + operator, in front of the otherwise excluded word. For example, to include the word "how" in your query, you'd enter +how. Be sure to include a space before the + sign, but not after it.

On the other hand, sometimes you want to refine your results by excluding pages that include a specific word. You can exclude words from your search by using the - operator; any word in your query preceded by the - sign is automatically excluded from the search results. Remember to always include a space before the - sign, and none after.

For example, if you search for bass, you could get pages about the type of male singer or about the type of fish. If you want to search for the type of singer only, enter a query that looks like this: bass –fish.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 18:

Conduct an "Either/Or" Search

Google automatically assumes the word "and" between all the words in a query. That is, if you enter two words, it assumes you're looking for pages that include both those words—word one and word two. It doesn't return pages that include only one or the other of the words.

The upshot is that you don't have to enter the word "and" in your query. If you're searching for Bob and Ted, all you have to enter is bob ted. Google assumes the "and," and automatically includes it in its internal index search.

This is different from assuming the word "or" between the words in your query. As an example, compare the query bob ted (which is really bob AND ted, remember)with bob OR ted . In the first query, the results include pages that mention both Bob and Ted. In the second query, the results include pages that mention Bob alone, as well as pages that mention Ted alone, as well as pages that mentioned both Bob and Ted. It's a subtle difference, but an important one.

So if you want to conduct an "either/or" search - to search for pages that include one word or another word, but not necessarily both - you have to insert the OR operator between the two keywords. And when you use the OR operator, make sure to insert it in all uppercase, or Google will ignore it as a stop word.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 17:

Use the Correct Methodology

Whether you're conducting a basic or advanced Google search, there is a certain methodology you should employ. Follow the proper method and you'll get very targeted results; ignore this advice and you'll either get a ton of irrelevant results or a dearth of relevant ones.

While there are many different (and equally valid) approaches to web searching, this particular approach will generate excellent results. It's a six-step process:

  1. Start by thinking about what you want to find. What words best describe the information or concept you're looking for? What alternate words might you use instead? Are there any words that can be excluded from your search to better define your query?
  2. Construct your query. Use as many keywords as you need, the more the better. If at all possible, try to refine your search with the appropriate search operators - or, if your prefer, with the Advanced Search page.
  3. Click the Search button to perform the search.
  4. Evaluate the matches on the Search Results page. If the initial results are not to your liking, refine your query and search again - or refine your search by switching to a more appropriate search site.
  5. Select those matching pages that you wish to view and begin clicking through to those pages.
  6. Save the information that best meets your needs. In other words, it pays to think before you search - and to continue to refine your search after you obtain the initial results. The extra effort is slight, and well worth it.

Citizen journalism - trustworthy local reporting or partisan, dangerous, busy-body ramblings?


A couple of days back I was stood with a bunch of journalists in a newsroom together with a bunch of former hacks who have now gone across to the dark side of PR.

The PR-bods were visiting one of the offices where I work to look at the new system which was installed which has seen the merger of a number of district offices under one roof. I'll come back to this issue at a later date when the system has had a chance to bed in and lessons have been learned.

Standing around the table of sandwiches, snacks, coffee and tea, the conversation meandered to the issue of how local reporting has changed since they left the newsroom - just two, three and four years ago.

I've previously written about local authority press officers producing video (which you can catch up on here), so when the conversation moved on from how many videos they produced in each week, the subject of bloggers and citizen journalists came up.

One of the districts within my patch has a very active online community which boasts at least four or five competition news websites.

While one or two of these sites demands the same access to the movers and shakers of the council as the more established media (ie us), they very rarely get it. Of course I welcome the advantage this provides, but you have to wonder how long this can be the case. As followers of blogs increase then they will become (or rather already are) ideal portals for local authorities to distribute information to a niche geographical community.

But then comes a question which was raised during our informal gathering: How can citizen journalists be recognised as legitimate media when they don't follow any code of conduct, or carry any formal training to identify them as journalists?

