• Become a Google power searcher: Google is now offering free search lessons online

    Google power search lessonsWow, a lot of people are very, very eager to learn how to search the web more effectively. My post about Daniel Russell’s awesome Google search techniques has generated a ton of traffic and great reactions. And today we learn that Google is going to start offering lessons to people to become power searchers.

    Course details:

    Power Searching with Google is a free online, community-based course showcasing search techniques and how to use them to solve real, everyday problems. It features:

  • Six 50-minute classes.
  • Interactive activities to practice new skills.
  • Opportunities to connect with others using Google Groups, Google+, and Hangouts on Air.
  • Upon passing the post-course assessment, a printable Certificate of Completion will be emailed to you.
  • Guess what I just signed up for?

  • Reporting tool: Taking notes with Evernote

    Shawn Miller wrote an amazingly detailed review of Evernote, a free service that lets you take notes, pictures and recordings; sync them with Evernote; and read and search all your material on Web browsers, desktop software, and mobile apps:

    Why install the same application in so many different places? Evernote stores your collected items in the “cloud,” so every time you capture something using, say, an iPhone, that item resides on the Evernote server and thus becomes available through other interfaces such as the standalone Evernote application on a desktop machine or via the Evernote website visited on your laptop.

    EvernoteMiller explains the myriad ways he relies on Evernote. To use a technical term, it looks wicked awesome for journalists and researchers. I’m now inspired to try it out on my Android phone — check the instructional video.

    Update: Just found this vid that demonstrates how Evernote uses a type of Optical Character Recognition when you upload photos. So when you type keyword searches, you can find the words in documents you photograph. Madness.

  • Full C-Span archives now online

    Political junkies, rejoice. C-Span has posted nearly its entire video archive online for the public to search and view. This is awesome.’s say you’re researching the roots of the economic crisis, and you want to explore whether the deregulation of the banking industry played a role. The C-Span archive offers the full video of the 1999 bipartisan signing ceremony of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. And nearly a decade later, after the housing bubble burst, there’s a video on C-Span of former Sen. Phil Gramm defended his role in the legislation.

    A New York Times article about the archives says:

    The archives, at, cover 23 years of history and five presidential administrations and are sure to provide new fodder for pundits and politicians alike. The network will formally announce the completion of the C-Span Video Library on Wednesday.

    Having free online access to the more than 160,000 hours of C-Span footage is “like being able to Google political history using the ‘I Feel Lucky’ button every time,” said Rachel Maddow, the liberal MSNBC host.

    If you think C-Span is boring, did I mention that Chris Farley appeared in Congress in 1995 to impersonate Newt Gingrich? Watch the video in all its glory on C-Span.

  • New research tool: Searchable Google archives of Life Magazine

    Life Magazine visits Texas in 1938
    Life Magazine visits Texas in this 1938 issue
    This is a cool tool for history buffs: Google unveiled a vast, searchable archive of Life Magazine for all 1,860 issues from 1936 to 1972.

    Run a search for “San Antonio” and you’ll find all kinds of stories and photos:

  • A 1938 feature story about Thomas Jefferson High School, with photos of its ROTC classes and “manners” courses for female students;
  • Photos of Fiesta in 1950, which the magazine described as a “seven-day civic binge;
  • A story in 1971 about the long-forgotten protests about the construction of U.S. 281.
  • Here’s Google’s original blog post about this new research tool. “This is part of a broader effort across Google to help bring offline content online and allow people to find it with a simple Google web search,” wrote Google’s product manager Brandon Badger. Hat tip to Marilia Martins who tweeted about this today.

  • Car advice in 1907 and other archived awesomeness

    Model T Torpedo Runabout

    Meg Marco at the Consumerist blogged about a quirky New York Times article that offered car maintenance tips — from 1907. In the process, she highlighted the usefulness of an awesome research tool: Digital, searchable newspaper archives dating to the 1800s.

    We were poking around the NYT archives when we stumbled across this gem, car maintenance budgeting advice for people interested in owning a car … in 1907. Some of the advice remains the same. Other parts, like how much to pay your driver and how much to budget for repainting the car once a year — not so much.

    What’s amazing is how easy it is to unearth these ancient news articles. In the old days, you had to dig through musty archives or scroll through microfilm. But companies such as the New York Times, Google and ProQuest are putting vast newspaper collections online. And the articles are searchable by keyword, which really helps if you don’t know the exact date of the story you’re looking for. Run a search for “Civil War” in the New York Times archives and you can read the actual articles about the Civil War from the 1860s.

    A few years ago I wrote this story about the problem of performance enhancing drugs in the Texas racehorse industry. I wrote: “The specter of drugs boosting the performance of racehorses has haunted the sport for more than a century. The word ‘doping’ first emerged at racetracks in the late 1800s.”

    One way I traced the history of the word “doping” was by searching the New York Times archives, which led me to this April 7, 1901 story about the history of doping.

    Google’s archives include millions of old articles from a wide variety of publications — and the company recently quadrupled its collection. Run a search in the Google archives for “doping,” and you see a chronological chart showing how often the word appeared in news stories over the years.

    So what did Meg learn about maintaining a car in 1907? Check out her post, there’s some interesting, funny stuff about how much to pay your chauffeur and why you shouldn’t speed above — hold on to your top hats — 40 mph.

  • Government Accountability Office now on Twitter, YouTube

    If you’re researching a topic related to the federal government, chances are the Government Accountability Office has already looked into the issue and published a detailed report about it.

    GAO  CNN Video  July 2009   YouTubeNow the GAO, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, is going all social media on us by setting up accounts on Twitter and YouTube.

    This is a nice touch by a federal agency that for years has offered e-mail updates to subscribers, who can be notified about topics that interest them. I also noticed today that the GAO’s home page has an RSS feed.

    The main resource I use is the GAO’s search page, which offers a rich source of material. You can do keyword searches on GAO reports going back to 1980.