Getting the most out of Google

Ever wonder just how much information is stored on Google? To find out I googled it, of course, and came up with this interesting little tidbit from the company’s CEO Eric Schmidt: Every two days we collectively create as much information as we did up to the year 2003. From the history of mankind, to every two days! That’s about six exabytes of information (or six quintillion bytes) every 48 hours. Talk about a lot of tweets.

With this much information available at every keystroke, there’s bound to be something on what you’re looking for. The only problem is finding it.


But with a few extra clicks of your mouse, you can make sure you’re getting the most out of Google. Done right, and a simple search can become the start for an investigation. Begin by clicking on the advanced search option to the right of the search bar. Next you’ll be given a list of options that can help refine your search. Like they tell you at the doctor’s office, fill these out as completely as possible.

Now for the fun part. Under the “Need more tools?” tab, select the type of file you want. For investigations that rely heavily on documents, you might start with .xls (Microsoft Excel) extension or .ppt (Microsoft Powerpoint). Then type domain you want to search, we’ll say Humboldt State University, and bingo — you’ve got documents!

My favorite just from this quick search alone? “Current CSU Salary Structure – Humboldt State University” and “Department Criteria Standards Criteria Standards Status List,” both Excel documents that the school doesn’t plaster all over the home page with the hope that you stumble across it.

It sounds simple, but you would be amazed by what’s out there, just ready to be found. So what are you waiting for – start searching!

It’s that time of year again!

It’s May, which in Humboldt County means it’s time for another groundbreaking investigation by students in Public Affairs reporting at Humboldt State University. This year’s project will appear on the pages of the North Coast Journal, as it has for the past six years. It is due to hit newsstands everywhere in Humboldt County tomorrow. While we all wait to see what this year’s class, led by Marcy Burstiner, comes up with, it’s a good time to take a look at what students did last year.

This story, which was broken up into a main bar and a sidebar, started out with a single search warrant. From there we produced a spreadsheet of information, which looked like this:

Then we used the data to create a map that highlighted certain aspects of the data, such as where marijuana grows were being busted up and how many search warrants were served where.