Google’s Dirty Laundry

Everyone, it seems, depends heavily on Google’s search capabilities.

With just a taste of Library Science and searching for information through online catalogs and bibliographic databases, I see that Google promises more than it gives.

The problem is that Google’s advanced search is not very advanced. Arbitrarily complex searches are not possible.

The dirty laundry is most evident when you enter a complex query, do a search and then use the advanced search option. If your query is more than a little complex, it is mangled when you go back to advanced search to refine the query.

The simplest query I have that Google drops the ball on is the exclusive OR of having red and blue. The way to build that out of AND and ORs is (red and not blue) or (blue and not red).

Google’s syntax for red not blue is “red -blue” The or operation is OR. Thus, what I want is “(red -blue) OR (blue -red)”. Google returns nothing.

When I go to advanced, I am shocked by how bizarrely the search has been mangled. It thinks I said “red OR blue -blue -red” (The default operator is AND so it isn’t needed.) So, Google thinks I asked for items that have blue or red, but don’t have blue and don’t have red. So, that’s not going to happen.

This is dirty laundry.

People think that Google is a powerful search engine, but a simple request shows that it is not so smart.

I can go to almost any bibliographic database and “(red not blue) or (blue not red)” is properly understood. I only find items that have red or blue but not both.

About William Wayne Smith

I'm a poet, library fan and maker.
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1 Response to Google’s Dirty Laundry

  1. parkrrrr says:

    It doesn’t work because Google just doesn’t work like that. Parens are ignored. See here:


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