Thursday, June 27, 2013

Answer: What are the names and styles of those buildings?

I solved the problem of building #1 by using the “fill in the blank method” using the * operator. 

I had a sneaking suspicion that I had the second name wrong, so I did a query of:

[ “Adam *” building San Francisco ]

and that quickly told me it was the “Adam Grant” building at 114 Sansome Street, downtown SF.  (I admit I got lucky on this.  I could have also had the first name wrong, but I found this quickly with just one search.) 

"Adam Grant" Building.  Google Streetview.

I then switched to Google Street View to look at the building next to it.

Now the problem is that there are two directions to go looking for the second building. Since the Adam Grant building is on the corner, you could go down Bush Street, or down Sansome Street. 

But the building at 140 / 142 Sansome is pretty plain; certainly not “more beautiful” than the Adam Grant building at 100 Bush.  So let’s Streetview down Bush Street in the other direction. 
Heineman Building.  Google Streetview

If you move down Bush street you’ll see that there’s a building front at 130 Bush.  But look carefully—it’s definitely white and beautiful (with a distinctive outward thrusting “oriel” style), and it’s also VERY narrow.  Look carefully at this picture and you’ll see what I mean.  

Truthfully, when I was driving, I thought that it was all part of the much larger building next to it on the right as you look at this picture... the well-decorated Shell building at 100 Bush.  That’s actually the one I meant, but maps are useful for illustrating the truth of the situation.  And once I looked at the Maps view (with 3D outline of parcels), you can clearly see the outline of the building at 130 Bush AND the building at 100 Bush (the Shell Building).

This tall, but narrow building is fairly remarkable.  It's technically the "building next door," but I completely missed it in real life!  

So.. what’s the building at 130 Bush? 

A quick search for:

     [ “130 Bush” San Francisco ]

..told me that this was the Heineman Building.  This “elegantly slim, 10-story building” was once the tallest of its neighbors, and decorated in a “gothic façade” with terra cotta tiles and copper panels.  It was originally a necktie, belt and suspender factory.  (This is from the SFGate article on theHeineman Building, quoting the book “130 Bush: An Illustrated Story About FourBuildings and a Monument in San Francisco” by L. G. Segedin. 

(Unfortunately, I could find this only on Amazon.  It doesn’t seem to be in Google Books.)

But then, next door to the Heineman building is the Shell building, which was the one I was originally looking for… It’s described as a 1930’s masterpiece of Art Deco styling (from the buliding’s own web site:  

The Wikipedia article on the Shell Building points to the architectural website Emporis, which describes it as a combination of Moderne, and Art Deco. 

(And, as reader Remijj points out,  George William Kelham was the architect of the Shell building, the Federal Reserve Bank of SF, the design of the 1915 SF Worlds Fair, the Mount Davidson Cross, and the Hill Bros. Coffee plant... locally famous landmarks, all!)  

The Adam Grant building, the one that started us off on this search, is described by Emporis as a Beaux-Arts building that was completed in 1908, but then extended upward by 8 floors in 1926. 

Emporis is a nice collection of architectural data.  It’s entry on the Heineman Building describes it as neo-gothic and completed in 1910.  So it must have been the tallest building around for around 16 years until the Adam Grant overshadowed it… which in turn was surpassed by the Shell building just a few years later. 

They’re all beautiful buildings—1908 (then 1926), 1910, 1930—a time of grand skyscrapers.

For my money, the Shell Building is the nicest one… gotta love those Art Deco touches.  It’s quite a sight when you walk into the lobby.  As they say, “worth a detour!” 

Search Lessons:  I note that, strictly speaking, the * operator for the “fill in the blank” wasn’t necessary, but it worked beautifully in this case.  When you only have part of the puzzle, the * will match 1 or more words to fill in the pattern in a quoted phrase.  Good tool to remember.

WRT “authoritative” resources—I would have accepted entries from almost any book on the architecture of downtown SF.  There’s a great wealth of them, all the ones I’ve seen are nicely researched. 

Likewise, Emporis is a strong website with a large collection of data about buildings.  They’re widely known for the breadth and quality of their architectural data.  I hadn’t know about them ahead of time, but I know them now and will recognize their name in future searches.  (And as I’ve said before, sometimes you just gotta know this kind of thing.  Recognizing authoritative sources is a good skill to have.)

Search on!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wednesday Search Challenge (6/26/13): What are the names & styles of those buildings?

The buildings of downtown SF.  (Google Maps 3D view)
I was driving through downtown San Francisco on a beautiful, sunny day.  As I drove, I passed a pair of beautiful buildings that I wanted to learn about. 

As I passed the first building, I saw the name and quickly jotted it down on a pad of paper I keep in my car for just such moments.  Looking at my pad later, I saw that I wrote down the name as the “Adam Green” building in SF.

