Pirltawardli Research Blog

Internet Search

Internet Search

This website utilises the Internet for the publication of my research regarding the story of the encounter between the Kaurna and other Aboriginal peoples in South Australia, and the four German missionaries who worked here between late 1838 and about the early 1850s.  They would have never dreamed of anything remotely possible for the exchange of information, given their communication with Europe needed about six months or more for a message to return. But neither did I expect ever to get involved in a historical research project that partially relies on sources made available on the Web.

Treasure ...

Internet Live Stats
For people in the Western world, the Internet seems to offer an incredible wealth of information available, seemingly, at your fingertip.  According to the Internet Live Stats website, at the time of drafting this paragraph (1 March 2016, 8pm ACDT), just under one Billion (or in German: Milliarden) websites have been registered by search engines.  This research website is just one of them.
This is a staggering figure.  I assume nobody knows how many websites really exists, if you include the "dark web", and certainly not the pages offered there. Much of it, amazingly, have been provided as a free service either by volunteers because of their personal commitment (like this website) or professionally to serve the wider community.  Wikipedia used to be one of the typical examples:  Most of its articles were provided by specialists in the field free of charge for those who want to gain a first idea of any given topic. 

Naturally, like this website, the quality level varies extremely, but for the first time ever the Internet offers access to a huge wealth of knowledge previously stored in libraries hardly accessible to the "average person".

For me, therefore, it was a huge discovery when I began to realise the wealth of information not only available on the general Internet but also in specialised websites.  It was only in 2004 that Google began to digitise and publish books "out of print" as "Google Books" (<books.google.com>).  By October 2015, Google had scanned about 25 million titles, out of an estimated 130 million titles ever published by 2010.1 ]

There are other such services: The "Internet Archive" (or Archive.org), for instance, was established in the early days of the Web, in 1996.  It "provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including web sites, software applications/games, music, movies/videos, moving images, and nearly three million public-domain books"2 ].  Here you find publications out of print in a number of different formats, often scanned by Google Books, and sometimes available here when Google does not allow access.

Almost all Universities have also more recently created a "digital library/archive" of their public domain books, of files and other media that can be made accessible through the Internet.  For my research helpful is the University of Adelaide "Digital Library" with, amongst many other publications, most of the more recent Thesis, the Special Collections and the Indigenous Australian Digital Archive.

For the Australian context, an even more important - and from a German perspective: amazing - service has been established by the National Library of Australia, the online archive Trove
National Library of Australia - Trove
The archives include more than 471 Mio documents, from searchable scans of Australian newspapers since the beginning of colonisation, an index of books available in public libraries, all kinds of media, and websites of national interest.3 ]

These and many other such services have allowed me to create a virtual library with publications related to this research project to which I would have never had access, or if so, it would have required lots of travel to find specific books or documents. Contemporary publications or snippets of information are like a background mirror of the stories of the four German missionaries in South Australia, and related topics, to be told in this website.

... and Curse

Apart from the large number of my virtual pdf file library that needs to be searched and sorted, the interesting point here is that most of the material gathered has a focus on the Western, and predominantly Anglo-Saxon world.  While Google is rightly being criticised for a large number of malpractices as a global player in the information industry (Wikipedia), there is an underlying issue harder to describe:  What the Google search engine does not list in its results, does not seem to exist in today's Western information culture.  But even more importantly, unlike Trove (so far) as a community  service to the Australian people, Google is, first of all, commercial "business":  Its main objective is to make money from online advertisement.  While I personally hardly ever see it (due to browser ad and tracking blockers), Google and other such search engines want you to stay on their website, the longer the better. 

The result was the introduction of "fuzzy search" algorithms4 ].  While it may be helpful for general Internet search, specific search requests are mingled amongst a large number of less or even completely irrelevant results forcing you to look through many more entries than necessary -- which is our whole idea:  stay on the website, generate profit for the advertisers.  Unfortunately, Google is the by far largest Internet search engine provider. Statistics per 31.12.2013 estimate that of 14.3 Trillion web pages live (like this essay), Google has 48 Billion indexed and Bing (Microsoft) around 14 Billion.5 ]

So, with all these impressive figures and sources, the reality is that searching the web is like searching a hay stack -- the results are quite incidental and, as in the case of the above topic ("how many web pages has the Internet"), often contradicting or not consistent across the different websites.

Even more important is the fact that Google's different national (or language) search sites often bring considerably different results.  As per mid-2014, Google had some

150+ 'national' search engines that are geographically-focused and unique: they deliver DIFFERENT results for the same keywords.  use these tools to zero in on the most relevant results for a particular country ... Each national search engine has a unique algorithm and different geogrpahic focus ... gives a higher ranking to websites from that country ... will deliver different search results, even for the same keywords.6 ]

A typical example is the difference in search results for the word "kaurna" between Google.com.au (for Australia) and Google.de (for Germany).  See these two screenshots:7 ]

 Google.com.au for "Kaurna"
 Google.de for "Kaurna"
Google.com.au search for "Kaurna"

Google.de search for "Kaurna"
Both queries return "About 170,000 results (0.31 seconds)", but in different order.  Regarding Germany, I am personally aware of a number of websites presenting the Kaurna Language reclamation story one way or the other, which are not listed here or on the first few pages.  In this context, my research for Johann Adam Schürmann (John Adam Shurman) as the missionary in India, was even more difficult because Google India returned a few pages from the Indian subcontinent or national research results, and then again from the Anglo-Saxon world. 

Watching the search results from this perspective, Google the Company has a clear mission, to spread the WESTERN (i.e. US based or controlled) knowledge around the world.  It is by far more difficult to gather local information from websites like Google for India or South Africa.  By the way, in the past I found that Google search Germany mostly brought better results than Google Australia, and not to talk about Google USA.

So, if a lesson is to be learned, a cross search via various Google and other search platforms is helpful, and looking through later pages. There are also meta search engines that pull results from different search engines, like for instance Ixquick, Metager or DuckDuckGo.

Google Search Operators

Mainly for my own easy access and reminder, here a list of current search operators (Source Google):

Search operators and other punctuation get more specific search results. Except for the examples below, Google Search usually ignores punctuation.

Punctuation & symbols

Using the punctuation marks below doesn’t always improve the results. If Google thinks the punctuation won't give better results, suggested results for that search without punctuation will be added.

Symbol How to use it
+

Search for Google+ pages or blood types
Examples: +Chrome or  AB+

@ Find social tags
Example: @agoogler
$ Find prices
Example: nikon 0
#

Find popular hashtags for trending topics
Example: #throwbackthursday

- When you use a dash before a word or site, it excludes sites with that info from your results. This is useful for words with multiple meanings, like Jaguar the car brand and jaguar the animal.
Examples: jaguar speed -car or pandas -site:wikipedia.org
" When you put a word or phrase in quotes, the results will only include pages with the same words in the same order as the ones inside the quotes. Only use this if you're looking for an exact word or phrase, otherwise you'll exclude many helpful results by mistake.
Example: "imagine all the people"
* Add an asterisk as a placeholder for any unknown or wildcard terms. .
Example: "a * saved is a * earned"
.. Separate numbers by two periods without spaces to see results that contain numbers in a range.
Example: camera ..0

Search operators

Search operators are words that can be added to searches to help narrow down the results. Instead of the operator use Advanced Search.

Operator How to use it
site: Get results from certain sites or domains.
Examples: olympics site:nbc.com and olympics site:.gov
related: Find sites that are similar to a web address you already know.
Example: related:time.com
OR Find pages that might use one of several words.
Example: marathon OR race
info: Get information about a web address, including the cached version of the page, similar pages, and pages that link to the site.
Example: info:google.com
cache: See what a page looks like the last time Google visited the site.
Example: cache:washington.edu

Note:
For a search using operators or punctuation marks, don't add any spaces between the operator and your search terms. A search for site:nytimes.com will work, but site: nytimes.com won't.

Further information on Google Search:
Independent Website "Interactive Google Guide" by Nancy Blachman: English | German.

  1. Wikipedia; Google Books Search blog. [ ▲ ]
  2. Wikipedia [ ▲ ]
  3. In early 2015, I built a website for the Central Australian Aboriginal Women's Choir and its the "Boomerang Tour 2015" to Germany, <grweb.org/desertchoir2015>.  Due to an ISP server failure, the website was lost -- but it had been registered a few months earlier with Trove's Website archiving service, where it is now accessible! -- Ironically, at the time of writing the current Liberal government under Malcolm Turnbull, in good neo-liberal fashion, tries to cripple one of the most successful services in this country by forcing the NLA to save more than AU$ 4 Mio.  Neo-liberal ideology would not accept a free - i.e. taxpayer-funded - service to the public, combined with the dissemination of knowledge.  See article by SMH. [ ▲ ]
  4. "... locating web pages that are likely to be relevant to the search terms, even when the input does not exactly match the desired information. A fuzzy search is done by means of a fuzzy matching program. A fuzzy matching program returns a list of results based on relevance even though search argument words and spellings may not exactly match." Prateek Joshi, What is Fusszy Search?, Perpetual Enigma Website; see also <whatIs.techtarget.com>. [ ▲ ]
  5. Factshunt; however, the figures differ between various websites.  <Internetlivestats.com> brings some interesting and up-to-date figures. -- Typically, it was not easy to search Google for useful results on this question. [ ▲ ]
  6. Garrett Wasny. 8 June 2014 - Computers. Page 211-212.  Google Books. Emphasis original. [ ▲ ]
  7. Also, be aware if Google recognises the national location of your computer through Cookies placed on your computer, it will link you with the respective search website. [ ▲ ]

For reference:

Administrator. Pirltawardli Research Blog :: Internet Search, in: Pirltawardli Research Website. Adelaide 2019.
(Created: 01.03.2016. Last updated: 16.03.2016.)
Direct URL: <www.grweb.org/cpo-pirltawardli/en/detail.php?rubric=meta_blog&nr=1612>. Viewed 18.08.2019.