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Dean's Digital World (Sources 55)

By Dean Tudor

Searching on the Internet: Hear the Latest

Dean Tudor


As readers will remember, one of my favourite researchers on the Internet is Tara Calashain. She is the author of "Google Hacks", which I reviewed here last time. She's also the owner of ResearchBuzz, a damn good site, which keeps up with the latest happenings on the Internet vis-à-vis web searches and resources. Her domain is www.researchbuzz.com. You can sign up for a free weekly newsletter and you can have lots of access to plenty of archives.

In many ways, Tara keeps Google up-to-date with her user searches and her explanations. She constantly reviews new techniques for finding stuff through Ask Jeeves, Yahoo, Libraries and Media. Just recently, she did a thorough analysis of free E-mail accounts at Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo. She also has free PDFs for download, which attempt to keep her books and discourses up-to-date. One example of a PDF is "Seven Ways to Save Time Searching"; another is "Things That Yahoo and Google Can't Do". Brilliant material. Through her column, I found out about the metasearch for Trademark Regulations at www.markenbusiness.com. Here you can search for US, Canadian, Mexican, WIPO, EU trademarks. A great boon for due diligence searchers.

Her latest book is Web Search Garage (Prentice-Hall, 2005, 236 pages, ISBN 0-13-147148-1, $28.99 paper covers) which was released in August 2004. Unfortunately, Prentice-Hall has fallen victim to the insidious trick of forward dating the copyright notice (here, 2005) in an attempt to promote the book's currency. Shame, shame…Tara wrote her first book about the Internet in 1996; this is now her third or fourth. It is mainly about both how to frame queries and where the answers can be found. The table of contents show chapters describing search engines and their characteristics, plus browser capabilities (but nothing on Mozilla's Firefox, which came out too late for inclusion in this book). She has a huge section on the "principles of searching" - ten of them, helping you find what you need faster. These principles of Internet search present strategies to do your searching efficiently, no matter what search engine or other search resources you're using.

She tells how to narrow searches to get a manageable number of results, while still finding what you want, to find experts and preexisting research for the topics in which you're interested, how to evaluate search resources for credibility, how to discover new resources and search engines relevant to the topics in which you're interested.

In addition, people use the Internet for about ten common search scenarios. She thus covers jobs, genealogy, people, audio-visual graphics and images, local information, medical information and drugs, kid-safe searches, purchases (consumers), ready reference, and, of course, news. The book has a nice layout, with chunks of information and sidebars somewhat like Dummy books. There is an index.

Certainly one New Yorker could use Internet searches. Earlier this year, an artist created a mosaic of historical figures for a public library in Livermore, California. Unfortunately, there were 11 misspellings, such as Eistein, Shakespere, Michaelangelo, and Van Gough. At first, the artist refused to correct the mistakes, even at city expense. But then she did, even though she felt put upon and suggested that complaints were directed at her because she had made money for doing the commission.

Another of my favourite researchers on the Internet is free-lance librarian Marylaine Block, who writes a column called "The Finder's Keepers" for The CyberSkeptic's Guide to Internet Research. Her domain Web site has full details <marylaine.com>. She also puts out a free weekly newsletter Neat New Stuff (over 7500 subscribers; details at her Web site) which comments on new Web sites and their developments. She has ExLibris, an e-zine for librarians and other information junkies. ExLibris is more narrative, with interviews of other Web searchers and researchers, points of view on the Internet, and search strategies. Both these services have permanent archives at her site. She has good notes on how to analyze Web sites, and I would like to paraphrase them:

  • look for an "about this site" page; this should explain the purpose, scope, sponsor, funding, credits. The Internet is all about trust and credibility.
  • look for some element of selection criteria applied to any section of links. (In my own opinion, too many links are merely reciprocal).
  • look for a site map or index for a sense of structure, of how to satisfy both searchers and browsers.
  • look for navigation bars with some sort of topical outlines.
  • look for primary functions, such as "original content" or a unique means of access, or "archives" or "directory" or "links". Does it use any metasearch engines?
  • drill your way through every topic in the navigation bars, checking to see if they are logical or related or both. Is the navigation intuitive and transparent?
  • check on the currency of dates and the unbroken links.
  • look for different services (e.g., different search engines) being provided to different communities (e.g., browsers, searchers, members, hobbyists).
  • look for the unusual but informative linkages, which probably are hidden or buried; these may need to be highlighted.
  • for heavy duty analysis, try running searches throughout the Web site and through the larger search engines such as Google, to see what can be traced.
  • also for heavy duty analysis, keep a paper trail by either printing out a record of what you've done or saving screen shots to a folder.
  • ask yourself questions: would I find what I need at this site? and would I find it easily?

The problem of forward dating has not yet reared its ugly head on the Internet, and logically there is no real need for it since currency is immediate and not fixed in print as a book can be. But I just got a couple of books from Wiley, a text publisher that uses forward dating. In the book business, information is fixed in print, chiseled in stone. There is no way to change it without re-printing the whole book. The matter is exacerbated by having to close off the book at some point so that it can be printed and indexed. It still takes a couple of months for an indexed book to be printed and released through the delivery systems. Add to this the forward dating concept and at some point, the book is going to be out-of-date in terms of its copyright notice.

One such book I got was Canada: Year in Review 2004 from the Canadian Press and John Wiley (163 pages, ISBN 0-470-83529-X, $18.99 paper covers). It is edited by Patti Tasko of CP. The overview topics includes politics, regions of Canada, business and finance, sports, crime, health and science, lifestyles, Canada on the international scene, arts and entertainment, obituaries, and oddities (why this?). There are lots of colour photos, all of which can be ordered separately (see the last page of the book). But the text and photos cover just to the beginning of September, at least for Olympic pictures and TIFF in Toronto. No specific dates are mentioned, just the month. There is no coverage for the last four months of 2004, nor is there any coverage for the last four months of 2003. That at least would have made a year or twelve months of coverage. Missing then are topics such as the sub Chicoutimi, the NHL lockout, the Giller prize, the US election's impact on Canada. The book looks as if it was meant for schools and libraries. No index, of course. But at least the book was copyrighted for 2004.

Another Wiley book is Canadian Global Almanac 2005 Edition (912 pages, ISBN 0-470-83523-0, $18.99 paper covers), an annual of some distinction. Almanacs are generally published with the date in their title, a date for which they can be USED, and not the coverage date. This almanac has "all the facts you need about Canada and the World". There are 37 more pages than the 2004 edition, but the price has been increased by three dollars. It has all things Canadian, with lots of data squeezed into small print: economy, entertainment, famous Canadians, geography, government and politics, statistics, science, sports, plus global and world events. The current events for 2004 section has been moved ahead in the book, but it is still actually just October 1 (2003) through September 30 (2004). Thus, no Chicoutimi, no Gillers, no US election. It does mention specific dates. And, sadly, the copyright date is 2005. For what it is, I can highly recommend the book to every researcher, for its bargain price. But it is a shame to see a forward dated copyright notice; there is no valid reason for this. Indeed, it borders on unethical.

Dean Tudor can be reached at dtudor@ryerson.ca.



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