As I drove down the block, there was an even more beautiful building next door.  I didn’t get the name of this second building, all I know is that it’s a light, almost white color.

When I got home and tried to look up these two buildings, I started with the “Adam Green” building, but was surprised to learn that there *isn’t* any such named building in San Francisco!  Obviously, I made an error in transcription. 

Today’s challenges: 

1.  Can you figure out what the name of the two buildings are?
 2.  Can you identify the architectural styles of the two buildings?   (Note: Don’t give me your attempt to identify the style, please find an authoritative source that identifies their styles.) 

As we always do, please tell us HOW you solved this search challenge, and let us know how long you took to solve the challenge!

Search on!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

TipSheet for IRE 2013 ( #IRE13 )

Today we have a special edition of SearchResearch.  I'm attending the annual conference for Investigative Reporters & Editors and giving a 1 hour (fast!) tutorial on some aspects of advanced Google searching.  I figured everyone might like to see this presentation, so I've put my notes here...  This also serves as a TipSheet for the attendees at IRE.  


Digging in with Google: Search Tips & Strategies for Researchers 

        A tipsheet/presentation summary for Investigative Reporters
        and Editors Conference (2013) 
San Antonio, TX (June 21, 2013)  

Full slide deck of my presentation. (PDF) 


Links to relevant pages: 

Google's G+ Community for Online Education (which will include classes on how to search, how to use our Geo tools, etc.)  (the about this community)  (posts announcing classes)

Dan's Search Cheatsheet: 


Outline of my presentation:  

* 8 Key Skills that search experts have.  They all:

   1.  Know what’s possible to ask  
   2.  Use more than 1 resource 
   3.  Understand language 
   4.  Understand concepts of genre & media
   5.  Know capabilities of tools 
   6.  Know the structure of information 
   7.  Able to search for tools 
   8.  Know how to use different media types 
   9.  Links to resources you should know about 

* Motivating problem 1:  What kind of trees are these?  What's that bell? 

* Introduction:  Goals of this session: 
- skills  (define, filetype, site, control-F, antireading, search-by-image)
- strategies
- come up to speed on a topic
- what do you need to know about search to be good
- what you know about Boolean is wrong
- control-F story
- chrome searches
- Google Earth
- how to go back in time

* KEY skill 1:  Know what’s possible to ask 
-Problem: commonplace book
→ use a reverse dictionary
- Resource:  Google Public Data Explorer  (how to use)

* KEY skill 2:  Use more than 1 resource 
- choosing keywords (use simplest language; use words that you think will be on page)
- Demo: maquette keyword choice -- choose simplest, then use define to verify
- example:  Christ the Redeemer
- use multiple resources: Google define + Earth + streetview

* Key skill 3: Understand their language 
- Skill:  Choosing search terms (name the unnameable)
- Skill: Use obvious language
- Example: sun dog
- Gotcha: Side-effect of framing in synonyms (get trapped)
- Example: Forgotten city in SF bay
- Tactic:  Term choice… The 3 elses.. (how would someone else say it?)
- Strategy:  Related searches to expand your thinking on a topic
- Tactic:  Think about variations in language (syns for common terms)
- Regional variations in terms
- Skill: Antireading
- Skill: SERP reading
- Skill: Define  (words not in Dictionary)
- use of boilerplate language / repeated phrases

* Key skill 4: Understand terms / concepts / genre 
- Strategy: Using images
- Example: tritelia laxa
- Tactic: Add in a georeference as context term
- Tactic: Understand terms in genre (domain language)
- Example:  Use scientific name to find horticultural information
- Using Maps
- Example: Create a new map to find hiking distance
- Example: Find a B&B that has a view of this fog…
- Example: JFK ditches
- Maps tools – GPS location tool (CHECK:  Does this work in new maps?
- Use lat/longs
- Maps viewing modes
- Search in a location –

* Key skill 5:  Know the capabilities of their tools   (operators) 
- Minus (how to use to exclude terms from search)
- Quotes
- Filetype
- Site:
* Gotcha:  EDU  sites
* Example: Warsaw problem
- think outside your info box
- Google Earth as a resource

* Key skill 6:  Know the structure of their information space 
- Time restricted searches
- combine date restrict with content type
- cache:    gives access to the previous Google cached version of this page
inurl:     limits searches to pages whose URL contains the argument 
intext:    limits searches to pages whose PAGE contains the argument 
- Advanced search UI… when to use it -- how to get access to it  

* Key skill 7:  Search for tools when you need one  
* Google tools:
* grapher
* calculator
* conversions
* Alerts
* Trends
* Search in other languages

* Key skill 8:  Know how to use different media types
* YouTube
* uploads / voice of customer
* Images and their searches
* creative commons filtering
* diagram trick
* search-by-image
* Books
* Patents
* Scholar
* Legal opinions
* Data table search 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Answer: How hard can it be? What color is the roof?

