Monday, October 5, 2009

Google-Fu: Winnowing the Chaff! (Tools of the Trade # 2)

Today I teach you your first Kata in Google-Fu. Winnowing the chaff.

The first Kata, known as winnowing the chaff, makes use of linear forms which denotes power and directness, and circular forms which represent the inward spiral to focus and truth.

The linear form basics are denoted by the symbols " ", and are the "Oyo" which is loosely translated as the "how"
The circular form represents the flow and has no symbol, but is a way and why of doing your kata. This is known as Bunkai, or the reason or loosely translated as "why".

The basic Google search is done by typing in a few search terms into the Google search field, and hitting enter. Depending on the choice of search terms, the number of results can be overwhelming!
Sometimes adding more search terms helps, and sometimes it hinders.

In comes the linear basic denoted by " ". Note the double short vertical lines? This denotes power, and directness in your search term.
This, quite simply, is the technique of enclosing a group of search terms in double quotation marks, and is known as a phrase search.

In Google Fu, this forces the search to look for the exact set of search terms, in order.
You see, when you do a basic Google search, Google looks at your choice of search terms, and in an order known only to itself (not really, but no sense in going into a green belt level discussion here) narrows its search results based on which term it searches first.

Using the double quotation marks, you can greatly narrow the search!

Let's move to an example:

Suppose you had read my blog last Monday, but for some reason forgot to bookmark the URL. You recall a few things about the blog, like the introduction to using Google to search the web, but not the specific blog name. (Although it is on the tip of your tongue and you would recognize it when you see it.)
What to do?

You may recall that the blog had 'tools of the trade' in the title, so you use that as your first search term:

Yikes! Over 128 million hits!
You go through a few pages and do not see anything familiar. You may stumble across some interesting links, which is half the fun of the web, but you are looking for this particular blog.

Time to winnow the chaff by enclosing tools of the trade in double quotes:

Humm, well, that did knock it down to a bit under a million hits.

You think about it a bit and you remember that there was something in the blog about doing something to chaff... so you add the word 'chaff' to the search field. This is the "Bunkai" and is a circle of focus.

Well that knocks the number of results down to 1350, which although is not that manageable, is still better than 128 million!
Actually, if you scroll down the page, you will come accross the link to my blog, what you were looking for!
But lets narrow it down a bit. You may remember the blog was talking about Google searches. Entering this final term and you get your result:

There is the blog, at number one in the search results!

This is a rather trivial example, and there are other paths that will lead to this results, including not using the double quotes at all. But the point is that 90% of what you are looking for can be quickly found just by using the Oyo of the double quotes. The phrase search is one of the most powerful moves in your Google-Fu.

Play around with it a bit and you will see. For instance if you only remember a few words to a song, but that is all, use the search term: "insert the lyrics here" lyrics

Next time we will learn a powerful block in Google-Fu, and how to "move inside" your opponent.

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