Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Search Challenge (12/17/14): What was the best Challenge of the year?

Snow in the Sierras. The best thing we Californios could have at the end of 2014.

Regular reader Fred had an excellent idea. 

 "Why not," he wrote, "do a summary of the year in SearchResearch?"  A kind of year-end look back at the best-of (and maybe worst of) the year.  

I like that!  I'll write up my summary of what I thought went well, and what didn't for Friday's post.  

But in the meantime, I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts about this.  This leads to this week's Challenge question:  

1.  What was your favorite SearchResearch Search Challenge of 2014?  (If you must, feel free to slip back into 2013--we never did a summary of that year.)   Tell us what you liked about the Challenge you enjoyed the most, or what you learned from it.  
2.  What was the best / most-interesting thing you learned in 2014 about search or research in 2014?  I'm looking for good ideas for future SearchResearch Challenges, but also I'm also looking for new information resources that we should all know about.  (I have a couple tucked up my sleeve.) 

Pro tip:  You can find all of the posts during a given month by using the inurl: operator.  Do it like this to find all of the January, 2014 posts:  

     [  ] 

Also, a heads-up:  Next Wednesday is Dec 24th and the real beginning of our holiday season.  I'm going to be traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico for 10 days immediately after Christmas, so I'll be mostly off-line.  (Yes, I know I could get online, but I'm taking a holiday....)  

That means I'll post a Challenge that day, but it's going to be the most challenging Challenge of the year.  I'll be back online on January 6th to look at how things have been going, and I'll be sure to give lots of hints in my Challenge writeup--but be prepared.  I think you'll all have to work together to solve this one!  It'll be a great wrapup for the year of SearchResearch.  

Search on! 

P.S.  For anyone who didn't see it, I made a quick video showing you how to convert last week's KML file into a CSV for analysis.  See:  KML to CSV demo video.  (Be sure to watch this one full-screen, at 720p.  Use the gear menu to change the resolution of playback.)  


  1. I added to the search query [ intext:answer ] I have chosen to list the challenges by category in no particular order as to what I learned and/or improved.

    [Maps] I added the term [maps] to my search query (I did this for each category). It seems to me, we worked more with Google Maps this year and less with Google Earth but GE is still very relevant. Google Maps has made great strides which for those not having access to the full GE. One of my favorites was Friday, March 21, 2014 Answer: What's that thing on the horizon? We used many tools and gathered a lot of details.

    Key Tools - Google Maps, Google Earth, Google “My Maps”, Wikimapia,

    [Data] Without a doubt this area is something that challenged me most and way beyond my comfort zone. The most challenging search for me was “September 2014 -Can you find the places Twain mentions in "Around the Equator"?” As researchers make headway in this area I’d like to go back and see if we can improve results.

    Key tools - Google Sheets, Google Fusion, Public data, Online API tools, and text editors.

    [Digitized Printed Material] We saw changes in newspaper archives and despite some limitations there are sources like for example. In books, learning to use the books search page “about this book” as a source of information. One challenge that used newspapers and books stands out & points out how to search for historical context that has been digitized. ”Friday, February 21, 2014 Answer: How much did it cost to travel to Hawai'i in 1908?”

    Key tools - Google Books, Newspaper collections, Library of Congress/BISAC Subject Headings databases.

    [Images] The timeline in Google Maps and Google Earth have improved our ability to examine changes in images over time. We used several of these tools for the challenge “Friday, July 18, 2014 Answer: What can you find out about this property?”

    This just skims the surface. I look forward to our Christmas challenge & working with fellow searchers. In the meantime, Dr. Dan enjoy your escape to Mexico. Merry Christmas & Feliz Navidad.

    1. I like your approach. Adding [ maps ] or [ data ] to the query is a great way to zoom in on just the ones you liked. Excellent.

  2. Good day, Dr. Russell, fellow SearchResearchers

    It has been a fantastic year and all the SearchResearch Challenges have been incredible. All of them has plenty of lessons, fun, knowledge and connections to real life day to day.

    Since the day I first visited your Blog, Dr. Russell, every day have been visiting, and each time learning a new thing. I Learn not just with your challenge. Also, with all the comments, practicing and reading related stories and sites that for example Remmij and Google Now gives to us.

    How did I chose my favorite ones? Just the ones that most time comes to my mind. Here they are:

    1. What was your favorite SearchResearch Search Challenge of 2014?

    a: [ pineapple]

    How much did it cost to travel to Hawai'i in 1908?

    This challenge also let me learn more about Hawai'i and Pineapples. I am sure that Hawai'i has plenty of subjects to create challenges.

    b: [ parrotfish ]

    Finding something in the UC System

    Challenge is related to Parrotfish which I really like and love the photos Dr. Russell took. Also, Custom Search Engine was something I didn't know how to use it and it is something really cool and useful.

    c: What's going on in this file? It is other of my favorite ones. Multiple way to get information. Learned so many things and remembered others.

    Special mention is the CSV video Dr. Russell made.

    d:[ make challenge]

    Search Challenge (10/1/14): YOU make up the challenge!

    Search Google Books Search by Subject Heading. Is amazing!

    e: What kind of trees are these? How Dr. Russell solved the challenge, how he went to SearchResearch again and the use of the bell sound was amazing!

    How to find the conference proceedings? "Proceedings" were something new and something that is very helpful.

    2. What was the best / most-interesting thing you learned in 2014 about search or research in 2014?

    I didn't include it in my favorite Challenge because I already posted 5 instead of just one. Rosetta Mission Challenge was wonderful and something that I could easy miss if you didn't posted about it.

    After that, reading all about it was incredible.

    Atmospheric River was something I recently found that is very interesting.

    1MM are something that I really appreciate and enjoy.

    Finally, I want to wish all of you the best Holiday Season. Wishing peace, joy and great moments. Also, say thanks for your friendship, comments, tips, tricks and everything that you share that helps me to be better.

    I wish you, Dr. Russell, a fantastic trip and I agree with you. Holiday Season and traveling must be mostly off-line.

    I want to wish for all an amazing 2015 All the best, Dr. Russell and to all of you, my friends.
    This was a fantastic year and I am sure the new one will be even better.

    P.S. Now Google Search has again news and archive in Search Tools.

    1. Yesterday, I was watching Dr. Sanjay Gupta show from last Saturday. It was very interesting. They talked about new ways to treat Cancer and also talked about Flu vaccine and Flu analysis. They mentioned Columbia University Columbia University predictions and HeatMap. Also, Google Trends. Now with Material Design

      This in addition to be interesting, has a relation with SearchResearch Challenges and can give us ideas or data for future ones.

      Here is the link for Disrupting Cancer Billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

      Fred Thanks for the great wishes. Same to you! Also, I also like the new format and it is something that I forgot to remember. Thanks for commenting about it.

    2. I read this article on Wednesday. It is very good and also can help us to create more challenges.

      What do you think, Dr. Russell?

      Ciencia Pirata "Pirate Science"

  3. This year we saw the change from Wednesday Challenge/Thursday Answer to Wednesday Challenge/Friday Answer. I really like the new format. Looking back on 2014 it quickly became clear that I didn’t need to go back to 2013 to create a list of favorites and interesting things learned.

    In The News - When I see news reports that are linked to challenges we have done, I sometimes will go back to those posts and re-read our strategies and answers. Also having background knowledge in a news report piques my interest.

    Wednesday Search Challenge (1/22/14): How common are droughts in California?

    Wednesday search challenge (3/5/14): Questions about Crimea

    Wednesday Search Challenge (5/14/14): How hard is that comet? ♡ Favorite

    Though not in the news, I’m reminded of this challenge almost everyday.
    Search Challenge (6/25/14): What do these cameras do?

    This was the year of Map Challenges - We had numerous challenges that involved maps.
    Wednesday Search Challenge (8/13/14): Where can you find this in the street? I think I probably learned more in other challenges, but this one was fun and interesting in a trivial pursuit kind of way.

    This was a year of Data Challenges - I probably do the worst on challenges that involve data analysis, but I realize that they offer the most for me to learn. Some I would start and realize I just didn’t have the time do them justice. The one I learned the most by spending 8-10 hours doing different graphs and visualizations on was:

    Search Challenge (11/19/14): How snowy is it this week?

    While I didn't really particpate in this challenge, I really enjoyed watching the collaborative effort that was displayed in:

    Search challenge (9/3/14): Can you find the places Twain mentions in "Around the Equator"?

    And finally...

    Challenge that most likely got us on a government watch list ;-)
    Wednesday Search Challenge (7/23/14): How are nuclear blast zones like choosing a good place to live?

    Looking forward to a great 2015 year of searching and learning. Happy holidays my friends.

    1. We also like the change in format. Having the extra day is very helpful! Thanks for the reminder Fred!

  4. Hi Everyone! Happy Holidays from Debbie and Anne!

    Our favorite search was the 10/29/14 search challenge: See anything odd about these sites? We liked it because it validated the work we do with students everyday. We also enjoyed the Questions about Crimea and also enjoyed the Oct. 15 A Few Musical Questions. Anne was a music major so the music one was right up her alley!
    For question 2 we both said that doing these searches really emphasized to us the importance of having background information or knowledge before you can really delve into a search. For us the most interesting thing we learned was how data can be visualized as in the snowfall challenge. Anne and I more typically do searches that deal with literary or historical topics so any of the searches using data really stretch us! But we do these searches every week to broaden our knowledge so that we can share with our staff and students. We consider it ongoing professional development!
    Dr. Dan thank you for doing these searches every week! Hope you have a wonderful vacation! We look forward to new searches and challenges for the New Year!

  5. Number 1 most important thing to know about Search is RTFQ. My professorial daughter points out this is a big key to success in examinations.

    To this I would add thinking about the question and questioning its terminology, as Dan has pointed out many times.

    What was a 'best' challenge. I vote for the globe dating Challenge. Oh, that was mine.

    If 'best' means toughest its clearly the Mark Twain one. Lots of time and brain melt over that. Was it ever solved ?

    I liked the pix from Scotland with a taxi in the foreground with its phone #.

    A really important process is the triangulation of an answer.

    I thought I knew my way around Wikipedia before but apparently not.

    The Panoramio blue dots was a revelation to me as were the later little red dots.

    And I am making more use now of the operators.

    The 2 Power Search courses are brilliant so I have introduced these in classes.

    Thank you Dan, and all the contributors in comment section for lots of insight into finding interesting things.


    jon tU