Friday, November 16, 2007

The “AND” Operator with a punch.


There are some things that we use so regularly that we take for granted. That is the case with some of the tools we use for internet research. Have you thought of what the PLUS sign does for instance?
We all have used the “plus” ( + ) sign in our searches right? In many search engines, the plus sign can be used as a substitute to the Boolean operator “AND” that is because just like the “AND” operator it finds pages that contain all search terms, but that is were the similarities end. Here is the first difference; unlike “AND” the “PLUS” sign list pages which have the keyword terms immediately on the right side of this operator only.
The use of the plus sign may produce some other unexpected effects. Using the plus (+) sign directs the search engines to sidestep some of the programming boundaries. For instance it causes characters or “stop words” or “noise words” that normally would be excluded from a search to be forced in as part of the searchable keywords.
I can hear you now!! WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? It means that keywords like a, an, and, are, at, be etc.. can be included as part of your search.
Try running this query in yahoo (or whatever search engine you prefer):
Microsoft bites the apple

Now compare it to:
Microsoft bites +the apple

Isn’t it amazing. The plus sign is not the same as the “AND” operator after all is it?
Another interesting difference between “AND” + is that it produces yet another variation in the algorithms.
Try this simple query in Google:
resume develop vb

Now compare it to:
resume +develop vb


Did you notice the difference? What happened was that Google (as well as most other search engines nowadays) has an automatic stemming algorithm in place that allows for variations of keywords. In the case of the keyword develop it searched for develop, developer and development. Whenever you use the plus sign on a keyword it turns off the automatic stemming feature of the search engine.
Next time you use the “Plus” (+) sign in your queries notice the differences. There are times when may need the stemming features but isn’t it nice to be able to determine when it should be used?

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