Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (7/30/14): Three classic mistakes

In the annals of SearchResearch history, there are sometimes tiny errors, sometimes huge blunders, and sometimes there are things that are small, but deeply annoying, and often repeat themselves. 

Here, today, are "Three Classic Mistakes" that I've made over the years.  These aren't huge, but if you can learn from them and save yourself the hassle--so much the better.  

To answer these, please post what you think I did wrong in each case.  What's your diagnosis, doctor? 

1.  My missing friend's article.  I have a friend by the name of Sean Carlson.  A former Googler, he now writes beautifully about Ireland and the experiences of an Irish transplant to America.  One day last year he mentioned to me that he had an article published in the New York papers about being Irish and an immigrant.  "That's fantastic!" I thought.  About a month later I remembered that I wanted to read it, so I started checking the New York Times for his article.  I did the obvious search:    [  Sean Carlson ]  But much to my surprise, I couldn't find his article.  I eventually found it by modifying my query, but what did I do wrong here? 
2.  Another friend's missing G+ post.  I have another friend named Jaime Teevan (a nice, uncommon name for searching!).  Most remarkably, this past week she and her 10-year-old son walked 100 miles from their home to a "local" amusement park.  I knew that she'd just put a post onto G+.  So I went to G+ and did a Control-F to find her name (and hence the post).  But there were no hits!  What?  Later, I went back and did the same thing, and FOUND her post.  What happened?  Why could I not find it the first time, but I could find it the second time?   (I checked--she had posted it to G+ several hours earlier, so it really was there, but Control-F couldn't find it.  And no, I didn't misspell her name.)  
3.  A missing conversation with a friend.  My third friend and I had a long conversation last night; back and forth we messaged each other to figure out what to do about a particular technical problem that came up.  This morning, when I went to my Gmail to find the instant messaging thread, there was nothing there.  Oh, I could open up the IM I sent to him and find some text, but I couldn't figure out where the long text of our conversation had gone.  Do you have any idea about what could have happened here?  Where can I find out longish back-and-forth conversation?  Any ideas?  

I'm posting these "Classic Mistakes" because each illustrates a kind of Search Challenge (and therefore a Search Lesson) that I've had in my own life.  (Yes, these are all real problems where I couldn't find something, and had to figure out what to do next.)  

So tell me:  When you read these situations, what would you do?  How did I solve each of these little search problems?  What did I do wrong in each case? 

Let us know what YOU think I messed up.  

Answers on Friday.  

Search on! 


  1. 1. My missing friend's article. You went too specific in your search and limited it to the New York Times. You friend had said "he had an article published in the New York papers..." not the New York Times. I searched [ Sean Carlson ireland ] and found this in the New York Daily News An Irish journey, shared by all We are a nation of exiles.

    2. Another friend's missing G+ post. This is just a guess, but the first time you searched maybe you just left it as "Best of" rather than using the drop down to most recent. When I search in G+ for [ Jaime Teevan ] it doesn't show in "Best of " your post about her blog Slow Searching did. That's when I subscribed to her blog. When I switch it to "Most Recent " in the big blue bar, I see her post about the #GreatWalk. Side note: it was great fun following her planning on this epic 100 mile walk with her son.

    3. A missing conversation with a friend. I just did this on Monday. I needed to find a link that I had shared with a friend in a conversation through IM. I went to the search box and used the drop down list for advanced search options. I put his name in the TO: search field. I couldn't remember if I had emailed or chatted with him about so I left the top ALL MAIL, but you can limit it to chats as well.

  2. PUBLISH once again vanished my comment

    1. You forgot the www. as in Sean Carlson

    2. You likely did not choose the PEOPLE option in the SEARCH box the first time but you did the second time

    3. I suggest you forgot to go to SETTINGS/CHAT and click SAVE before you started. Not sure how to retrieve them though

    jon tU

  3. Excellent questions! These are so different from the usual challenges on here that I decided to answer in a totally different way too. No search for me, just trying to guess (or remember) what I (think I) know.

    1. Sean Carlson have to precede

    2. Ctrl+F only works if Jaime Teevan is there. You have to find her on the search box, otherwise you might find her or not, depending on what Plus has decided to show at the moment.

    3. You have to search in the Chats archive on the left column, below Inbox.

    Now I'm going to check if I really know what I thought I knew…

  4. Good Morning, Dr. Russell and everyone!

    Great SearchResearch Challenge It is very interesting. Glad you posted it, because I have made plenty of these. I probably can not find the mistakes you did in the searches.

    These are what I think they could be.


    1. My missing friend's article.

    I think you narrowed your search to only NY Times and your friend said papers not that specific paper.

    I did this [ Sean Carlson Ireland]
    An Irish journey, shared by all

    2. Another friend's missing G+ post.

    I don't know if I understood this well. You went to your stream in G+ and searched Ctrl- F [Jaime Teevan], right?

    I think the mistake is that you searched in all the stream. I have done that. And, Ctrl- F just works in a limited search -don't know why-. I will learn more with your answer, Dr. Russell.

    What I did to find it. Searched on G+ search box [Jaime Teevan]. Went to her profile and found the post. I could use Ctrl- F [Walk] there to find it too.

    3. A missing conversation with a friend.

    I don't know the answer to this. I think you did it all right. The only guess I have is that maybe you deleted the conversation or archived it.

    Anyway, to find that conversation in any case (except if deleted), probably you should try this:
    1. Go to Gmail.
    2. Search the name of your friend in the search box.
    3. Select the "email" with the hangout icon with the date you looking for.

    I am looking forward for the answer to this challenge. I am sure I'll learn a lot.

    Out of topic. The image that you added today is great. It looks amazingly real.

    Have a fantastic day!

