18 September 2015

Red Herrings in the hunt for German Spy, Josef Jakobs

Asparagus and Flying Aces - these are the two red herrings that can lead one astray in a search for information on Josef Jakobs. Google Search is a wonderful tool but it doesn't always return the best search results. There are tips and tricks that you can use to improve the search results. First, one must realize that Josef Jakobs/Jacobs is a fairly common name in Germany and the Netherlands. Fortunately, search results generally return only the more "famous" results.

Josef Jakobs - Spargelhof
Josef Jakobs - Spargelhof
One of the primary red herrings in the hunt for Josef Jakobs is a place near Berlin called "Josef Jakobs - Spargelhof" - essentially "Josef Jakobs - Asparagus-farm".

Back in 1996, some entrpeneurs purchased a rundown Bauernhof (farmyard) near Beelitz and transformed it into a mecca for asparagus lovers.

A quick perusal of their menu reveals that everything is made with asparagus. Here in Canada, the "good" aspargus is pencil-thin and green. But in Germany, spring is Spargel-Zeit... and it is thick, short and white. Just to be clear... this place has nothing to do with Josef Jakobs, the German spy.
Josef Jacobs - Flying Ace
Josef Carl Peter Jacobs
WWI Flying Ace
(from Wikipedia)

The other red herring that crops up on occasion is a World War I flying ace named Josef Carl Peter Jacobs. Born in 1894, this Josef Jacobs was one of Germany's premier World War I pilots. He amassed 48 victories (tied for 4th place amongst Germany's flying aces). During World War 2, Josef Jacobs joined the Luftwaffe Reserve but declined an invitation to join the Nazi Party. He ended up moving his company to The Netherlands in a bid to avoid the Nazis. After the war, Josef Jacobs moved to Bavaria where he eventually passed away in 1978. Needless to say, this Josef Jacobs also had nothing to do with German spy, Josef Jakobs.

So, how does one filter out search results in Google Search to have less Flying Aces and Asparagus? Fairly easy... Google Search uses something called Boolean operators to help improve search results. Before you freak out - Boolean operators are just a way to tell Google to use AND OR and NOT in searching. Here are a few examples:

Use double quotes to encapsulate a phrase or word to force Google to search for that:
  • instead of searching for Josef Jakobs (370,000 results)
  • search for "Josef Jakobs" inside double quotes (15,900 results)
  • instead of josef jakobs ramsey (5600 results)
  • search for "josef jakobs" "ramsey" (692 results)
Use minus signs to force Google to exclude certain words/phrases

  • instead of josef jakobs
  • search for "josef jakobs" -"spargelhof"
  • this will force Google to search for Josef Jakobs while excluding all references to Spargelhof
I find that these options usually work best when single words are enclosed in double quotes as well - consistency is key
  • don't do this: "josef jakobs" london - spargelhof
  • do this "josef jakobs" "london" -"spargelhof"

Google Search is a pretty smart tool but these tricks just gives you a bit more control over the results that you want to see. It can take some getting used to but once you've got it down, it'll become second nature.

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