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Wednesday, 8th December 2010

An Undocumented Google Search Operator: AROUND(x) + More Cool Bing and Exalead Operators

Google Operating System points to a blog post from October by Googler Daniel Russell about an undocumented search operator, "around (x)." He adds that it's been available for the past five to six years and librarians have been asked him about it. Interesting.***

Mr. Russell writes:

[ "Jerry Brown" AROUND(9) "tea party" ] will find you a bunch of hits illustrating the relationship between Jerry Brown (running for governor of California) and the Tea Party. (It's strained, at best.)

The AROUND operator is a handy trick to use when you're looking for a combination of search terms when one dominates the results, but you're interested in the relationship between two query terms.

NOTE: the AROUND() operator MUST BE IN CAPS. The number sets the max distance between the two terms.

Btw, Bing has a very robust set of advanced search operators that include near:(x) and norelax:(x). These and many others are documented on this page. Also, several very useful explanations of how to use norelax and a few other piece of Bing syntax can be found in this post by Mary Ellen Bates.

near: is something that info pros have wanted for many years since AltaVista offered it. With Bing it's a bit different but still useful. Here's how they explain it:

Ordering is considered in ranking. Thus, in this example, pages that contain bar ten words or less after foo would receive a greater boost in rank than pages in which foo appears ten words or less after bar. However, depending on the rest of the query, this does not necessarily mean that the former would be ranked higher than the latter.

Exalead also offers a near operator, they call it NEXT (the default is 15 words in either directions but NEXT(x) is also possible).

They also offer many other operators that are worth knowing about. Here's a list.

They also provide cached pages. Every search engine crawls different pages at different times and rates. During the past few years we've been under the impression that the Exalead index had grown old for most pages, new or old.

We checked a few sites listed below (either homepage or lead blog page) using Exalead and most were cached today or yesterday (probably either UTC or CET). We realize this is not even close to be a scientific test. The ones that we checked and were crawled and cached in the past two days were:

+ Google Operating System
+ ResourceShelf
+ BBC News
+ American Library Association
+ Vanderbilt Television News Archive
+ Search Engine Roundtable
+ Amazon.com Payments Media Room
+ TeleRead
+ CDC Newsroom
+ Daggle

*** As we mentioned a few months ago, the one time Google Librarian Central Blog/Newsletter would have been a great place to share this info. Google announced they were ending the blog posts on July 8, 2008.

At that time they said users could find info on this Google For Educators page. However, of the eight items posted in 2010 (the most recent in July) they were notices about events for educators. The word library or librarian are not found on the page.

Back to July, 2008 and with the "merging" of the blogs, Google did say they were planning on continuing the Google Librarian Newsletter.

...we're going to provide news, product features and other Google-related announcements through our Google Librarian Newsletter, which we'll send out every few months.

A Librarian Newsletter was published on July 10, 2008. The next one was posted on April 4, 2009. Since that time, no additional newsletters are listed in the archive. The fact that Google ended the newsletter after saying it would continue is one thing. The company is free to do as they please.

However, it would have been useful to let users know that the publication was being discontinued and why it was being discontinued after they said it would go on. The Librarian Newsletter was useful and worth a look but perhaps it could have grown in importance (in terms of content, contributors, etc). Again, we would like to know why it ceased publication (at least for approx. 20 months) and why that info was not shared with the readership? Not the biggest of deals but sharing info is both useful and important and central to what both info pros and Google do each day.

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