  5. I learned a few things about Gmail and Google+ searching in this challenge, so thank you for posting! Here are my answers:

    1. He said the story appeared in the New York papers, but you incorrectly assumed that it appeared in The New York Times and did a site search. Instead, a more term-specific approach would have worked: [Sean Carlson Irish immigrant New York newspaper] turns it up on the first result, while [Sean Carlson Irish immigrant] displays it as the second result. It appeared in the New York Daily News on March 17, 2013.

    2. Ctrl+F only searches so far down on scrolling pages, so maybe it was below the page loading bar the first time you searched. Once the post gained more popularity with three +1s, it could have appeared in your stream again or higher the second time you searched.
    Query: [Jaime Teevan 100 mile walk] on Google+ found two posts, one that announced her intention in December to walk 100 miles to Great Wolf and one yesterday that recapped their walk. The latter is the one you want:

    3. Three things could have caused the conversation to go missing: A hidden chat label, a deleted conversation or an archived conversation with no label. Chat records typically appear under the "chats" label on the left sidebar of Gmail, but if "chats" isn't there, it might not have been made viewable. You can make chats viewable by following this path: Settings->labels->"show" next to chats. Query: [chat history] Once you have the "chats" label back, you should be able to do Ctrl + F with the person's name to find the conversation. You could also search Gmail for the person's name or look for the chat in "all mail."

    Another possibility is that the chat was deleted. In this case, you'll need to search [in:trash (person's name)] to find it.

    Archiving could have happened as well. Messages that I archived still contained the "chat" label, so they appeared under "chats" on the left side. If your chat label was hidden, but the chat was archived, you could find it by a general Gmail search of the person's name and keywords or clicking on "all mail."

  6. These all remind me of the Second Law of Debugging (for computer programs):" if you can't find the bug/item where you are looking, you are looking in the wrong place." These are all instances of that in some way. And it's one of the hardest things for people to change, because they don't think of it as part of how they are solving the problem. I've learned (in part because I studied this in grad school) to make it an explicit part of what I double check when I am problem solving and I still miss instances of it sometimes.

  7. #1 - I would first try to find your missing friend.

  8. #1 I went through the process as I would have done it (based on info provided)

    Query [ inauthor:"Sean Carlson"]

    Result - Right name but I think it’s the wrong person.dated 2008 & writing isn’t about Ireland. Don’t read what festival he writes about.

    Query [ inauthor:"sean carlson" ireland] - broaden the search - SERP - provides a different newspaper.
    New York Daily

    Assuming New York Times & knowing they had their own archives zeroed in without results. So backup & question your assumption. You have mentioned the NY Times archives & I suppose that idea was present when you began your search.

    Have I got the right person - checked first SERP result -
    Bio indicates he fits the description.

    #2 & #3 - coming later.

    1. #2 - When you have no idea sometimes going to an experienced person is best. I’ve asked for help in the from Google + Help.I got this reply from a very helpful person.

      Your stream is showing a mix of posts from people you've put in your circles. It's not all the posts, and every time you refresh the page (or exit and re-enter the page, same thing) the mix may be different. If you're really looking for a post from your friend you can go to your friend's profile and find every post they made that you're able to see. By "able to see" I mean the post is either Public or shared to any of their circles that they've put you in.

      I won’t pretend I know about Chat in Gmail because I have never used it. I have explored it a bit and a guess would be that one of you had the “Not on the record” selected so the conversation was not saved. Was it some top-secret information perhaps?

    2. #2 - I got further help from another experienced person (edited slightly)

      Go to the person’s profile on G+. It is easier and faster. In other words, don’t use Control-F to find them on my stream.

      To find the specific post I want to find, I don’t think Control-F is the best strategy. Why? Our streams don’t show all our posts on the page right away. We have to scroll it down in order to load our other posts. So I would use Control-F only if I was quite sure that the post I’m searching for had a big chance to be found among the first ones on the person’s profile page.

      If not, I would prefer to use another strategy: to type on the Google+ search bar [ Jaime Teevan amusement park,] for example. I don’t need to be on her profile page to do that.

    3. All chats can be found in Chats label. The label Chats should be shown on the left if not setup in chat settings.

      We can use advanced search operators to find what we're looking for quickly and accurately.

      I would use one of those:


      is:chat “phrase”


      label:chats “phrase”

    4. I can't take credit for these ideas but it has been a real education. I got help from an experienced gmail person.

  9. Debbie here (without Anne as we are on summer break and don't get together as often). Going to post each answer separately:

    1) When I first saw Dan's search query I wondered why he immediately searched the NY Times as there are other NY newspapers. I did a search for "Sean Carlson" Ireland and the 3rd result was to an article written by him, "An Irish journey, shared by all" in the NY Daily News. So the mistake was getting too specific too early in the search process.

  10. 1. "New York papers" doesn't mean "New York Times" only.
    2. Control-F only searches current (displayed) screen not the site.
    3. Perhaps the thread was folded for long text, click to unfold.

  11. 1. "New York papers" doesn't mean "New York Times" only.
    2. Control-F only searches current (displayed) screen not the site.
    3. Perhaps the thread was folded for long text, click to unfold.

  12. 3: Your longish chat:

    Says this

    Your chat messages from Gmail Google Talk, and downloaded client chats are stored in your Gmail account so you can easily search for them later.

    To access your chat history:

    1; Click the Chats label in your Gmail account.
    2; If you don’t see the Chats label in your inbox, go to Settings to make it viewable. In Settings, click Labels and then choose Show next to Chats. This will enable your Chats to show in your inbox.
    3; A list of chats will appear, similar to the way conversations are listed in your inbox. You can then label, star, and trash chats just like Gmail messages.

    Guaranteed save:

    Your National Security Agency has a copy. Just drop them a line.


    jon tU