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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My growing bag of tricks

Hey, another Stupid USAC Web Tool Trick.  [Wait, that name makes it look like I think USAC is stupid.  I would never say that publicly.  I meant that the trick is stupid.  The tool is also stupid.]

Do you hate the Entity Search tool as much as I do?  Why can't I put in more than one Search Criteria?  Why can't I use a wildcard in the ZIP Code or Entity Number search boxes?  Why can't I choose what columns display on that first table that appears?  (At least the state appears, which is more than I can say for the Search Posted Form 470 tool results.)

So I was wondering this morning what characters would make the tool flake out, and I discovered a very cool, if not terribly useful, feature.  Check out what you can do with that % wildcard in the Entity Name field.  The instructions on the screen say "please enter at least 3 characters before the % sign."  But the real rule is: "Your query string must be at least 4 characters long, including any wildcard(s)."  Did you notice the (s)?  That's right, you can use more that one wildcard.  So, for instance, if you put in "f%dis%" (it's not case-sensitive), it will give you every entity that starts with "F" and has "DIS" somewhere later in its name.

Cool, no?

Of course, I took it to the extreme.  Yes, %%%% is a valid query string, and will return everything.  Well, it would return everything if it didn't make USAC's servers choke on the whopping list.  But by using %%%% and selecting entity types, I can tell you that there are 21,965 libraries in the database, and 17,572 districts.  And that there are enough schools to choke USAC's buffer.

Alas, this trick does not work on the SPIN Search tool, where it would really be useful in searching for DBAs.

1 comment:

  1. One other note: if you search for %center%, it will return entities with CENTER anywhere in their name. Including ones that start or end with CENTER. I thought the % had to be replaced by at least one character, but apparently not. That's unexpected but useful.