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The Rambling DBA: Jonathan Kehayias

The random ramblings and rantings of frazzled SQL Server DBA

Did you Know: There’s more to using Search Engines than just words?

Ever feel like the guy in the Bing Search Overload commercials?  You are not alone.  It’s happened a couple of times recently that someone has been looking for something online and couldn’t find what they were looking for and in a few quick searches I have been able to locate the information.  Now I don’t profess to be the master of all things search engine, but I have learned over the years that there is more to searching the internet than just plugging a few words into the search box and letting it search.  At least if you want the right results in the first page. 

Along the way I have picked up a number of things that other people either don’t know about or don’t think about trying until they are shown.  Thankfully sites like Google have provided references for how to use their search engines:

Google Help : Cheat Sheet

A lot of times I have a distinct advantage when I am searching for something SQL Server related.  Unless it is something new that I have never seen before, I can generally use extra key words in my search based on the subject matter.  For example if I am looking for something corruption related, I know to add “Paul Randal” to the search criteria.  Internals related information I throw “Kalen Delaney” into the mix, SQLCLR “Bob Beauchemin” or “Adam Machanic”, etc.  This comes a lot from answering questions online, and being subscribed to dozens of blogs in my blog reader (if you want to know what to read checkout the PASS Blog Directory)  A lot of times I will recall having read something which helps redefine my search, or better yet, I have referenced it before in the past and just need to find it again.

I also do domain restrictive searching to key domains where I would expect to find the best information on a subject.  You can do this by using the site:<domainname> search operator along with your search criteria.  For example I know that there is an excellent series on the SQL Server Plan Cache on the Sql Programability Blog on MSDN.  If you search for sql server plan cache none of the articles in that series will show up on the first page.  However if you constrain the search and use site:blogs.msdn.com sql sql server plan cache four of the results on the first page come from that series.  Some key domains that I use in searching are:

blogs.msdn.com
msdn.microsoft.com
support.microsoft.com
sqlblog.com
sqlskills.com
sqlservercentral.com
sqlteam.com
simple-talk.com

This same search is also a good example of where less may actually turn out to be more.  Adjusting the search criteria to be plan cache without using sql server brings up the same blog series in the top three results.  Sometimes by knowing what you are after, you can actually limit yourself results wise.  I like to change word order (yes this can affect results), as well as add and remove common words from my search criteria.  

At other times I will use exact phrase searches by wrapping a search criteria inside of double quotes.  A great place to use this is error messages, but with some slight modifications.  Lets say that you find the following error in your SQL Server Error Log:

SQL Server has encountered 153 occurrence(s) of I/O requests taking longer than 15 seconds to complete on file Q:\SQLData\MSSQL.1\AdventureWorks2005.mdf. The OS file handle is 0x00000000013000940.  The offset of the latest long I/O is: 0x000000093e0000.

Doing an exact match search on this is going to be fruitless, unless someone has the same drive configuration, number of occurrences, and offsets.  So when working with an error like this, you need to disseminate what is instance specific information versus what is going to be common.  For errors such as this one I would perform a split exact match search on “SQL Server has encountered” “occurrence(s) of I/O requests taking longer than 15 seconds to complete on file” which returns lots of great results associated with the error message.

Now I know I haven’t covered all of the ways to search for information, but hopefully what is covered above will help in making you more efficient in your own online searches.  What tricks do you have that are good in helping find information online?

BTW (giving credit where credit is due):

I really like how Kalen Delaney has quick topic headers for most of her blog posts.  Hopefully she doesn’t mind me borrowing from her for posts like this one.  The “Did You Know” header is actually hers, but it is a good fit for topics like this one.

Published Monday, September 14, 2009 11:32 PM by Jonathan Kehayias

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