One citizen journalist I know will stop at nothing to get the photo, or the story - he really is the archetypal big screen hack, only on a small screen blog.

I've even heard stories of him barging into paramedics to get pix of a dying man at the scene of an accident. His reputation now goes before him and he has in fact tarnished the (already delicate) reputation of journalists in the community.

Should the badge of honour of 'journalist' be reserved for only those who follow the Society of Editors' Code of Practice?
Should access to movers and shapers be restricted to 'legitimate' reporters?

It's a tough one. But I do suspect there will be a rapid shift in attitude to citizen journalists when the movers and shakers realise the bloggers boast the very audience they want to move and shake.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 16:

Google Alerts

Google doesn't give you a feed for search results, but Web Alerts sends you email updates with the latest relevant Google results for a query.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 15:

Similar Pages

Very few people use this option, even though it can be useful. If you found a good page, and you want to see related pages, click on the "Similar pages" next to the search result. Google will show 30 high-quality sites on the same topic.

It's a good way to discover interesting sites.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 14:

Breaking News

You won't find information about a breaking news in Google search, so it's a good idea to try Google News and Blog Search .

If the event is really important, Google will show results from Google News at the top of the page.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 13:

History Search

The order of your keywords is important, so you'll get different results for "search history" and "history search".

Type only the important keywords, in a logical order.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 12:

Simple Questions

Google shows direct answers for simple questions above the search results. When you try to find a simple fact, enter your query this way: "Italy population", and not as a complicated question like "How many people are in Italy?" because you might confuse Google.

If Google doesn't show an answer, try to imagine a page that answers your question. What would the answer sound like for a question like: "What is the fastest animal on land?". Of course, the page might contain this sentence: "[some animal] is the fastest animal on land".

Build your query this way:
* surround it by quotes, to obtain only results that contain that phrase
* instead of the answer, use a star for each word of the expected answer

Example: "* is the fastest animal on land".

Monday, 17 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 11:

Word Definitions

If you need to quickly look up the definition of a word or phrase, simply use the "define:" command.

Example: define:plethora

CoverItLive - now that's what I call instant

Back in January I started working with the group sports editor on a project to improve sport content online. From the kick-off (see what I've done there) we looked at how we produce match reports, package them and deliver them to the fans.

One of the primary requirements we focused on, was giving the fans the reports when they wanted it - now.

So inspired by the BBC's live match reports, we set about on a programme of rolling out live updates from one of the main teams in our circulation area - it wasn't Manchester United, but it was a start.

But within the first few games, we discovered a major flaw in the system. Being part of a larger media organisation, the website which was hosting the live updates was subject to rechaching delays, meaning the live updates were far from live.

Around which time the Liverpool Daily Post discovered CoverItLive.com which they had used for this year's local elections. It was instantly clear that this basic third party app was the platform which could carry our live match reports.

Since then, together with the sports editor we have rolled out the live updates using CoverItLive to three of the main teams in the district.

The success of CoverItLive is its simplicity. It's easy to use, allows truly live reports and, in true web 2.0 style, allows followers to contribute through comments and participating in polls.

The Canadian developers behind the application are constantly working on improving what is already a basically perfect tool. But they have done just that, unveiling new features, the latest of which has seen the integration of Twitter.

Using mobile PC devices as previously mentioned on this blog, reporters who would otherwise be attending the game to produce a post-match report anyway are now able to file directly online.

How can news websites afford not to do this?

The most successful of our current CoverItLive match reports regularly attracts more followers online than the team gets through the turnstiles. In the words of Alan Partridge: Back of the net!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 10:

Calculator

The next time you need to do a quick calculation, instead of bringing up the Calculator tool, you can just type your calculation in to Google.

Example 1: 2+1

Example 2: 2-1

Example 3: 2*2 (multiply)

Example 4: 4/2 (divide)

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 9:

Numeric Ranges

This is a rarely used, but highly useful tip.

