Thursday, October 27, 2011

Answer: Where did that crazy uniform come from?

Quick answer:  This is the Civil War uniform of the Zouaves, a rather colorful uniform dress adopted by some regiments as a particularly fashionable way to go to war.  They were heavily influenced by African battle dress, especially from the Zouaoua tribe in Algeria 

What was fun for me was to see how people solved the search challenge.  A few folks recognized that dragging-and-dropping the image in the manner shown in this YouTube demo video.  (If you haven't seen this trick before, it's a remarkable thing to know.  You'll be able to find things that were just impossible to do before.)  

A couple others used Google Goggles, which does basically the same trick, although through your mobile phone camera, rather than dragging images around on the desktop.  

But other people used more traditional search methods.  Dave, the first to reply, wrote:

 "...quick Google of "Civil War Uniform Turban" turned up that this uniform style was called "Zouave" after North African troups serving in the French army in the 1830s and until WWI. Wikipedia says these were originally recruited from the vowel-rich Zouaoua, a tribe of Berbers...."  

Interestingly, Fred also did this same strategy, but wasn't able to pick out the link that Dave found.  That's actually fairly common:  two people follow the same strategy, but end up with different outcomes.  Usually it's because one person knows just a bit more about the area, and follows a different link from the SERP to a landing page.  I know Fred is a strong searcher, so I think this points out that your-mileage-may-vary even when following the same strategy.  Search knowledge is powerful, but knowing about a domain is just as important!  

In my case, my strategy was to search for [Civil War uniform fez] (the first image I saw of these soldiers had them wearing fezzes, although as we see, turbans were also acceptable alternates).   This led me quickly to the Wikipedia article on Zouaves, which took me to learn more about Civil War dress styles and the utter craziness of these soldiers who had a reputation for hard fighting and being tougher than the average warrior (who were already pretty tough).  

The purpose of this blog is really to show you techniques for being a better searcher, and we see two maxims at work here.  

first:  If you're searching for an image, an Image search is often best.  Dragging and dropping the image into the Google Image box is a great first thing to try.  (Just so you'll know, I tried to make it not work by cropping the original images--obviously that wasn't enough.) 

second: When you do your searches, try to use the simplest possible language to describe what you're searching for.  My search,  [Civil War uniform fez] , was pretty short and to the point.  Once you start adding that 5th and 6th word, you might be accidentally removing the target of your search with those extra words.  Think of adding an additional search term as a "focusing" mechanism... if you focus in too tightly, what you're looking for might be just outside the range of your search.  So start broadly, then tighten in as you learn more. 

Search on! 

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