Beyond Search, which is a a 10-year-old publication that focuses on enterprise search and content processing, is changing its focus to cover products and services related to voice-centric information access by introducing a new blog, Beyond Alexa. Stephen E. Arnold writes: “The idea is that Alexa has become an interesting product niche, but the impact of voice-related information access is now changing rapidly. Frankly it is more dynamic than the decades old keyword search business.” I couldn’t agree more. He also states: “Since early 2008, we have tracked the keyword centric approach to finding and making sense of information. Our changing focus reflects the fact that I wrote about years ago in Searcher Magazine. Keyword search linked to a keyboard, if not dead, was headed for marginalization…We think there’s more ‘beyond’ Alexa. We want to explore the new world of ubiquitous and Teflon-slick information access.” For a related post, please see Voice Search is Growing and is Different Than Keywords in a Search Box.
Search Engine Land featured an article in June, written by Wesley Young, entitled The Voice Search Explosion and How It Will Change Local Search. Included are fascinating tidbits of information for those who follow and are interested in the world of search and retrieval. Here are two key takeaways:
- There is explosive growth – “At LSA [Local Search Association] 16, [Timothy]Tuttle shared that within one year (last year), the use of voice search went from a statistical zero to 10 percent of all search volume…Yet more recent numbers show that growth accelerating — Google announced at I/O that 20 percent of all searches have voice intent, while [Mary] Meeker’s charts show that in May 2016, 25 percent of searches on Windows 10 taskbar are voice searches.”
- Voice search is different than keywords in a search box – “Because search queries are more conversational in natural language, they tend to be longer, more nuanced and reveal greater intent…It’s also easy to see how queries may no longer be ‘search-oriented’ in the way we define it today but rather jump over search straight into a request for action. For example, instead of searching for pizza restaurants near me, you can now request Alexa (Echo) to order you a Large Deep Dish Pepperoni Pizza with mushrooms and extra sauce and have it delivered to your house via the Domino’s Pizza skill.”
Just the beginning? I think yes.
Here is a really great Infographic that shows how search engines like Google and Bing work in 2016 from SEO Book. This quote is excellent: “The philosophy of modern search has thus moved away from starting with information and connecting it to an audience, to starting with the user and customizing the result page to them.”
Erik Devaney, Editor of HubSpot’s ReadThink, has written an informative post on corporate jargon, or,“Why do business-people talk like that?”
It is easy to think light of corporate jargon. There is, however, a serious side to consider when performing research. Being aware of what the current day jargon is, even though it can at times be silly, can be helpful in retrieving results that are current and relevant. One search strategy to consider when you are retrieving irrelevant results (we’ve all been there) is to use terms that you think the author might use in his or her writing, not what you think the author should use.
This article is filled with wonderful little nuggets such as:
“…the word jargon dates back to the Middle Ages and originally referred to a sound that birds made.”
“’Thinking outside the box,’ for example, is a reference to a logic puzzle, which requires that you connect a 3×3 ‘box’ of 9 dots using four straight lines or fewer — without lifting your pen or pencil off the paper…The trick is that you need to drag your line outside of the box in order to complete the puzzle.'”
“The term aboveboard, meanwhile, was likely born out of the requirement that card players keep their hands above the table as a way to discourage cheating.”
Perhaps the most interesting section focuses on the theories for its use, even though users know it can be incomprehensible or vague: Here are a few of the leading theories:
- It’s a power move.
- It reinforces belonging.
- It makes it easier to talk about uncomfortable topics.
Project Information Literacy has released a new report entitled, “Staying Smart: How Today’s Graduates Continue to Learn Once They Complete College,” The report presents findings about how recent college graduates seek information for lifelong learning in their personal, workplace, and community lives.
From the summary:
Findings indicated that most graduates needed to learn a combination of basic and complex life skills during the past year, such as money-management, how to make household repairs, and how to advance in their careers and communicate better on the job. They consulted friends, family, and coworkers almost as much as the Web. Graduates preferred information sources that had currency, utility, and interactivity. They also placed a high premium on curated information systems that were organized and kept up-to-date, such as libraries, museums, and bookstores…Graduates reported four barriers to their continued learning efforts: lack of time, finding affordable learning sources, staying on top of everything they needed to know, and staying motivated to keep learning after college. As a whole, graduates prided themselves on their ability to search, evaluate, and present information, skills they honed during college…
Marydee Ojala, Editor-in-Chief of Online Searcher, has written one of the best paragraphs of the year (IMHO) in her article entitled Dynamic Disruption (July/August 2015). She writes about how various industries have been disrupted by technology, and information professionals are not immune even though we “have been and still are at the forefront of technology.” Here’s the paragraph (directly quoted).
