Learn Power Searching with Google

by [anonymous]1 min read2nd Jul 201254 comments


Personal Blog

Google Search makes it amazingly easy to find information. Come learn about the powerful advanced tools we provide to help you find just the right information when the stakes are high.

Daniel Russell is doing a free Google class on how to search the web. Besides six 50-minute classes it will include interactive activities to practice new skills. Upon passing the post-course assessment you get a Certificate of Completion.

Advanced search skills are not only a useful everyday skill but vital to doing scholarship. Searching the web is a superpower that would make thinkers of previous centuries green with envy. Learn to use it well. I recommend checking out Inside Search, Russel's Blog or perhaps reading the article "How to solve impossible problems" to get a feeling about what you can expect to gain from it.

I think for most the value of information is high enough to be worth the investment. Also I suspect it will be plain fun. I am doing the class and strongly recommend it to fellow LessWrong users. Anyone else who has registered please say so publicly in the comments as well. :)

Registration is open from June 26, 2012 to July 16, 2012.

54 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 8:56 AM
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It's things like this that make me sad that we're moving to a video-based web instead of a text based. I can read the text-based content much more easily and quickly and at my own pace, skimming or skipping around. Enrolled anyway - mainly because I currently assume I know how to search as well as about anyone already so I'm interested to see how I'm wrong.

Each video has a textual transcript (which isn't exact, but captures the gist of what the lecturer says well) with good screenshots added. The lecture videos also have captions for people who like to read along as they listen and watch.

Yes, for everyone here worried about text - it is available! However, beyond that I've been pretty unimpressed* with the course. So far it's been more along the lines of basic searching techniques. For example, topics covered:
1) Using ctrl+f
2) Refining searches with color choice in images
3) Auto-completion
4) Instant search

It feels more like an advertising program than a real attempt at turning us into search masters. TBH, I except that this will be more helpful to more people, but not that helpful to the typical LWer. I hope the later presentations pick up.

(*) Aside: I was going to use the word "nonplussed" here before stopping and realizing that I didn't really know what it means. Turns out there's a good reason for that: the two definitions for it that I got with my awesome google skills were: 'confused' and 'unperturbed'. Consider me nonplussed about the word 'nonplussed' - by either definition.

So far the units covered where "Introduction" and "Interpreting results". Isn't it a bit early to be complaining of this not being that useful? This is very much a procedural knowledge class. Since it builds on a everyday skill you shouldn't expect it to blow your mind, you should however expect it to show you two or three new things that will let you do stuff better. At the very least let them reach Unit 3 "Class 3 - Advanced techniques" rather than despairing at "Introduction" and "Interpreting results" not doing much for you.

Honestly I very much expected them to start at the pace they have, the things you mention seem very basic, but there is a huge demand for such basic introductions. This is why Udacity recently made the Stats 101 and the Physics 100 classes. Remember when he says that just using ctrl+f puts you above 90% of searchers. I'm pretty sure at least 10% of LessWrong users don't use ctrl+f.

To give you a related data point I didn't know you could use colour choice in image searches so this class has totally been worth it.

I think it must be aimed at beginners and not someone like me. Class 1 was just laughable, but Class 2 started to get into the real skill of searching: thinking about synonyms and alternative phrasings and how someone else would write what you want, and Class 3 (finally) covered the most useful operators like negation and site:. The midterm was easy, but with the basics out of the way, I'm hopeful that 4-6 may teach me something new and so I'm going to continue (as much as it's otherwise been a disappointment).

I also think the exercises & questions are skimpier than they ought to have been. Testing your syntax understanding is fine, but surely more can be done?

I finished the final exam just now. It was harder than the exercises, which was a good thing (although I still don't see how one could answer one of the book questions).

Overall, my opinion remains the same. Good for beginners, for power users who already know Boolean operators and site: etc, not such a good use of time. Also, probably everyone should skip the videos and read the documents instead (unless they're very fond of videos). It was a nice touch that they tried to teach about confirmation bias.

I signed up for the course, without ever watching the videos or reading the transcripts. A few minutes ago, I thought this might be a good time to finally get started. So I came back to the original LessWrong post to find the link to the course. But after reading gwern's comments, it's become clear to me that the course is not worth it.

