Thursday, July 17, 2008

So What's Up With Boolean??

I'm teaching a research and documentary class for Middle-Schoolers at our Summer Institute. Yesterday, I gave them a quick lesson on how search engines work, we talked about AND, OR, NOT and how they function.

I pulled out my handy-dandy search on Vikings (which always pulls up the football team). Then we talked about how to remove the football sites. I pointed out that Google doesn't accept NOT, that you need to use the '-' sign (grin--feeling very savvy for knowing that, I might add!) We typed in Vikings -football and, Voila! Had a million hits on the Minnesota Vikings. Make a liar out of me, Google.

No worries, I explained. Google has always been a bit odd, and I showed them the advanced search engine, which basically puts Boolean in a different form. "Let's try Yahoo," I said. "That will work."

A zillion hits on the Minnesota Vikings. Hmmmm. Last try, AltaVista. Same results. And they had the same advanced search engine as Google.

So what gives? Why isn't Boolean working in the search engines anymore? Anyone know? Obviously, it's easy enough to just show them the advanced engines, but it's odd that you can't just type in the terms and save yourself a mouse click!

LATER UPDATE: OK, forget all of that. I don't know what sort of bizarre alternative universe I was in yesterday, but I just played with it again, and it worked on all three engines. Weird. I wonder if I had a space in and didn't realize it?

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