1. June 2016

posted Jun 5, 2016, 8:53 AM by Frank Steele   [ updated Jul 31, 2016, 9:07 AM ]

June 5, 2016

After a few months of heavy work, I’m going to start posting to this blog again. (I’ve compiled the first six months of blog posts into a PDF, which can be downloaded, and I’ll add anything noteworthy to it from time to time.) Here are two brief points I’ve been meaning to mention.

Automatic Translation in Google Search
This came via the Google Operating System blog a few months back:

If you search for a word in a foreign language, Google now automatically shows the translation. For example, you can search for [amanecer] to get the English translation of the Spanish word, instead of typing [translate amanecer] or [translate amanecer to english].

This works well, unless the word you enter is also in use in English. I tried [socorro] and [placer], two Spanish words with common English meanings, and didn’t get the automatic translations. So your results may depend on how common the word is in English.

NASA’s Worldview
I learned about this program from a post by Daniel Russell, and I enjoyed playing around with it. Here’s how he described it:

It's like Google Earth with worldwide archival satellite coverage.  (When you try it, be sure to turn on the "Corrected Reflectance" layers by clicking on the eye icon on the left side of the layer.)  Once you do that, you can cruise through time and space to see remarkable images of almost any place on earth, going back in time quite a while.

I’m not sure how I can use it in fact-checking, but I’m happy to know about it nevertheless.

June 13, 2016
Why Learn Search Skills?
ResearchBuzz has an interesting post, titled “Don’t Be a Snob About Searching the Web – A Cautionary Tale.”

Sometimes when I try to teach someone about search, I can’t quite get them to see the point. Why should they learn to use search engines well? Why not go straight to Wikipedia, or IMDB, or some other reference compilation? The large reference sites would surely have the answers they seek. And if they don’t – then the information’s probably not online, right?

Wrong, wrong, wrong. SO wrong. In fact, I recently had an experience that wonderfully illustrates how wrong this idea is.

“Untangling the Web”
If you’re interested in the NSA’s 2007 guide to Internet research, you can get the 643-page PDF here. I downloaded a copy last week and have been skimming it little by little. I’m only 75 pages into it, and so far the only surprising thing has been how much the Internet has changed since then.

June 23, 2016
How Vocabulary Can Affect Your Search
Daniel Russell had some good examples of how language can changes over time, so if you’re searching for something historical, you may need to use historical language:

The language of the past is somewhat different than the one we speak (and write) now. As a consequence, when you're trying to search for historical content, you sometimes (often?) have to shift your language to accommodate the way authors in the past would have written.

Along the way he covered some good material on search techniques, as usual.

June 25, 2016
How can you determine if a source is unbiased?
I know how to do this with individuals, but evaluating the reliability of various institutes and organizations is something I’ve found difficult. I came across this helpful tidbit in an online fact-checking course from API that I’m taking:

Check the Annenberg Institute’s “Critical Thinking Resources.” Affiliated with the University of Pennsyvania, Annenberg lists the political leanings of various organizations and offers comments on the organization's value as a resource.