Lesson: unless you have strong reasons for committing immediately to some time-consuming course or activity, wait until others whose judgment you trust have reviewed the course or activity.

[-][anonymous]9y 2

Additionally, there's a somewhat more subtle advantage people may tend to downplay: the possibility to "refresh" already known, yet underused search tips.

I agree with your and GLaDOS's points. However, this was not the impression of the course I got ahead of time. I expected it to be aimed at 'power users' trying to step it up to the next level. The advanced topics in part 3 can be summed up with "click on the advanced search button and then fill in the form". This is a problem with my expectations for the course more than a problem with the course itself. But that doesn't mean I'm not still disappointed - I wanted the black art of searching straight from the masters themselves.

OTOH, with the text transcripts, I can turn these 50-minute classes into about 10 minutes if I already know the material with little chance of skipping any new stuff, so I'm definitely continuing and don't consider it a waste of time or anything.

True, I'm hoping someone will post a textual summary that I can read later.

Agreed. I won't be able to attend these classes, so all I can do is hope that someone here can overcome the bystander bias and offer the Pareto 20% that gives 80% of the win.

I can not upvote this enough. I very much prefer to consume written material over videos.

Signed up. Even if I only learn a couple new tricks it will have been worth it.

While the course is pretty easy, there is some new stuff. I found one new keyword I did not use before (intext). Some of the basics I used to ignore are emphasized (word order, junk words). And the 6 degrees of separation exercise was fun, if not overly useful.

[-][anonymous]9y 0

Yep. I expect some more useful, not-widely-known search tips to come at the last class.


Registered. As someone who is likely to be teaching high school IT in the future, I will be interested to see if I can utilise any of the material for teaching, too.

[-][anonymous]9y 4

Registered. The course promises a result/impact (at least) way more measurable than some other online courses I'm also enrolled on (e.g. Coursera's Behavioral Neurology).

Registered. A very large chunk of my quality of life is due to my facility with searching Amazon and Google and Scopus (and using Google to search Amazon.) Even one little tidbit will be pay off exponentially.

Or at least, say what the rate is. If it's 1%, compounded continually, then the investment will have doubled in about 69 years. So if it takes 6 x 50 = 300 minutes (and let's say zero time on studying) Mark will have saved 600 minutes by the year 2081. Or is that saved 300 minutes, after accounting for the 300 minute investment? I'm not used to using exponentials for time savings...

Could you give an example?

I've registered.

I'm definitely signing up. I thought my Google and search skills were top-notch, but Russell's presentation shows that I still have things to learn.

EDIT: I finished. See my review comments.

I've registered for the course. Already I've learned new things. I can feel my google-fu growing more powerful.


Anyone else who has registered please say so publicly in the comments as well.

Okay. +1 registration

Thank you, I've registered. I've never done an online class like this before so it'll be an interesting experience.

Has anyone taken the newer Advanced Power Searching course?

The class suggests doing some other things like Wired's 'A Google A Day': http://www.wired.com/geekdad/tag/a-google-a-day/

I've been doing them for the past weekish, and they're OK. They take no more than 2 or 3 minutes.

The first class is now online. I recommend watching the videos at 1.5x speed. You can do this by signing up for the HTML5 trial and then selecting the corresponding option on the settings button of the player.

Registered a few days ago, now trying to run the course, but for some reason it's not working.

Edit: working now.


Registered, looks likely to have a good ROI.


BTW, talking about Google, they're shutting down iGoogle in Nov. 2013. I'm really going to miss that. If you love it too, you can sign a petition to keep it.


[-][anonymous]9y 2

I've registered.

[-][anonymous]9y 2

Registered. Thanks Konk!


I've signed up. Thank you for posting this!

I've registered, and I've mentioned the course on my blog.


I've registered.

Question: Activity after Lesson 1.3 insists that

"If the words you type in appear near each other on a page, it may get listed higher in your results."

is false. Is it a mistake?


Signing up was a waste of time. This course is for people who don't know anything at all.



I registered as well. Not sure that I'll learn anything new, but I sure would like to.


Way too time-consuming. I've registered so I can at least see what kind of stuff he'll be teaching, but I have trouble believing that the classes couldn't have been condensed to an hour.