2006 Conference General Sessions

INTERNET SEARCH STRATEGIES: FINDING WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR


Presenter(s)
David Flanient
Guild for the Blind
180 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1700
Chicago IL 60601-7463
Day Phone: 312-236-8569
Email: davidf@guildfortheblind.org

What is the Internet? The World Wide Web?
Although many people use the two terms synonymously, they do not have the same meaning. The Internet refers to a computer network that covers the globe. The World Wide Web is a client that uses the Internet. It is a way of accessing information across the Internet. Other clients that use the Internet include email, chat, and file transferring. A common analogy for this relationship is to think of the Internet as a highway, and the World Wide Web as a car on the highway.

Developing search strategies
It is estimated that there are over 3 billion web pages. These pages are not arranged in any kind of order and no roadmap exists to follow. It is wise to develop some search strategies to maximize the effectiveness of your search.

You can begin by asking yourself some basic questions:
1 what information do I want?
2 How specific does the information need to be?
3 How quickly do I need this information and how much time am I willing to
spend searching for it?
4 Are there many similar or even equivalent topics to my topic?
The answers will help to determine what type of search engine you will use and how you will qualify your search.

Types of search Engines
Crawlers
Crawlers are probably the most widely used way of finding information on the web. They provide specific information on your topic and will include more recent web pages than other types of searches. The one drawback for crawlers is you may have to sift through some results that have little or nothing to do with the information you are seeking search strategies with Crawlers

unless otherwise specified, most crawlers use the AND clause between search items. If you type “leather boots” in the search box, the results will have both the word “leather’ and the word “boots.” if the OR clause were used, the resulting pages would have either the word “leather” or the word “boots,” giving you many more pages to look through including those that are unrelated to your specific topic.

That is not to say never use the OR clause. It can come in handy when you are not sure which of two or more search items will help you find the information you need, or when search items may appear in different ways. when using the OR clause be sure to type the word OR in capital letters with a space on both sides.

Another useful strategy is the use of quotation marks. Quotes allow you to specify a phrase, treating everything within the quotes as one search item.
 

Flament #1
There may be times when you would like to exclude a search item from your search. This is possible with the negation operator. The negation operator is the single dash. Put it immediately in front of the search item you wish to exclude from your search with no spaces between the dash and the search item.

The search terms you use in a crawler will greatly impact the success of your search. So you need to think about what search terms you will use and how they will be connected in your search. For example, if you are looking for information on Ronald Reagan, but you do not want to see information on his movies with Bonzo, just typing “ronald reagan” in the search box will result in pages that have the word “Ronald” and the word “Reagan,” but not necessarily “Ronald Reagan.” The best way to accomplish the goal of getting as much information as possible about Ronald Reagan excluding information on his movies with Bonzo may be to type: “ronald reagan” OR “reagan, ronald” —bonzo.

Most crawlers will have a link for advanced searches, which will give you even more control over your searches. Typically the advanced search form would have several combo boxes followed by edit boxes and may have some check boxes. The combo boxes would include choices such as exact phrase, does not contain, or, etc. You would choose one of these and fill in the search items in the edit box next to that combo box. By combining the boxes, you can narrow your search results.

Directories
Directory searches work by either choosing categories until you find what you are lookin9 for or using a text search that goes through descriptions of web sites. Some directory searches are human-powered. The results from a directory search will have been evaluated/reviewed by the search site and are going to be less likely to have off-target results than the results from a crawler search.

The results of a directory search are not as current as the results of a crawler search.
When a new web site goes up on the web a description has to be written or a category entry has to be made before that site will appear in your results. Also, any changes that are made to web sites will not be shown in the results of the directory search. Again, your results are based on either the description or the category entry not the contents of the web site.

Other Types of Searches
Two other ways of searching the web include databases and meta-search engines. Searching a database usually means a database that revolves around one topic. