Share content with your friends and fans!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Techno Granny, Boolean Logic, Old Tools for New Search

  •  Listen to: Techno Granny, Boolean Logic, 

    Old Tools for New Search

  • Boolean Logic -- we all learned it in grade school -- and again in high school. We studied it in algebra -- and in electronics and philosophy. It's the brain child of George Boole back in the 1800s, but really, it's how human beings think -- and how you find things using a computer -- or an internet search engine like Google or Bing or Yahoo.
  • Even though it sounds scary, Boolean Logic is inherently simple. You've been using it your whole life without realizing it. If you were in an algebra class, we'd get into set theory and the like...but we are going to talk about the basics of how you think and how you search for things that you want.
  • As much as I hate to be labeled -- and as much as most of us dislike the idea of "Profiling" -- the human mind learns by putting things in little boxes and storing those boxes away in memory. So, if we go for a ride in great Aunt Frances' Cadillac sedan and the leather seats felt wonderful, we will associate leather seats and wonderful -- and store that away as something desirable. Even if it was back when we were five years old...that Cadillac means something nice even now fifty years later. And maybe, you remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance to a dusty old American Flag every morning in school. Red, White, and Blue seem like pretty nice colors from then on out. On the negative side, maybe the first time you went for a drive by yourself you got lost and the ragged old map in the glove compartment wasn't very helpful -- you hated that feeling and remember it even today. Maybe those things become labels in your head and impact your desires...and dislikes.
  • In the olden days back in the 20th century before commerce came to the internet, when you went shopping -- you decided what you wanted and then picked the stores that you knew carried those products and went to them physically.
  • Say you want to buy a sedan -- and you want it to have a gps system (No more useless paper maps, please!) and leather seats (ahhhh) and be either blue or red.
  • Say there are ten dealerships in your town -- Ford, Chevy, Cadillac, Honda, Acura, Toyota, Lexus, Volkswagon, Jeep, and Mercedes. In the olden days, you would say to yourself -- gps and leather seats are premium options so maybe you would prioritize the dealerships in terms of how likely they would have the exact car that you want -- maybe you guess something like this -- Mercedes, Cadillac, Lexus, Acura, Toyota, Honda, Chevy, Jeep, Ford, and Volkswagon. Then you would visit each of the dealerships and say to the salesperson, I want a Sedan with leather seats and gps in either blue or red. The salesperson at Mercedes might say, we have sedans with leather seats and gps in red but not in blue. At Chevy showroom, the salesperson might say, we have sedans in red or blue but not with leather seats or gps. (You have to order them and you don't want to wait for that.) If you are a nerd like me, you MUST know your options so you set up a list -- from Mercedes who has most of what I want to VW which might have only one or two of my requirements. And then make decisions from there based on other things like price, gas mileage, and style. Regardless, we have used Boolean Logic to define the things that I want.
  • There are three basic boolean OPERATORS that I can use to define what I want - AND, OR, NOT. If you start with all cars, you want to narrow down your options to the criteria you want. Examples:
    • I want Sedan AND Leather AND GPS
      • From that group, I want Red OR Blue
        • From THAT group, I don't want (NOT) Chevy.
    • So putting it all together, 
      • I want:
        • Sedan AND Leather AND GPS AND (Red OR Blue) AND (NOT Chevy)
  • That's easy, right? Except for going around to all of the dealerships and asking that question. 
  • These days, we do that part of the search on the internet using search engines. I like Google so let's use it as an example. If I go to Google and type "red and blue cars" in the search box,  I'll get 525 million items in my search result and most of them don't interest me -- and even if they did, I don't have time to look at 525 millions websites. If I search on "red or blue sedans with leather seats and gps" that narrows it down to 15.4 million options. That's STILL too many to help me. Why is that?  That's because in reality, I left out several important criteria -- like where am I? What's my timeframe? So in Google, I see there is a button that says "Search Tools." When I click on it, three more buttons pop up -- one lets me define time, one lets me define where I am, and the third lets me further reduce my options by defining things like telling Google I don't want to see sites I've already visited or to only look for sites about cars that are near me. That makes the search more useful.
