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.

Or Yahoo! Advanced

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.

Duckduckgo uses advanced search terms and bangs

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.



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 –

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 –

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 –

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.


Building a Google Docs Story

Here’s a cute little writing activity.  It’s called the Google Docs Stories Builder.  You’re not going to write the next great Canadian novel but it’s a fun little activity.  The activity starts here.

Every story needs characters so you’ll begin by adding them.

The two characters in this story are my fine furry friend Jaimie and me.  I’ll add the characters to the builder.  You’ll notice immediately that the names appear with a flag in the story window.

So, a typical dialogue between the two of us would go like this.

And, no story would be complete without a little music…

The whole process is interesting.  It reminded me of creating Google Search Stories.

The story would serve well as an introduction to multiple authors of a Google Document.  You easily get a sense of how the flag follows your cursor around the screen and how text can be inserted and edited.

I do get a feeling, unfortunately, that it’s still a work in progress.  There is no “Login” option – just an option to create a new Google account.  Even though I was logged in to my Google account, I wasn’t able to have a sense that I was logged in to Google Docs Story Builder.  I was hoping that there would have been an option to save my story to YouTube just like Google Search Stories.  After all, your construction can be played back as a movie with typewriter effects for those of us old enough to appreciate it…

Perhaps one of you reading this blog will tell me where I missed something.

Math and Science Symbol Search

This search engine is specially made for the mathematicians and scientists in the crowd.

How often have you wanted to do a search for a particular equation requiring specialized characters?  Quick, where is that alt-code cheat sheet?  Well, in fact, you can find it here.

Wouldn’t it be nicer if there was an easier way?

There is.  Check out Symbolab.

Typing any formula is as simple as using your regular keyboard and then the buttons on the top row.  Results come first from Wolfram Alpha and then the deep searching begins.

Let’s start with a simple example y=mx+b

Actually, there’s no real reason that you couldn’t use a traditional search engine for that equation so let’s try something a little more complicated.

How about something like:  

There’s a formula that would be a real challenge with your alt-codes.  It’s a snap with Symbolab.

And now, the results

The top row of the search engine is actually a series of buttons that can be expanded with a click.  So, the sin / cosh button opens to reveal…

This site features just a wealth of functionality if the need to search for specialized symbols is in your future.  BTW, the chemistry symbols section is under development as I write this.

The topper?  How about a calculator to go with all this goodness!


The Best of Both Worlds

Sometimes, I feel like the technological world has passed me by.  I had that feeling this weekend when I stumbled onto something that I’m sure that everyone else but me knows.

Two things form the basis for this post.

  • I really like the Omnibar in the Google Chrome browser.  It lets me type URLs and search in the same box;
  • I’ve been a real advocate for changing the default search engine to Diigo instead of Google or Bing or Yahoo! or whatever so that results come from curated results instead of the crapshoot that blindly searching can provide.

So, I was playing around with Firefox 5 Beta Channel (although I read that there’s a Firefox 6 Alpha out…) and forgot that I was in Firefox for a second.  I thought I was in Chrome and typed in a search term.  Guess what?  I got Google search results.  I sort of stared at the screen for a second and shook my head.  I tried it again.  Son of a gun, it worked again.

I then thought – this is very cool.  Even when I switch my default search engine to Diigo, there are times when I really need to use Google to do a search.  Similarly, if I switch the default to Google, I’m back to wading through results until I get what I want.  Firefox, as you know, has a search window – why don’t I use that for Diigo searches and the Awesome Bar for searching my history and searching using Google?


The Awesome Bar gives me this…

And, Diigo gives me this …

Wow!  It just depends on whether I type the term into the Awesome Bar or the Search Window to choose the search engine that I want.So, I thought – what a great addition to Firefox 5.  Now, one of the nice things about Firefox 5 is that it can exist alongside Firefox 4.  So, I tried the above on Firefox 4, and sure enough, it worked there as well.  Now, I’m feeling like a dummy.  This functionality has been there all along!  How can this be?  Do I ever feel silly.  Last to the party again.
But, now that I’ve learned that, I’m thinking of the opportunities to being a more efficient searcher.

Having it All

If there was a big world event happening, what would you do to bring that resource into your classroom?

  • probably search for that term on Google or some other search engine?  Check.
  • read a blog or two on the topic?  Check.
  • check out Twitter to see what’s happening in real time?  Check.
  • check out Facebook to see what your friends are saying?  Check.

What if you were able to do all of this in one spot?  You can with IceRocket.

Touted as a real-time search engine, IceRocket brings all of the above together in one spot.  (and more…)

Head over to the site and type a search term and check out the results.  They will look familiar.  There’s the title of the article, a descriptor, the link to the article of course, but look at the other content.  There’s a link to indicate authority or credibility of the resource by identifying the author.  That’s nice.  But, even more powerfully, you’ll see a calendar reference for the links.  Because the focus of this resource is “real-time”, it’s important to get a date stamp on the results and they’re up front.

So, from a single point of search, head off to look for blogs, the web, Twitter, … or for them all in one spot, opt for the “Big Buzz”.

Like any good search engine, IceRocket features advanced search.  Each area whether it be blog or web or whatever has a custom set of items that can be set for each search.  One of the tips of internet presence is to look for incoming links.  So, ego pops up when I do a search under Web for to see what web sites have links to my blog.  It was particularly interesting to try that search under blogs to see just what blogs link here.  I guess people actually do read this thing.

So, give IceRocket a shot.  It may not become your daily use search engine but when you’re looking for an easily customizable approach to searching, its design may well yield answers quicker and more relevantly than any other.