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Chapter 4. News and Groups > Google Groups Search Syntax

4.13. Google Groups Search Syntax

By default, Google Groups looks for your query keywords anywhere in the posting subject or body, group name, or author name. Groups search uses the same sort of basic Boolean as Google Web Search ["Basic Boolean" in Chapter 1].

Google Groups is an archive of conversations. Thus, when you're searching, you'll be more successful if you try looking for conversational and informal language, not the carefully structured language you'll find on Internet sites—well, some Internet sites, anyway.

And, thanks to some special syntax, you can do some precise searching if you know the magic incantations:


Searches posting subjects for query words.



Restricts your search to a certain group or set of groups (topic). The * (asterisk) wildcard modifies a group: syntax to include everything beneath the specified group or topic. rec.humor* or rec.humor.* (effectively the same) will find results in the group rec.humor, as well as rec.humor.funny, rec.humor.jewish, and so forth.



Specifies the author of a newsgroup post. This can be a full or partial name, even an email address.

author:"fred flintstone"

4.13.1. Mixing syntaxes in Google Groups

Google Groups is much more friendly to syntax mixing ["Mixing Syntax" in Chapter 1] than Google Web Search. You can mix any two or more syntaxes together in a Google Groups Search, as exemplified by the following typical searches:

intitle:literature group:humanities* author:john
intitle:hardware group:comp.sys.ibm* pda Some common search scenarios

There are several ways you can mine Google Groups for research information. Remember, though, to view any information that you get here with a certain amount of skepticism. Usenet is just hundreds of thousands of people tossing around links; in that respect, it's just like the Web. Tech support

Ever used Windows and discovered that there's some program running that you've never heard of? Uncomfortable, isn't it? If you're wondering if HIDSERV is something nefarious, Google Groups can tell you. Just search Google Groups for HIDSERV. You'll find that plenty of people had the same question before you did, and it's been answered.

I find that Google Groups is sometimes more useful than manufacturers' web sites. For example, I was trying to install a set of flight devices for a friend—a joystick, throttle, and rudder pedals. The web site for the manufacturer couldn't help me figure out why they weren't working. I described the problem as best I could in a Google Groups search—using the name of the parts and the manufacturer's brand name—and although it wasn't easy, I was able to find an answer.

Sometimes your problem isn't as serious but it's just as annoying; you might be stuck in a computer game. If the game has been out for more than a few months, your answer is probably in Google Groups. If you want the answer to an entire game, try the magic word walkthrough. So if you're looking for a walkthrough for Quake II, try the search "quake ii" walkthrough. (You don't need to restrict your search to newsgroups; walkthrough is a word strongly associated with gamers.) Finding commentary immediately after an event

With Google Groups, date searching is very precise (unlike date searching Google's Web index), so it's an excellent way to get commentary during or immediately after events.

Barbra Streisand and James Brolin were married on July 1, 1998. Searching for "Barbra Streisand" "James Brolin" between June 30, 1998 and July 3, 1998 leads to over 48 results, including reprinted wire articles, links to news stories, and commentary from fans. Searching for "barbra streisand" "james brolin" without a date specification finds more than 1,800 results.

Usenet is also much older than the Web and is ideal for finding information about an event that occurred before the Web. Coca-Cola released New Coke in April 1985. You can find information about the release on the Web, of course, but finding contemporary commentary would be more difficult. After some playing around with the dates (just because it's been released doesn't mean it's in every store) I found plenty of commentary about New Coke in Google Groups by searching for the phrase "new coke" during the month of May 1985. Information included poll results, taste tests, and speculation on the new formula. Searching later in the summer yields information on Coke re-releasing old Coke under the name "Coca-Cola Classic."

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