« Google discontinues another search feature | Main | FindZebra; Medical search engine »

March 25, 2013


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Tamara Thompson

Google searches have so many variables now. You always have to one browser open in which you're not logged in and are going incognito to grab more relevant search results, not the "intelligent" ones returned by the search engine.


Thank you! This happened to me and I thought I'd gone mad. I knew it was an obscure search, but I didn't think it was 4-results obscure. I'm feeling happier now I know what's going on. I'm feeling less and less happy with Google, however, every time it tries some new way of being smart. Time to go somewhere else!

Richard Johnson

DuckDuckGo and Blekko are poor substitutes for Google, as (their documentation notwithstanding) they do not correctly implement the OR operator. Try, for example, searching for

"bubble bread" "los angeles" OR glendale

and you'll see results having nothing to do with bubble bread. Despite its quirks, Google gets it right.

Phil Bradley

The order of precedence with Boolean operators is important here. Your search could be seen as (A and B) OR C, or alternatively A and (B OR C). I looked through the results that Google returned and there were plenty without reference to Glendale.

No, Google doesn't 'get it right' - there are plenty of times when Google returns results that don't contain the term(s) that were asked for. They will automatically exclude some terms that are unusual or for which they think there will be few results. Google also decides to re-write search terms as it feels like - my search for 'teaching search skills' gets rewritten as 'teaching research skills', and I have to do the search a second time to get what I wanted.

Agreed, DDG and Blekko are not perfect - but Google is a very long way from being so itself, as my example above shows.

Caryn Wesner-Early

I figured this must be to cater to the short attention spans of people who are not serious researchers, but then they cut Scholar down to a maximum of 20 per page! Researchers will look at any number, and this just makes a serious search go that much more slowly. Now I'm thinking that it's because those of us who set results to 100/page don't see enough ads, so they'll force us to look at more. I wonder how much longer they'll be able to claim they're "trying to improve the search experience" with a straight face. They jumped the "evil" shark a while back.

Richard Johnson

Phil--Whether or not one believes that Google "gets it right" w.r.t. the OR operator depends on one's expectations. Users of Google know that Google fudges on the classical definitions of operators in general. For example, Google users will expect a search for "hounds of the baskervilles" to yield results pointing to The Hound of the Baskervilles, quotes notwithstanding. Google obviously thinks its fudging is more helpful than harmful. Regardless, for Blekko and DDG to return results for the OR search expression I quoted that completely ignore the first term makes those search engines unacceptable to me.

Phil Bradley

Richard - well, if you prefer Google over other search engines, that's fair enough - at least you gave the others a go, which is more than a lot of people do. All that I'd say is that I'm perfectly happy with a situation where (a+b)OR c sometimes leads to results that are 'c' and not (a+b) because that seems perfectly logical. If you really want A and (b or c) then the search needs to be constructed in a different way.

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