I’ve been slightly holding off on saying anything because I’m enjoying watching all of the comments coming in from the SearchResearch literati.   Excellent job!    

First, my answers: 

1.  What is the color of the roof at Beatrixstraat 5, Noordwijk, Netherlands? 

The obvious approach here is just to use Google Maps and look at the roof.  BUT, as you can see, this part of Noordwijk is obscured by a funny tiled pattern.  

Oddly enough, you can still get Google Streetview for this part of the city, just not the aerial view. 
You see the problem.  The roof is flat at Beatrixstraat 5.  Ignore the Dali car with a misaligned bumper.

So NOW what?

Here’s the twist:  There are other satellite imaging systems beyond Google.  This is a genuinely deep and interesting point… 

don’t get too locked into a single information provider.  

For anything.  If you can’t find it one way, try another source. 

In this case, there are multiple other ways to see the rooftop at 5 Beatrixstraat.  

Here’s Yahoo’s map:  

And here’s Bing’s map, with a nice clear view of the roof:  

I can go on in this vein. 

So clearly, Google received a “please obscure this aerial view” request from someone (or some entity) in this area.  But also, just as clearly, it’s either out of date, or the requester isn’t especially savvy about this kind of thing. 

If you’re interested, the Wikipedia article on Noodwijk has a wonderful link to GeoHack (the Wikimedia Tools) that lists all (currently) known maps and satellite imagery for the Noodwijk area. 

The Wikimedia Tools "GeoHack" that shows all imagery for a given location.

This tool generalizes as well.  If you have a lat/long it will tell you what imagery resources are available.   Here, for instance, is the GeoHack listing all image resources for the GooglePlex.  

To do this, I got the lat/long for the Googleplex, plugged it into GeoHack and found a long list of resources.  (Including this fantastic image from Blue Marble.)   
The dark areas are woods and open spaces.  It's one of the reasons I love living here. 

More generally, the GeoHack tool will list all of the known imagery sites for ANY location. 

And even more generally… try to use multiple information resources to confirm or triangulate on your questions. 

And so.. the roof color is… dark grey or black.  (And since it’s a flat roof, it’s not visible from the street.) 

2.  Why is this part of Nordwijk obscured?

What’s up with the strange obscuration on Google Earth (and Google Maps)? 

Most people found one of two possibilities.  A good starting search is something like: 

[Nordwijk obscured google maps]

This quickly leads you to the hypothesis that the reason for hiding is the presence of ESTEC (European Space Research and Technology Centre).  

ON THE OTHER HAND... people who searched on the address (Beatrixstraat 5)  found that it might be the presence of the Defense Pipeline Organization (DPO) in the neighborhood.  If you then follow up this question…

[Defense Pipeline Organisation Noordwijk ]

you get to the Gizmodo page about obscured Google Maps with the comment  
"The blurring in Noordwijk marks the site of the former headquarters of the Defense Pipeline Organisation, overseeing the Dutch part of Central European Pipeline System (CEPS). However, the DPO headquarters have been relocated to the Hague years ago."  

And there's a link to the Wikipedia page with a list of "Satellite map images with missing or unclear data".

But with an additional search, you can find that the DPO’s former address is at Hoogwakersbosstraat 12.  This is odd, because it’s OUTSIDE of the obscured area.  (It’s to the SE of the tiles.) 

And likewise, ESTEC is at  Keplerlaan 1, a few km south of the blurred area… that’s also an unlikely rationale. 

You can check out ESTEC's website at:   Since they have video tours of their site, it seems unlikely that this would be the reason for the blurring. 

So.. thus far, we don’t have a definitive reason!  Yes, I could go to the next building at the Googleplex and ask, but that would be cheating!  We’re trying to figure this out from the open web.

Bottomline:  sometimes you just can’t come up with a definitive answer.  Rats.  Keep searching. 

Search Lessons:  

1.  Don't become overly reliant on one source.  Remember there are multiple providers for most data.  Seek them out and see what THEY say.  Stay flexible.  

2.  Triangulate.  Look not just at the given reasons, but double check to see if what they say (e.g., "It's the DPO!")  makes sense.  In this case, the DPO both moved away a while ago AND their previous location wasn't in the obscured area anyway... 

3.  Think of other ways to approach the problem.   As Ramón pointed out, you can also use Google Earth to go back in time.  Also a good trick to remember if you want to see roughly when the obscuring started.  (There might be an event around that time you can search for that might give a hint about who wanted what to be hidden.)  

And lastly... 

4.  Take note of resources you find along the way.  I hadn't know about the Wikipedia satellite image tools until I stumbled across it while doing this search.  You never know when that kind of thing will come in very handy.  Take a note!  (And in so doing, become a illuminatus of Search!) 

Search on!