January Meeting Notes

The January meeting covered basic methods of finding online video tutorials using the Safari Web browser with the Google Search Engine and YouTube.  By carefully choosing your keywords in the search terms, you can achieve results that come closer to answering your search.

Grouping search terms in quotation marks forces the search engine to look for the phrase within the quotes, rather than finding the separate words anywhere on the whole page.  The rather silly example used was to search using the terms cow and gun. Typing those two words alone is the same as searching for pages that have the word cow and the word gun somewhere on the same page.

The logic of search engines is that performing a search for “cow gun” is the same as the search “Cow with Gun.” It turns out that they both find a bunch of listings for the song, “Cows With Guns.” Using either a plus sign (+) to indicate “with” or the minus sign (-) to indicate “not” or “without,” gives totally different results: When you search for “cow -gun” you get no reference to the song “Cows With Guns” at all in the top two pages of the search results.  A search using “cow +gun” brings up references to both cowboys with guns and, of course, cows.  Go figure.

Mention was made of the way that search engines rank the results you see for your search.  When a YouTube video, or any website page for that matter, shows up on the first page of the results, it got there because of the criteria the search engine uses to give you the best possible result.  It includes such things as the popularity of a video (how many different people watch it and how many times it has been watched), as well as the number of other places online that have provided a link back to that site.

The field of Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, which is the ways to make a web page appear near the top of the search results for particular terms, is a big deal for both website owners and for website designers and developers.  This means that sometimes you will run across a site that ranked high in your results, but was really below par.  While the search engines keep tuning their algorithms to give you better results, websites keep trying to game the system (and around it goes!).

One area that did not get covered during the meeting is the availability of free audio and video podcasts from within iTunes.  Most all of these are free subscriptions.  In iTunes, go to the iTunes Store, and click on the Podcasts link along the top of the page. This will bring up a page full of only podcasts, and typing in key words for what you are looking for.  The classes available in the iTunesU are provided by colleges and universities around the world, and provide free acres to you so you can learn just about anything.  This will be demonstrated at the beginning of the next meeting on February 17th 2011.