If you want to find results that contain any of a range of numbers, you can do this by using the X..Y modifier (in case this is hard to read, what's between the X and Y are two full-stops.

This type of search is useful for years (as shown below), prices or anywhere where you want to provide a series of numbers.

Example: president 1940..1950

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 8:

Area Code Lookup

If all you need to do is to look-up the area code for a phone number, just enter the area code and Google will tell you where it's from.

Example: 0151

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 7:

Phone Listing

If someone calls you on your mobile number and you don't know who it is. If all you have is a phone number, you can look it up on Google using the phonebook feature.

Example: phonebook:0151-1234568

Redesigning newspapers for a digital future


The fantastically inspired media commentator Steve Outing (I heap praise on anyone who seems to share my opinion - and also sometimes on those who don't) writes in his blog/column that newspapers should be redesigned to support their companion websites.

His post leads me into an almost seamless follow-up on a previous post in which I concluded: "Instead of companion websites, our websites should have companion newspapers." This turns on its head the existing model which sees media organisations going hell for leather focusing on content for the print title, with the online title being a secondary concern.

Mr Outing suggests that newspapers should be re-created to act as vehicles for primarily promoting the main online offering.
Every story in the print edition should be tied to additional digital content or community. The local feature story in print should point to the multimedia graphic or online database that accompanies it on the Web. Each story should invite print readers to go online and leave a comment or express their opinions. Some stories should ask print readers to share additional information that they may have about the topic or news event online (e.g., eyewitness accounts or photos). Fast-breaking stories published in print should instruct readers how to sign up for mobile news alerts as new developments unfold.
He also suggests that 'newspaper' companies are on the road to ruin if they continue to follow the tried and trusted print path as once loyal print consumers become disillusioned by staff cuts and tighter pagination.

Instead, our newspapers should be targeted at the 'loyalists' who in turn are prompted to go online to read more, to comment, to interact, to watch the video, to see the gallery, to listen to the podcast, to do so much more, that they can't do in the paper.
The print edition as an island model that remains prevalent in the industry even today is a sure way for circulation erosion to accelerate as even the print loyalists abandon ship.
As counterintuitive as it might seem on the surface, genuine print integration with digital is the path that newspaper publishers must take in order to keep the print edition alive and avoid a quickening of print newspapers' slide downward.
The only way to save the title, is by strengthening the brand and shifting the focus.

We already have growing numbers of younger people and silver surfers flocking online, now we need to convert old-school readers into new media users.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 6:

This OR That

By default, when you do a search, Google will include all the terms specified in the search. If you are looking for any one or more terms to match, then you can use the OR operator. (Nb: The OR has to be capitalized).

Example: internet journalism OR advertising

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Why newspapers are damaging the news business


I've said it before (namely here) and I'll say it again: newspapers impede the development of news websites.

While primary focus is given to what for now is seen as the cash cow - newspapers - then madcap debates will still be had about whether a story should be broken online, or in print. The answer of course is always - online!

Holding back only damages the 'brand' ... and it is the brand which will see us through a cold harsh winter [for now].

Would any editor in his/her right mind really consider holding back a match report from Saturday's game until Monday, or even later in the case of weekly newspapers? The answer of course is no (please God, don't let me hear someone say yes).

So why is it that serious consideration is still being given to holding back stories for the best part of a week? It's all in the name of 'exclusivity' and selling papers.

Reality check: readers don't care about the word 'exclusive'. Ok, it may look nice in a reporter's cuttings file, but it is now so over-used, so incorrectly used (just look how many of the Sundays will claim a story, which is carried in every other Sunday, as an exclusive), that the word is now meaningless to the people who matter the most. No not the reporters, nor the editor, but the readers.

While editors try to preserve print sale through a print over web policy, they damage their websites, user confidence in the site diminishes and the longterm future of the brand is jeopardised.

