Tutorial: Find Clips About Border Sensors
In this example, let’s say you want to learn about the U.S. government’s deployment of electronic sensors along the border with Mexico.
Start out by visiting the section of our database called “Clips.” That’s where we keep all the notes we take when combing through sources of official information.
- Go to defenseoversight.wola.org. At the welcome screen, either click on the “Clips” button at the top, or on the big blue button with the “Data Clips” heading.
- Or if you prefer, just navigate directly to defenseoversight.wola.org/clips.
Here’s the Clips page. It holds snippets of text, brief audio files, and images that we’ve found important enough to hang onto. Keep in mind that we’ve only been adding these notes for a couple of months. As of early 2016, there are fewer than 700 Clips in the entire database, so it could be a while before you find enough of what you’re looking for here.
We’ve tried to design this so that you can get information out of it easily. That mostly happens in the panel on the left of the screen. You can browse the Clips by country, U.S. aid program, tag (“topic”), or government agency. Searching is as easy as typing into the blank at the top, though you can do a more involved search by clicking the “Search” button on the upper left.
Browsing for Clips
Let’s try browsing first. Let’s see what comes up when you choose the “Border Security” tag.
- Click on the word “Tags.” A long list of tags will appear.
(We’re trying to keep the number of tags down, but there’s a lot going on in Latin America.) Each tag has a number in parentheses next to it; that’s the number of Clips to which we’ve assigned that tag. The tags assigned to the most Clips appear in boldface.
- In this example, “Border Security” is one of those boldfaced tags, assigned to 70 Clips. Click it.
Two things just happened.
- First, the page is now only showing you the 70 Clips that have been tagged “Border Security.” Feel free to scroll down and start reading them. (Read more about the anatomy of Clips.) The default setting is to show you 20 Clips on each page, but you can change that.
- Second, a gray rectangle with the label “Border Security” just appeared on the left, at the top of the browse area. Hover your mouse (or pointing device) over that rectangle, and the words “Border Security” appear crossed out. If you click on it, the rectangle goes away, and you’re no longer looking at Clips tagged “Border Security.” You’re right back where you started, looking at everything. (Don’t do that right now, though.)
In the example pictured here, note that the 70 Clips tagged “Border Security” are also associated with 12 countries, 5 U.S. aid programs, 44 other tags, and 21 government agencies.
- Since you’re interested in the U.S.-Mexico border, why not narrow your search by clicking “Countries,” then “Mexico.” In this example, clicking “Mexico” reduces the number of relevant Clips to 45. It also adds a new gray rectangle, labeled “Mexico,” in the left above the “Browse” section, just under the “Border Security” rectangle.
45 is still a lot of Clips to read, and we’re just interested in sensors along the border, so we should probably refine further.
- There are still 23 tags associated with these 45 “Border Security” and “Mexico” Clips. There’s no tag called “Sensors,” but the one called “Technology” seems promising for our purposes, and has eight associated Clips. Click it.
- Now you’ve got 3 rectangles on the left, and eight Clips to read through. Some of them seem to have very relevant information. (More about the layout of Clips.)
Searching for Clips
The “Technology” tag may have captured everything about sensors. Still, it may be best to search the Clips’ text for “sensors” to make sure. We’d recommend doing it this way:
- Type the word “sensors” into the “Quick Clips Search” blank at the top of the page. Type “enter” or click the “Go” button.
This reveals four Clips about “Border Security” and “Mexico” with the word “sensors” in them. But wait: sometimes, government officials don’t use the plural form, like when they say “sensor technology.”
- Let’s change our search to “sensor or sensors.” (Another way to do this would be to use an asterisk: using “sensor*” in the search blank would give you any word starting with “sensor,” like “sensors.”)
This time, we still have four Clips. So we’re done.
Just for curiosity’s sake, though, let’s get rid of the “Technology” tag.
- Click on the “Technology” rectangle to make it go away.
Suddenly there are seven relevant Clips. What are these three Clips that match “Mexico,” “Border Security,” and the words “sensor or sensors,” but are not tagged “Technology”?
We can find out, with this advanced move:
- Click on the “Search” button in the upper left of the page.
This reveals a bunch of search blanks, with your search for “sensor or sensors” filling the first one. Unfortunately, your earlier choices of “Border Security” and “Mexico” got lost here: we’ll find a fix for that in a future version of this page. This isn’t a huge inconvenience, though: you just have to type them in again.
- In the left column, find the first blank under “About all of the following countries.” Type in “Mexico”.
- In the left column, find the first blank under “About all of the following tags.” Type in “Border Security”.
- In the blank immediately following, after “but not,” type in “Technology” and hit “enter.”
Here are the three Clips that, for some reason, have the words “sensor” or “sensors” in them, are about “Mexico” and “Border Security,” but which we didn’t judge to be about “Technology.”
Why did it turn out that way? It’s hard to say, exactly. Categorizing things is an inexact science, and anyone who has used Google knows that you sometimes need to try a few searches to find what you’re looking for. That’s why it’s often best to try both browses and searches to make sure you’re getting everything that we’ve put into the database.