  • But how do all of those sites get out on Google? (or any search engine)...and how do they know that I'm going to search on the "labels" inside my own head -- they are very personal after all.
    • In the olden days -- and in some situations now, databases were structured as rows and columns. Each record had several pieces of information in it -- say, record number, name, telephone number, address, social security number, etc. Each record was a row -- and the various fields within the records made up a column. 
    • Each record had a unique number -- usually the sequence of when records were added. Say your record was added to the database after the 338th record and so it became record number 339. The next record added would be 340 and so on. To go your record, you simply told the computer "Goto 330" -- and bingo, it took you there. 
    • But what if you didn't know the record number? And in fact, you usually DON'T know it. Say you wanted to find your own name in the telephone company list of customers. To find a particular record, the computer would sort on the a field -- say the "Name" field -- and the database would be alphabetical. Then, the computer went to the first one and checked the "Name" field. Is that your name? No? Go to the next record, and check that name. No? Go to the next -- and so on. It was much faster than looking at a million manila folders looking for your information -- hey, it's a computer, right?
    • Then we went to indexing -- using a keyword or fields -- say, we were going to index on last name/first name - alphabetically. Then the computer creates a little map of just those fields -- and orders them -- it doesn't bother to physically move all the records around -- and then it searches the map and then finds your record. Faster and easier.
    • These days websites can be searched too -- using not JUST a database of rows and columns but blocks of data...the search engines use a web "crawler" or a program that goes from site to site adding information to their index.
    • So if you have a website or a product and you want Google and the other search companies to add you to their index so that people will find you, how do you do that? Well, you can encourage the robot crawler to come to your site sooner rather than later by submitting it to the search engine.
    • But how do you get Google to put you on the first page of the search results? No one wants to be 20 pages back in a 525 million item search result. No one will have the patience to keep looking after the first two or three pages. Well, this is at the heart of SEO -- and so is Boolean Logic.
      • First, there are web masters and search masters -- the job of the web master is to slant things so that his/her site ends up first in the type of searches that people he wants to come to his sites might use. The job of the search master is to be fair -- it's a constant battle between those two elements -- those who control search engines and those who live on the web. 
      • If you have the exact address -- like the old record number -- it's easy -- you type it in and go to the site you want just like that. But if you don't KNOW the address -- and if you are researching something -- as a consumer -- or maybe as an author trying to learn as much as possible before writing a book -- you will probably use some form of Boolean statements -- Find me a Sedan with GPS AND leather seats in Blue OR Red.
      • If you are selling sedans with leather seats and gps in blue or red, then you better the chances of being found if you include those words -- SEDANS, GPS, LEATHER SEATS, BLUE, RED as keywords for a given webpage in your site -- as alternative text under pictures -- and in the copy of your site. The more of this information you include in your site, the more information the search engine bots gather up and load into their database and include in their index mapping. 
    • Example:  TechnoGranny played around with loads of phrases
    • Finally came up with
    • “Books on Writing Marketing Plans on Kindle, published in June, 2013 with K.I.S.S. List”
    • Now from millions I was down to 288 results

Joyce Faulkner
Author, Speaker, Storyteller
Book Designer, Graphic Designer, Ghostwriter


Author of:
Windshift - Hard Cover, Trade Paperback, Kindle, iBook
USERNAME - Trade Paperback, Kindle, Audio Book
Chance - Trade paperback, Kindle
In the Shadow of Suribachi - Hard Cover, Trade Paperback, Kindle

For Shrieking Out Loud - Hard Cover, Trade Paperback, Kindle
Losing Patience - Trade Paperback, Kindle, iBook

Former President
Military Writers Society of America

Advisory Board
Talencea Corporation ( is a Search Firm automating the recruiting process using Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing.

Check out Tweet Adder

No comments: