It is really easy to be intimidated by a term like “Boolean Logic”. What the heck is that? There all kinds of discussions on the internet about it, but what is it?
It’s actually fairly simple, the hard part is that it did exactly what you told it to do, not what you wanted it to do.
So the three operators are AND, OR & NOT. Virtually every search engine starts with these three things. They may add stuff, but this is the base. Next is the lowly quote (“) mark, if you want a phrase to be searched for as a whole phrase, then put it in quotes.
Searches are executed left to right, kind of like we read. If you want something done before something else, or you are trying to get fancy, then you can put it in paratheses ().
- If you are searching for information about being a project manager, then enter that and the search engine will give you a gazillion things about it. Everything from job descriptions to training to Wikipedia and lots of stuff in between. I just ran the search under Bing and it came back with 640 million entries. The first group will include the phrase, “project manager”, then will come entries that have both Project and Manager, then entries that only include Project and finally ones that have only Manager. I’m guessing you can understand why we got 640,000,000 hits.
- Now I’ll try the phrase “Project Manager”. The biggest visible difference is that I’m down to 36 million hits.
- Perhaps I want “Project Manager” but hate all things Google? I’ll enter ‘“Project Manager” NOT Google’ and I’m down to 9 million hits
- Next let’s try ‘”Project Manager” NOT (Google OR Microsoft)’ . What I want now is entries that include the phrase “Project Manager” and do not have either the word Google or the word Microsoft. The results are now getting substantially different and we’re down to 7 million. The advertisements at the top of the page have even changed.
Just for grins, I ran this sequence in Blekko and the results are interesting. Fist cut had 384 million, add the quotes and I’m down to 28 million; add the ‘NOT google’ my results are 8 million etc. An anomaly is that when I use parentheses Blekko pops out 500 million again and when I remove them it acts like I expected with the parentheses, down to 5 million.
In all of this, a couple of things jump out. One is that there is an astonishing amount of information on everything. J Some subjects are worse than others, but finding useful information is the trick and that means playing with these Boolean operators. So remember that there is no “Wrong” way to do any of this, just more and less useful. You get to determine if something is useful and you get to fuss with your search until you get what YOU want.
One last link: www.booleanblackbelt.com. This guy is VP of recruiting at Kforce and really knows his stuff. He has a lot more than this very brief intro, he is after all, the black belt. Reading his stuff is also extremely helpful in understanding how recruiters are using the internet.