Friday, December 19, 2014

Answer: What was the best Search Challenge of the year?

Thanks... for all your comments, both on list and through DM.  It's great to have such a dedicated and thoughtful set of SearchResearchers; I appreciate all of the time and energy everyone puts into their comments.  

It was great fun to read through the comments.  There were some posts that definitely brought back memories.  

Like many of you found, the change in the Challenge / Answer timing has been a blessing in disguise. 

When I started the Challenges, I was hoping to get people to answer as quickly as possible, and the 24-hour cycle was intended to be a mild stimulant to help things along.  But then as the Regular Readers pointed out, many people don't live on the 24-clock, and since some of the Challenges were a bit... well, challenging... it made more sense to stretch the cycle time out a bit. 

What I hadn't realized is that it gave ME more time to think about the best answer, and let us all take on much harder Challenges than ever.  If you go back to 2013 and compare with 2014, this year was much more impressive.  Nice work, team!  

To remind myself of what the Challenges were, I did this query: 

     [ inurl:/2014/ intitle:challenge ] 

This searched only posts from 2014 (since that's part of the URL for each challenge), and the intitle: operator limited the results to just those posts that were titled "challenge..."  

This is a nice search because it finds exactly 49 posts, reflecting all of the posts in the year until this point.  

I then changed my "number of search results shown" to 100 (you can do that in Search Settings--in the gear icon in the upper right, and now I have a complete list of all the posts!  

Browsing through here is a trip down memory lane. 

We sought out answers about Music ("what's a plagal cadence?"),  the Other Side of Buildings (discovering ways to date things in the world), Statues in London, How Dan can run on water (mislaignments in geo data),  the Price of Horses in 1918, making snowfall maps (visualization tools),  how to find out the price of properties in NYC, and Titanic Triggerfish.  

Interestingly enough, the post with the most clicks (and the most posts!) is....... 

"What wreck is this?

Remember this Challenge?  You had to figure out what this hunk of junk was doing in the Carquinez Straits, midway between Sacramento and San Francisco.  

The answer to that meant we had to learn about how to search for archival information, even in pretty out-of-the-way locations.  We learned out to get EXIF data out of cellphone photos, and then use the lat-long to locate interesting features on Maps.  

It was a good one, and voting with your clicks and visit is a great way to get my attention.  

Looking at the comments on this week's Challenge, it's clear to me that the most interesting Challenges are often the most difficult ones.  I hope you find them educational AND entertaining; that's certainly my intent.  

People seemed to like the newsy Challenges, as well as the ones that need Maps (or Geo information), and finally, people liked the tough data challenges, especially the ones that meant learning new visualization methods.  

But the biggest takeaway was that things are going along pretty well.  As always, I'm all ears, and will happily listen to good ideas about how to steer the blog along paths that are interesting to the SearchResearchers.  

And yes, I'll write one more post about the Twain challenge.  I've actually done a fair bit of hacking around on that one, and I'll tell you about it next week before we close off the year with the special Year-End Search Challenge.  

Here's to a Healthy & Happy holiday and New Year to all Researchers everywhere!  


  1. Hello Dr. Russell. Thanks to you. As we all know, it is not easy to create SearchResearch Challenges. And much harder is to create the awesome answers that you share with us.

    I like all of the challenges. Each one brings a different tool, learnings, lessons and also fantastic tips and tricks.

    I also want to say thanks for all the other posts you share with us, the 1MM, the other videos. Thank You!

    I join with you to the wishes for Holiday Season and New Year for everyone.

    All the best, Dr. Russell.

  2. While I was attempting to noodle out a response to this week's challenge, using the "Teddy Bear Effect" - related to my initial pick of the
    Wednesday Search Challenge (1/8/14): What's missing from the sphinx?
    I got lost in choices available and came to the conclusion that there were too many favorites… a nod to Dr.Dan's skills at conjuring intriguing search challenges and providing insightful explanations, tools and revelations to a very diverse crew of reader/searchers - something akin to wrangling kitties, I imagine. By coincidence, the Sphinx question marked the beginning of the Friday answer and the Teddy Bear Effect appeared in the Thursday comment - Dan's asides and observations are always instructive.
    Most of all, I enjoy the vicarious travels (Where's Dando?) and the who, what, where, when how, why and varied views offered by Dan and the skilled and engaged SearchReSearch readers — I am frequently surprised and pleasantly amused at the different perspectives that surface each week… and actually learning new things and approaches in the midst of the constant flux.

    BUT, as I mulled a way to assemble a competent contribution, I missed the Friday time window - ¯\(°_o)/¯ - enjoyed Ramón, Fred, Rosemary, Debbie/Annie & jon tU responses/contributions…
    (the "RTFQ" [read the full question] was a good reminder and made me think of the "RTGDA" [read the Google derived answer] ;-) as a useful acronym bookend.)

    Hope everyone has a good holiday/vacation and look forward to see what unfolds in one|five!
    Might take in a movie during the break… now that The Interview has disappeared for some reason that I will have to Google… perhaps Big Eyes
    or here - Tim Burton
    … wonder if it would alter my view of search? Dando and the BES
    (Big Eyes have been around for a while… Fayum mummy portraits)

    fwiw: glad you don't tweet the challenges… although some of the commenters have a sense of humor about the effort — different strokes for different folks — an example:
    another search engine

  3. for j tU (& all interested) - another abbreviation of possible use: tl;dr;mf [too long;didn't read;missing facts]… or maybe the "f" is fiction;friction;fractals……?
    and that's the Truthiness… that's one of the many secrets of the Sphinx - HO, HO, HO! & HO
    not TFD
    wikipedia example
    Godspeed, John Glenn; the singularity is coming

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Remmij for the wishes and the links. Hope you are enjoying this Holiday Season :)

      Move looks very interesting. One video I couldn't watch but the other 2 were very good. Abbreviations were very interesting too.

      After reading your post and re-reading Dr. Russell's answer, specially Sesame Street lessons, searched [read url address] and found November learnig I think many of you will find it interesting. It shows learning tricks, examples, guidance and other.

      Reading more in that page, they mentioned to be cautious with sources. They mention like Dr. Russell does to search for primary sources instead of secondary. What also was interesting is this "To understand not to automatically trust so-called reliable sources such as the BBC."

      Great week everyone and enjoy Holiday Season!