It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it…

//It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it…

It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it…

We’ve all heard this before, but when it comes to Googling tough topics the same rules apply. Knowing the right words to use can be difficult. The key to finding an answer is properly phrasing the question. You know generally what you’re looking for but still struggle to find the answer.

This has probably happened to us all, you stumble upon a few articles related to your issue but no responses, no solutions. You know there has to be an answer out there somewhere; so what do you do? Well here are a few tips on finding just the right words to say.

Mind Melding

That’s right, this first technique requires you to get into the minds of other developers and think about how they would ask the question. Ask yourself, is there another way to phrase my question? If for instance you’re using technical jargon, try reverting to more common phrases or words.

Not all developers posting to Stack Overflow have the same skill set or vocabulary. If you’re trying too hard thinking about syntax and stumbling over semantics; maybe simplify your question. You could be over complicating the search results by using too many keywords.

The reverse can be true as well; maybe you’re not being specific enough. Try thinking more on the lines of what details another developer would include in their post. Is there an error message that you could paste into Google? Would other developers add more detail on this issue?

Take a look:

Let’s say I’m working with Microsoft InfoPath Designer to build a custom form for a SharePoint library. There’s a repeating table in my form and I need to get a roll-up of all the entries made in one of the columns. The field itself is alpha-numeric and I’m not looking for a sum, rather I need to group all of the entries together.

Here’s what I enter:

Group all repeating tables values in one field

Now if you try searching this phrase you will get a number of results related formulas and how to sum numeric fields. This is a common action in InfoPath and has good reason to be at the top of your results. But it’s not what you’re looking for, so is there another way to ask this question? Of course!

Try this:

InfoPath concatenate repeating table field into one field

We have a winner! The top result gives us instructions on using InfoPath’s eval() and concat() functions to do just what we need. Even if you’re unfamiliar with InfoPath you can see the power of rephrasing your question.

Presto-Changeo

This technique is solely focused on individual words. Unlike the technique above this is when changing one word could hand over the keys to the kingdom. It can be difficult to target that one word or know which word to use instead. In this case just start with a word in your search that you’re most unsure about. Try Googling that one word by itself. It may help to understand what a particular syntactic element or token means.

Context of the word or phrase can be meaningful as well. Is your search simply a cut and paste from an error message? Try adding the context of that error message, such as SharePoint, JavaScript, etc. Some errors can be too generic or may cross over programming languages. Adding the context in front of your search can easily narrow your results.

Take a look:

Using the same example above where we changed around much of the phrase, let’s see if all of those extra words were really necessary. Maybe there was just one word holding us back from getting the results we want.

Starting with this:

Group all repeating tables values in one field

Changing just the first word from “Group” to something more specific like “Concatenate” we get the results we were looking for!

Try this:

Concatenate all repeating tables values in one field

You may be asking yourself, well what if I didn’t know what concatenate meant? Well keep reading into the next section to see how you could have logically stumbled across its meaning on your own

Look Harder

Sometimes looking harder is the remedy. A deeper dive allows you to better understand the issue and may reveal details previously unnoticed. Before you can get to the ‘how’ occasionally you will need to discover the “what” and the “why”. With only a very basic understanding of the issue, knowing which words to use becomes nearly impossible. In this case, jumping right into a search can be a fruitless act. If you don’t fully understand the problem how can you phrase the question?

This technique can be controversial because it requires more work before finding the answer, but maybe there’s something you’re missing? Spending less time worrying about whether you’re using the right syntax in your search, try digging deeper into the issue. Do you have to revisit your code? Re-read an error code? There could be something there that sparks an understanding which will allow you to search more effectively.

Take a Look:

Let’s continue with our example from InfoPath.

Starting with this:

Group all repeating tables values in one field

Instead of jumping to Google and getting some frustrating results, we dig a little deeper. Just opening the formula constructor within InfoPath we go to the Text Category and find the concat() function. After reading its description “Combines two or more fields…” even without a full understanding of how to use it we search for the term concat. Once we have a better understanding of its definition we now replace “Group” with “Concat” and boom! We have a relevant top search result.

Try this:

Concat all repeating tables values in one field

Hello Operator

Google has a series of operators which can be very helpful in narrowing your search. This may seem trivial to some, but for others that weren’t around during the growth of search engines, it can be powerful. Being able to exclusively include or exclude keywords, target a series, or find the missing word in a phrase are cornerstones to the search engine.

In our examples above we mentioned adding keywords such as SharePoint, JavaScript, etc. but sometimes Google will still retrieve unrelated results. Is it because your issue is too generic or common across multiple programming languages? Possibly, so by adding quotes around your keywords, using AND operators, as well as exclusions we can get rid of those pesky unrelated results.

Take a Look:

After reading up on Google’s handy search operators we can finally give our original search another shot. In the initial results we were getting many topics related to summing numeric values.

Starting with this:

Group all repeating tables values in one field

Since this is not relevant to our issue let’s add -sum at the end of our search which excludes results containing the sum() formula. In addition to the exclusion we can add some exact match quotations further refining our search. By putting the words repeating tables and values in quotes we get another relevant top search result that references the concat() and eval() functions.

Try this:

Group all “repeating tables” “values” in one field -sum

Helpful Sites

Our final technique includes one of the Google search operators but is worth mentioning on its own. The site: operator is a great tool for narrowing results based on your topic. There are a number of helpful sites out there that many developers use on a regular basis. Obviously it depends on the programming languages you use and your skill level but common sites include:

Take a Look:

Because our example relates to InfoPath specifically let’s see what happens when we use the site: operator.

Starting with this:

Group all repeating tables values in one field

We include a reference to the InfoPath Dev website mentioned above. Since we’re only interested in InfoPath results this website is a great place to start. Using the same exact phrase while adding the InfoPath Dev website we get a relevant search result on the first page. It’s not at the very top like in our previous examples but this is just one scenario. In our case, another useful site filter would have included the Microsoft Developer Network.

Try this:

site:http://www.infopathdev.com/ Group all repeating tables values in one field

By | 2017-02-16T17:33:34+00:00 February 16th, 2017|Tips & Tricks|0 Comments

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