The cloud is considered by some to be disruptive. I almost laughed out loud when I read, in “The Cloud Is Dead. Long Live the Cloud,” by Stacey Higginbotham in the May 1, 2015, issue of Fortune, that she thinks the cloud replaces “the days when everything we did on a computer started and ended with what was stored on the hard drive.” Information professionals have been doing online research in the cloud since before we had our own personal hard drives. We practically invented the cloud. We just didn’t call it that. We called it online searching. Our online is the current cloud. Oh, and it was, and still is, Big Data, another disruptive concept.
There is no question that the number one time waster when researching is slogging through large numbers of irrelevant or bad “hits.” This is especially true if you are looking for a specific detail. Here are techniques you can use to get more targeted search results, that are of high quality, regardless if you are using Google or a commercial for-fee database.
Relax. Successful research is about careful reading and attention to detail. Once you relax and start reading, your mind will automatically start making connections between what you need and what you are reading.
Restrict by date. This helps in eliminating old and out-of-date material.
Know how your results are sorted. The common default is set to relevance. Sometimes relevance is not the best way to sort – say for company financials and medical developments, which should be sorted by most recent first. If you want a timeline or chronology of events, sorting from oldest to newest is the best option.
The Find command is your best friend. Quickly looking at where and how many times the highlighted keywords appear saves you from having to read the entire article/document to determine if it will be useful for your research.
Document your work as you go. It is much more efficient to document a possible source before moving on to the next one than it is to relocate that source later. This is especially true at the beginning of your search efforts.
Learn about and use the limiting features available in commercial research databases like LexisNexis, Factiva, BvD, (and even Google). These features allow you to get higher quality, fewer results. The interfaces might be different but they all have basically the same functionality. In all of these resources, look for the “advanced search” option. Usually the default is set on the basic search feature which retrieves results without much refining or restricting being done.
The advanced feature allows you to place search terms in any field you desire, such as in the title field, meaning only articles with those terms appearing in the title will be shown. In all databases, you can adjust the date parameters to get current, fewer results.
A very important rule when researching is – Get the terminology right. Using the wrong terminology or keywords when searching is one of the primary factors leading to poor or irrelevant results. Brainstorm and identify various keywords and terms that can be used before starting to search – and consider using a pen and paper to do it.
When you are in the process of building out your terminology, use glossaries, introductory material, and background documents or books. For example think of all the terms you can use for “contingent workforce” – temporary labor, temporary contract workers, independent professionals, independent contractors, consultants, seasonal workers, freelancers.
Boolean commands And, Or. Boolean logic is a way of embedding context in your research. You will save yourself considerable time and heartache if you can use the Booleans to improve your results. The “and” command narrows results. Many databases and search engines already assume the “and” command. If you are not sure, go ahead and use it.
The “or” command, which expands results, is also important because there are many ways to enter a term, such as IBM or International Business Machines. This command allows you string out all the alternatives for a comprehensive search.
Here are other symbols to use:
The asterisk allows you to find all forms of a search term. For example, a search for “hack*” will find hacks, hacker, hacked, and hacking. Google does automatically truncate for you. However, many commercial databases do not. In these cases you have no way of knowing how an author is using a word – in what tense, plural or singular. This ensures that all forms of the word are considered.
Quotation marks in a search string indicate that you want results that contain the entire, exact phrase. For example, searching for “market share” with quotation marks will find results that discuss the market share of a company rather than results that contain both words individually – not connected. Why is this important? Without quotes, you may one find one term in the first sentence of a 500 word document and the next in the last sentence – and they have nothing to do with other. Bad hits will result.
Google Advanced Search is a fantastic resource and helps instill advanced research thinking.
Here are a few search options available through Google:
- You can do Comparison searching by using “vs” after a product or company name. For example, “NetSuite vs” will return alternatives to NetSuite.
- You can assign Number ranges to see results that contain numbers in a given range of things like dates, prices, and lists such as this search term: “top 50..100 companies”
- The Site command allows you to use google to search one specific website. This approach is particularly helpful when you know a site is a good resource but has lousy embedded search functionality. An example: site:linkedin.com “contract manager”
- Word exclusion: Placing a minus sign right before the term you want to exclude, will remove those results from what is returned.
Here are related posts that cover Google search tips: