Monday, 26 September 2011


"The limits of my language means the limits of my world." Ludwig Wittgenstein

Search is a language game, with an elite and an underclass. Some people simply know how to work these machines better than others. Not only do they have a deep understanding of computer based logic (Boolean logic), but they have wider vocabularies, and understandings of semantic relationships between search queries.

Today is Google's 13th anniversary, and that search box might appear to be one of the most democratic and egalitarian spaces possible, but don't let appearances deceive you. People using search engines are not harmlessly and positively divided by their interests, but are also divided by their aptitudes and knowledge.

In addition to Boolean operators like AND, and OR, there are other operators that power what users know such as:

Term Location: - inurl:, intitle:, intext:, or inanchor: to tell Google where it should look for the term your looking for.

Similar terms: ~ in front of a word tells Google to look for similar terms to that word, for example ~blog web 2.0

You'll find a full list here or here.

Knowing how to effectively use keywords and operators makes a huge difference in search effectiveness and thus content discovery. Keywords are still the dominant paradigm for navigating the digital space, and I hold to the phrase I created, which is that "keywords are doorways to content"

Many people out there would describe, Ludwig Wittgenstein, as the foremost philosopher of the twentieth century. Eccentric, even a little crazy, a genius, but no expert on search engines. But its strange how so much of his work around language is relevant for today's challenges around semantics, search engines, and tags. More to come on this topic in future posts.


Charles Frith said...

Where of one cannot speak therof one must pass over in silence.

Tony Effik said...

Thanks Charles, you know your Wittgenstein. At least one person understands.

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