So you see why newspapers are damaging news websites.

Just this week, when Kevin Maney of Portolio.com asked Marc Andreessen what he would do if he were running the New York Times, the Netscape founder said:

Shut off the print edition right now. You’ve got to play offense. You’ve got to do what Intel did in ’85 when it was getting killed by the Japanese in memory chips, which was its dominant business. And it famously killed the business—shut it off and focused on its much smaller business, microprocessors, because that was going to be the market of the future. And the minute Intel got out of playing defense and into playing offense, its future was secure. The newspaper companies have to do exactly the same thing.
The financial markets have discounted forward to the terminal conclusion for newspapers, which is basically bankruptcy. So at this point, if you’re one of these major newspapers and you shut off the printing press, your stock price would probably go up, despite the fact that you would lose 90 percent of your revenue. Then you play offense. And guess what? You’re an internet company.

Good advice - but one step at a time hey Marc. The future is online, and while we don't kill off our print titles, we need to shift focus from the short-term to the long-term evolution of our industry.

Instead of companion websites, our websites should have companion newspapers.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 5:

Specific Document Types

If you're looking to find results that are of a specific type, you can use the modifier "filetype:". For example, you might want to find only PowerPoint presentations related to internet journalism.

Example: "internet journalism" filetype:ppt

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 4:

Similar Words and Synonyms

If you want to include a word in your search, but want to include results that contain similar words or synonyms, use the "~" in front of the word.

Example: "internet journalism" ~professional

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 3:

Site Specific Search

Often, you want to search a specific website for content that matches a certain phrase. Even if the site doesn't support a built-in search feature, you can use Google to search the site for your term.

Simply use the "site: somesite.com" modifier.

Example: "internet journalism" site:www.nytimes.com

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 2:

Include and Exclude Words

Let’s say you want to search for content about internet journalism, but you want to exclude any results that contain the term advertising. To do this, simply use the "-" sign in front of the word you want to exclude.

Example Search: internet journalism -advertising

Why newsrooms should be run like a US election campaign


My God the Americans know how to do politics.

It's got drama, excitement, intrigue, in-fighting, out-fighting, personalities, Bruce Springsteen ... oh and a dash of issues too.

If you thought it couldn't get anymore like a season of The West Wing, then there's a high profile death in the campaign to cap it off.

And apart from all that, American politics has found a way of really engaging with people.

Neil Kinnock and the 1992 "Alright" shenanigans aside, can you imagine Gordon Brown or David Cameron filling a football stadium?

Gannett digital development director Ted Mann writes in his MoJo DoJo blog on CourierPostOnline.com, how Obama has capitalised on social media to really get down and dirty with the voters.

Among the weapons in the Obama armory are: text messages (SMS), email, mobile sites, Facebook and you could even follow Barack on Twitter.

Mr Mann makes the point that newsrooms could learn a lot from how the Democrats in particular have run their campaign.

But there's nothing too mind boggling, it's just about newsrooms demolishing their ivory towers and communicating with the people they are trying to reach.

Simple really. Who needs a $400m+ budget?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google


Earlier this year I was tasked with drawing up a training day for a group of journalists and photographers to show them how the web can benefit their work and how their work can benefit from the web.

Fresh from a week at UCLan and a session on using Google with Markmedia, I drew up a session which ripped off Mark's top tips. I also did a little delving online to find out if there were any other little gems of information on how journalists can get quick wins from the web.

I drew up a presentation and compiled a worksheet of tips under the title: 'How to use Google like an expert.'

From here on in, I'll post a tip each day. And if you have any tips which you'd like to share, just leave a comment and I'll include them in the list.

Tip 1:

Explicit Phrase

Let’s say you are looking for content about internet journalism. Instead of just typing internet journalism into the Google search box, you will likely be better off searching explicitly for the phrase.

To do this, simply enclose the search phrase within double quotes.

Example: "internet journalism"