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Old 05-01-2011, 11:14 AM   #1
bhartman36
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Considering Writing a Nonfiction Reference Work on Google

So here are my questions:

1) If you saw a book on searching Google, would you consider buying it?
2) What would you want to see in it?
3) How much would you be willing to pay?

I've got a master's degree in library science, so I figured I could write a book to help people search Google like a pro for research purposes. (It's amazing how many really lousy Google searches I come across.) People need to do Google searches for a lot of different purposes, and sometimes they spend a lot of time and effort, so I thought there might be a market for this. In addition to syntax, my book would address things like how to evaluate the credibility of information, what to ask yourself before you start searching, etc.

What do you think? I've got some initial pages together, and I'm going to be releasing this as an e-book. It probably won't top 25 pages, to be honest, so maybe it's more appropriate to call it a pamphlet or booklet or something, but I think it could still be useful to people, especially as an e-book, because sample search links can be embedded right in the book.

Any thoughts? Is this just a dumb idea?
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Old 05-01-2011, 12:57 PM   #2
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For what it's worth I think it's an interesting idea but I wonder whether I would turn to a book - even an ebook - for this sort of information. A few years ago I needed to find out about search engine optimisation and turned to books. It seems that most of them are full of so much padding in order to bulk up their content to justify their cover price. Even more years ago - before even Google - I used to run training sessions on meeting ones information needs on the internet and, as I remember it, it was really about establishing some general principles. So, I wonder whether the topic isn't more appropriate for a web site or a blog.
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Old 05-01-2011, 01:14 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by TGS View Post
For what it's worth I think it's an interesting idea but I wonder whether I would turn to a book - even an ebook - for this sort of information. A few years ago I needed to find out about search engine optimisation and turned to books. It seems that most of them are full of so much padding in order to bulk up their content to justify their cover price. Even more years ago - before even Google - I used to run training sessions on meeting ones information needs on the internet and, as I remember it, it was really about establishing some general principles. So, I wonder whether the topic isn't more appropriate for a web site or a blog.
That's a fair point. One of the reasons I'm considering an e-book for it is that I could charge 99 cents and not feel like I had to pad it out to 200 pages. This would be a very slim volume, if I did it. It would be an elaborate form of Google's cheatsheet, with general searching techniques and principles added. The syntax of a Google search, you could basically relate in a page, but there's a lot more to it than that.

I think a blog has other issues. First, I think the content is too long for a blog. Second, I think the way I'd organize the information is different. And finally, a blog is more something I see as an ongoing thing. This would be more appropriate for a blog post, but it would be a gargantuan post, to say the least.

One of the things I would try to use as a selling point is that this wouldn't be padded. You'd get the reference you want, right at your fingertips, get some suggestions, and get out. There are a few other books that do this, but they're much more expensive, they're only in paper, and, as you said, they're padded with extra crap (programming, the mechanics of how Google works) that people don't need and don't want to know.

I don't know if the market is there, but I know that I haven't seen a blog or Web site (even Google's) that really handles the topic correctly.
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Old 05-01-2011, 01:19 PM   #4
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It's a good idea and the $0.99 price is Ok.
I usually search for some uncommon stuff (mainly for my job) and most of the time I end empty-handed.
I like the direct, no-fuss style in technical documents.
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Old 05-01-2011, 01:50 PM   #5
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How would people who don't know how to search on Google find it?
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Old 05-01-2011, 03:58 PM   #6
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Google searches have a lot of advanced features, CLI type stuff that goes beyond basic search logic. Add in RSS manipulation and hacks, and there's a potential reference resource there. Examine Wolfram alpha too and maybe even Bing and you get closer.

Would I buy it? Probably not, but there's not much that can be done that I couldn't quickly figure out on my own. And worse, if the book/pamphlet is mostly basic NYTs > bob's lolcats and more super emporium as a source, the vast majority of the people who could benefit from the information aren't going to be looking for it.
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Old 05-01-2011, 05:53 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pablo View Post
It's a good idea and the $0.99 price is Ok.
I usually search for some uncommon stuff (mainly for my job) and most of the time I end empty-handed.
I like the direct, no-fuss style in technical documents.
Thanks, Pablo.
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Old 05-01-2011, 05:55 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by mr ploppy View Post
How would people who don't know how to search on Google find it?
Well, they'd hopefully be able to find it on their Kindles.
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Old 05-01-2011, 06:05 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Marseilles View Post
Google searches have a lot of advanced features, CLI type stuff that goes beyond basic search logic. Add in RSS manipulation and hacks, and there's a potential reference resource there. Examine Wolfram alpha too and maybe even Bing and you get closer.

Would I buy it? Probably not, but there's not much that can be done that I couldn't quickly figure out on my own. And worse, if the book/pamphlet is mostly basic NYTs > bob's lolcats and more super emporium as a source, the vast majority of the people who could benefit from the information aren't going to be looking for it.
I'm really thinking of concentrating mostly on the syntax of good search technique, how to do a good assessment of what you're looking for before you start, and how to evaluate the credibility of what results you get. It's less about what to type and more about how to use Google to find what you need. I'm not sure if RSS manipulation fits into that, but there might be some hacks involved. There are different usage scenarios to consider.

I really want to stay away from Bing, because that's a whole different search engine, different syntax, and a lot more to cover.
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Old 05-01-2011, 06:09 PM   #10
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This is an example of the kind of writing I'm doing for it at this point:

Quote:
Conquering the Search Process

Whenever you conduct a search, you have to keep two concepts in mind: scope and relevance. Scope can be defined as the size of the net you want to throw over the ocean of information. Relevance can be defined as how “on the mark” the information retrieved is. Generally speaking, the broader the scope of your search, the more irrelevant information you will retrieve. You need to keep this in mind when devising any search. Before your search begins, ask yourself these questions:

1) What am I looking for? This one sounds obvious. “If I didn't know what I was looking for, I wouldn't be using Google!” Well, you might be surprised how many people start off their searches with only a very vague idea of what they want to find. If you're looking for information on what tigers on the Serengeti eat, you shouldn't search for “big cats”, or even “tigers”, or “tigers in Africa”. Save yourself some trouble and be as specific as possible so you can zero in on the information you want.

2) What am I not looking for? If you can exclude terms from your results, you'll have more relevant results, and fewer links to go through.

3) Can I spell what I'm looking for? Spelling counts, especially when you use the + or - operator. Make sure you know how to spell what you're looking for, or use the wildcard * operator for any part of the search term you don't know how to spell. If necessary, consult Merriam-Webster for the proper spelling, or use Google itself to look up the word. (Google will start suggesting words as you type, so you'll likely find the correct spelling before you've even finished typing.)

4) Is it important if I miss anything? This is a very important consideration in approaching any search. If your goal is to find everything out there on a topic, then you need a broader search. If it's not as important to find everything, you can make the search terms narrower.

By asking yourself these questions, you've put yourself through a miniature version of what a librarian would call a reference interview. Librarians use these to find relevant information for patrons. The purpose of the reference interview is to find out what the user/patron needs, and to get it to him or her quickly. By asking yourself these questions, you might discover that Google isn't even the tool you should be using.
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