Image searching


I was lead to this from Doug Belshaw’s newsletter. The site is called Same Energy. It’s a website devoted to finding images for you.

So, what makes this stand out in an environment full of search engine?

For the most part, search engines accept the descriptors that you send them and does its best to locate images that meet those descriptors. If you’re really good about describing what you want, you have success. If you aren’t that good, you might go back and add a few more terms to tighten up the descriptor. Or, if you’re in a hurry or you’re a student, you take the best fit and move on.

Same Energy works nicely to help you refine your search.

We believe that image search should be visual, using only a minimum of words. And we believe it should integrate a rich visual understanding, capturing the artistic style and overall mood of an image, not just the objects in it.

So, I put it to the test and promptly went down a rabbit hole!

For yucks, I started with the search “Toronto” and got this.

Now, we know that Toronto is more than the CN Tower.

I found a picture of a cute pooch sitting with the City Hall in the background which led me to this.

A few more clicks and I was well off the track from my original search or another way of looking at it was I was refining my search as I went.

Now, a starting point of “Toronto” isn’t the best of starts. Anyone who has ever taught students how to search knows that.

I went back and started with some more specific search terms like “White German Shepherd” and found that I could refine an image search nicely.

I found it responsive and very easy to zero in on things I’m in search of very quickly. Certainly much quicker than trying to describe the item in words.

You can create an account for yourself to download the images or create collections. This is a very interesting refreshing approach to finding images. The author warns that it’s in Beta and will likely change but what online doesn’t these days.

The author is very open about how it works.

The default feeds available on the home page are algorithmically curated: a seed of 5-20 images are selected by hand, then our system builds the feed by scanning millions of images in our index to find good matches for the seed images. You can create feeds in just the same way: save images to create a collection of seed images, then look at the recommended images.

I found the experience fascinating and look forward to hearing more about this search engine as it matures and grows based on feedback from users.

As always, I’d encourage you to take a look and share your thoughts about it in the comments below.

Fixes


I didn’t know that anything was broken until I was getting ready for “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” and had logged into Zencastr. Out of the blue, it reported that there was a problem with the sampling rate of my microphone.

Now, you have to realize that I have two monitors, five blog posts in tabs, my shared notes in another tab, Zencastr in another one and then a few other tabs that are always open.

But, in my mind, I knew just where to find that setting in the Control Panel. While I’ve used Windows 10 on that computer for a while now, I’m still more comfortable there than in the new-fangled settings. So, I did what I normally do and use the search to search for and launch Control Panel.

This is what I got.

A whole lot of nothing. Sure, there was a text entry area and I could type but there were no results.

Fortunately, my learning from years and years ago had been effective. I had a shortcut to the Control Panel on my desktop. So, I minimized everything to get in there where I found that, according to my computer, all was right with the world and my microphone.

For that moment, I switched to another microphone which gave the same error message but we were able to complete the show.

Then, I started to do a bit of digging and the lack of a search is a “known issue”. See a typical story here.

Windows 10 Warning: Anger At Microsoft Rises With Serious New Failure

I guess it’s kind of comforting to know that I’m not the only person doing a screen capture of nothing. I did what a normal person should do and asked Windows to check for updates.

Nada. Nothing.

At least from the article above and from other reading, I’m not the only one with this issue.

But, I look at Microsoft on this one. This isn’t some obscure little thing buried in the operating system. That magnifying glass is right on my taskbar. It’s pretty crucial. Fortunately, I kind of know my way around a computer and I do have a well organized storage scheme. (at least in my mind and that’s all that counts) But, if I was using a search to find something, I can’t help but think I’d be more frustrated than just being a bit upset.

It’s not just Microsoft. Regular readers will know that my Macintosh had an issue and I had to wait a while for Apple to release a patch for it. Now, “patch” in the Apple world means Gigs of information. I compare that to Linux where a patch is a small bit of code and turned out very shortly by the community after being identified. In other worlds, often you have to wait a while for a fix.

So, I will have to wait for an update from Microsoft on this one.

If I was in a hurry, there are a number of fixes for this one that involve going into the registry and tweaking things. Somehow Bing is at the heart of this from what I’m reading. At this point, I can live with knowing that something is broken so I’m hesitant to break things even further.

But, there’s got to be a department called “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken”. That appears to be what happened in this case.

Search them all


A long time ago, I had written a script that kind of did was Soovle does. It’s just that Soovle does it so much better.

It was based on the premise that if searching on one search engine was good then searching on more than one can be better.

So, let’s say you’re interested in finding out more about “Winnipeg”, you can give it a shot here.

The blank screen when you land looks like this.

But, start doing a search and watch them all come to life. So, it’s off to Winnipeg we go…

Results from all of the search engines are populated as you type. It’s kind of neat to play with your arrow keys to rotate the results and check them out.

There are more tips in the secret link in the top right. If you don’t like the default choices of search engines or layout, the engines link let you customize things.

When you find a search of interest, clicking on it will take you to the result in the search engine selected.

But wait, there’s more. Before Lisa and Aviva jump in with suggestions on media literacy … it’s an interesting comparison between search engines to see what they return. I’ve mentioned before that it’s frustrating when a student finds what they’re looking for in the first page of results from a Google Search. This is a powerful visual reminder that that is but one way to search.

