RB Search Gizmos

Organize Your Biographical Web Searches With Biography Buckets

I spoke to the folks at Apra Wisconsin last week. The topic was web search with a focus on people search.I walked them through a dozen of my Search Gizmos. (There are almost 50 at this point so I can’t do a whole site tour in an hour.)

Afterwards during Q&A someone asked if I had a Gizmo where they could put in a bunch of biographical information about someone and do a search. For example, where they lived, where they went to school, and so on.

I didn’t have such a Gizmo, but I found the question fascinating because they labeled the search terms: this one is birthplace, this one is education. I don’t do that because I’m so used to searching Google and other general search engines and they don’t accommodate labeling parts of queries – for the most part a search term is a search term. You can’t, for example, use a birthplace: syntax on Google News. But what if there was some other way we could implement biography-based search terms like this with defined boundaries so they didn’t overwhelm a search with too many terms and make it fail?

Every physical aspect of reality can be viewed in relation to date and location. Here we all are, observable in time and space. (Hopefully not TOO observable.) Search engines sometimes have location-oriented search tools but they’re not precise enough for our requirements. On the other hand, a number of search resources offer date-based searching. So why not assign time spans to different biographical events (or even keywords) and build searches that way?

So I made Biography Buckets! ( https://searchgizmos.com/buckets/ )

Screenshot from 2023-04-01 12-01-47


Biography Buckets lets you specify a bunch of biographical events with time spans and organize them into date-based searches. Here’s how it works.

Using Biography Buckets

First, choose the person you want to search for and the resource you want to search. Your options: Google News, Google Scholar, Google Books (Magazines Only), Google Books (Newspapers Only), Twitter, Reddit (via SocialGrep) and Newspapers.com. Twitter, Reddit, and to a lesser extent Google News are only suitable for searches spanning ~2010 and later.


Then list the search terms you want to include in your search for this person. These terms can include where they went to school, spouses, names of notable works, where they lived, etc. You can even include generic terms that are frequently associated with the person, like “vaccine” in this example.


Finally, choose the time spans that you want to run searches for and click the “Generate Search URLs” button. These are the time spans that your search resource of choice will use in building its queries. Experiment with different span lengths — in the case of Jonas Salk, for example, maybe you do a thirty-year search to cover his early life, do a somewhat shorter search that spans the time between his education and the polio vaccine, do a very short two-year search focused on the vaccine era, etc.


Biography Buckets will generate the search links with each date-bounded search term going in its appropriate time span(s) query along with the name of the person for whom you’re searching. Click on the link and it’ll open in a new tab.


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