Sunday, December 17, 2006

Filtering Google search results by date range

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Supposedly we are able to use the operator 'date:3/6/9/12' to limit search results to only those added to Google's index within the last 3 months, 6 months and so on. In practice you may as well not bother because all this tweak does is return pages which include keywords such as "Date: 12 December 2006". Chocolate fireguard anyone?

An alternative, undocumented, super-secret operator you can use is 'daterange:[julian date]-[julian date]'. Huh? As defined by Wikipedia: "The Julian day or Julian day number (JDN) is the number of days that have elapsed since 12 noon Greenwich Mean Time (UT or TT) on Monday, January 1, 4713 BC in the proleptic Julian calendar . That day is counted as Julian day zero. The Julian day system was intended to provide astronomers with a single system of dates that could be used when working with different calendars and to unify different historical chronologies."

Right so Stephen Hawking has his bases covered, but how are the rest of us going to do the maths in our heads? We don't need to. We can use the Gmacker date range search, which will plug in the correct calculations automagically based on the number of days or dates entered. The problem is, using the daterange operator doesn't make a scrap of difference to your search results either. Great tip this is turning out to be, eh! I hope the likes of Likehacker are taking note. The recipe for a top tech tip: identify problem > offer solution > decide solution is rubbish and shrug shoulders.

Take a major, recent news story, for example, and apply the only-the-last-30-days modifier to the keywords entered: ipswich prostitutes "serial killer" "paula clennell" daterange:2454055-2454085. Now try the same search without the daterange operator. Either way you get 44,500 hits. That's precision fine-tuning at work.

Actually I shouldn't call the victims 'prostitutes' so we're told by the politically correct, feminist mob because it belittles the tragedy and demeans the women involved. According to these pedants it isn't useful to identify them in this way so that other sex workers will know to be wary, employ safety-in-numbers tactics, or get off the streets altogether. Also it doesn't help the police to be able to draw correlations between the targets enabling them - with the help of criminal psychologists - to build a profile of the killer.

They argue that if all the victims had been McDonald's employees, this facet of the case wouldn't have featured so prominently, or received so much media attention. I think the rest of McDonald's staff working in the area would beg to differ.

One commentator ratcheted the farce up another notch when she tried to sugar-coat the reasons some prostitutes were still walking the streets in Ipswich despite the heightened risks: like any other doting mothers they need to put in extra hours at this time of year to be able to afford Christmas presents for their children. Paints a cosy picture doesn't it, but in reality most of them are compelled to put their lives in jeopardy to feed their addiction to hard drugs. According to the BBC's victim profiles page, only one of them was a mother, and a heroin user.

Of course the sum of these women's lives shouldn't be defined solely by their chosen career path, but surely a dead spade is still a spade? Why does truth have to be the casualty of news reporting in this era of politically correct doublespeak?

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