If you live in Winnipeg right now, I would imagine that knowing when and where the Grey Cup Parade happens would be a significant thing. What search engine has the same priority? Why isn’t that the first result from them all? Can you make them all return information about the parade?

The more you know, the better a researcher you’ll be.

Better answers


Yesterday, I had mused a bit about search engines.  I got some interesting questions – Dogpile?  Why certainly!  Why just “Go” when you can “Go Fetch”?

Many people just stick with the default search engine that comes with their browser and that’s OK.  Search engines generally all do a wonderful job of bringing back good results from your search query.  This can be frustrating, at times, if you don’t know how best to ask for that search.  Enter a single word like “house” and you’ll get all kinds of diverse results that may not even close to what you’re looking for.

I just did it on Google and got some interesting results.  First, it knew I was searching from Canada and so I got the Canadian Election Doodle.  My results included the television show by that name followed by real estate agents in this area.  It’s Google’s way of trying to guess what I was looking for, given my search parameters.  Bing landed on a beautiful graphic and its results actually gave pictures of houses before getting into television shows.  There were links to the election and tonight’s baseball game so it definitely had a Canadian feel.  Yahoo! had the same landing page as any other days and it featured some election stories.  When I did my search there, I got results about the television show.  I don’t recall ever actually watching it.  Are these search engines telling me something?

The actual answer is that my search was so vague, I didn’t really have a chance of easily getting what I might be searching for.  I’m a sucker for reading stories to help the cause like this one “11 Google Tricks That Will Change The Way You Search“.  If only I could remember them all.  Plus the tricks and tips from all of the other related articles.  In the Bing world, there’s actually a website called Bing tips and tricks.  Am I going to have to memorize those as well?

Apparently, searching for “house” on the landing page just doesn’t cut it.

Quite frankly, I don’t have the mind capacity (or the will) to memorize all of these tips and tricks. 

Fortunately, most search engines have me covered there.  There’s a relatively well hidden better solution.  It’s called “Advanced Search” and you do have to go looking for it.  And I’ll tell you, the search <grin> is worth it.

In Google, go here instead.  https://www.google.ca/advanced_search?hl=en-CA&fg=1

Or Yahoo! Advanced http://search.yahoo.com/search/options?fr=fp-top&p=

Bing used to have an advanced search feature but I can’t find it.  You can still learn the tips and tricks to get better results.  http://bingtricks.com/bing-advanced-search

Duckduckgo uses advanced search terms https://duck.co/help/results/syntax and bangs https://duckduckgo.com/bang.

I’m such a fan of the advanced search feature.  For too long, I saw students fumble with the basic search interface in search of results and then compromised on what they could find instead of finding exactly what they’re looking for.  There really is a difference.

When at the school district, I had located all of the advanced search links and pulled them together into a page that we called the Student Reference Portal.  This was set as the starting page for all students so that they could immediately launch into a search environment that gave them a better chance of finding what they were looking for.  Of course, it still requires the proper use of data to be submitted to the search engine but that just goes to that element of digital literacy.  That’s always worth teaching.

If you’re looking for that “one click” experience to get you to the advanced search, you can do it right now.  Find that advanced search feature for whatever search engine that you elect to use and bookmark it.  It will remain there quick and easy for future use.

Now, when you need to be productive in your searching, instead of crossing your fingers and typing www….. (which is a skill in itself), just click on the bookmark and away you go.  I like to have a couple bookmarked because, as we all know, the exact result you’re looking for may be easier found in one search engine than another.

Just Like Me


Yesterday, I went out for a coffee with a friend two towns over.  As I got to the designated Tim Horton’s, I received a text message indicating that he was stuck at a train tracks but would be there shortly.  What to do?  What to do?  Well, I had two of life’s necessities – a medium black coffee and free wireless.  Except for the promised companionship, what more could a person want.

I actually had something planned to do but didn’t want to get started only to have to put things on hold when my friend arrived.  I stared at the screen and this icon caught my eye.

Similar

 

It’s the icon to a really helpful Google Extension – Google Similar Pages.  I find it to be a really helpful extension when I’m researching a topic.  When the first page I visit doesn’t give enough information, it’s very handle to resist the urge to do another search and just click on this icon and let it find pages similar to the one I’m currently viewing.  I’ve had a great deal of success with it.

However, with all that I’ve used it, I’ve never let my ego kick in.  I’m still waiting so – why not?  What’s similar to my web presence?

My Blog – https://dougpete.wordpress.com

Answer is…

 

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 4.45.54 PM

Isn’t that cool?  I personally know Zoe and Rodd.  I’m honoured to be included with all four of them.

I wonder – what about the rest of my resources.

My Website – http://www.dougpeterson.ca

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 7.52.28 PM

 

Interesting.  I’m not the only Doug Peterson apparently.  But it did cycle back to some of the things I’ve created.

My PD Wiki – http://dougpete.pbworks.com

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 7.53.08 PM

 

One of the resources cycled back to me.  However, just like above, it’s given me some new resources to check out.

It was fun to do this and, scratching the ego, took me to some new places.

Why don’t you install the extension (there are Firefox alternatives) and see what’s similar to you?  You just might find a new favourite resource.