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Reviewed by Nicole Redman
Ever try searching for something around the house when you really
need it and you find just about everything else but that one crucial
thing? You wish you had a bloodhound or good detective to speed
up your search. You gradually begin to narrow your search to certain
areas and hopefully eventually you find what you're looking for.
Sometimes you find yourself in a similar situation on the Internet.
It can be a cluttered roadblock and without search engines there
would be no one to help direct the traffic.
If you are like most casual surfers, you put in your keyword or
words and let it rip....Only to have your search engine come back
with tons of stuff. You then resign yourself to sifting through
this madness hoping to come across the item pertaining to your particular
search. There are ways around this chaos. Randolph Hock's guide
is a good start to achieving a much more efficient search on the
Information Highway without getting run over.
This practical handbook, written by an Internet trainer and authority
on Web search engines, is a great remedy for those headache-inducing
searches. The author also includes as a bonus to readers information
regarding his "The Extreme Searcher's Web Page" - http://www.onstrat.com/engines
which provides up-to-date links for all the search engines and meta-engines
cited in the book.
The Extreme Searcher's Guide offers tips and techniques
for competent and quick queries using some of the more popular search
engines, directories and meta-search engines. If you are a novice
you may be intimidated by some of the more complicated search techniques
and terms. However, the glossary, although somewhat brief, contains
relevant explanations of some terms which may be new to you. It
is clear even by the subtitle of the book that Hock does intend
this book for the more experienced searcher.
The book starts with very detailed Table of Contents, List of Illustrations,
and List of Tables which are helpful for the "skimmer"
looking for quick information and fixes. Throughout the book there
are Hints and Tips displayed in boxes with a illustrated magnifying
glass for Hints and a lightbulb for Tips.
Chapter 1 starts with a brief history of search engines and their
components, explaining their commonalties and backgrounds. Hock
makes it very clear that the quality of results you obtain from
search engines depends largely on the quality of your query. Most
search engines cover fewer than fifty percent of the 320 million-plus
pages of information on the Web. In order to improve your searches
Hock suggest different features typically offered by Web search
engines. The descriptions of these features: Boolean logic, truncation,
phrase searching, proximity searching, proper name searching, and
field searching are excellent. Hock points out their strengths and
weaknesses. Output options are also discussed in this chapter.
If you want a quick look at the differences between search engines,
Table 1.4 on pages 32-33 contains detailed benchmark results for
seven popular search engines. Table 1.5 on pages 36-41 is a Search
Engines Features Guide of eight major search engines.
Hock covers AltaVista, Excite, HotBot, Infoseek, Lycos (both versions:
Home Page & Lycos Pro Search), Northern Light, WebCrawler, and
Yahoo!. Each profile start with an overview of the engine, followed
by a thumbs up/thumbs down chart for its strengths and weaknesses.
The writer manages to be fair in his criticisms -- a challenging
task because a significant amount of his documentation came from
the search engine providers themselves. The profiles continue with
sections on What Happens Behind the Scenes, Search Features, Output,
Special Options, Add-Ons, Directory and ends with a Summary of the
search engine. Add-ons, such as home pages, links, and E-mail addresses
of each search engine are mentioned but not thoroughly discussed.
Hock emphasizes that add-ons are expendable supplementary items
that do not apply to the actual capability of the engine and that
are also constantly changing.
Hock highlights unique features of each search engine. AltaVista,
for example is known to have one of the widest spans of conventional
search functionality. Excite is unique in its ability to find information
built on its automated thesaurus. HotBot has an advanced version
with more choices, Infoseek also has this and a directory. Hock
highly recommends Northern Light for the researcher interested in
proprietary publications as well as Web pages. Northern Light is
also well-known for its extensive subject index. This specific type
of information on each site is helpful for the researcher who wants
undertake a constructive search.
Chapter 10 looks at Meta-Search Engines and their ability to scour
many sites at once. Hock highlights six of them, their methods,
advantages and disadvantages. He cautions the reader that results
from Meta-engines are limited.
Chapter 11 recommends sites, E-mail newsletters, and articles for
future reading on search engines. The conclusion in Chapter 12 offers
suggestions for benchmark testing and better searches.
Hock's book is an excellent sources for information on search engines
for those ardent information seekers out there on that clutter highway
known as the Web.
AltaVista http://www.altavista.com or http://www.av.com
Published in Sources, Number 45, Winter 2000.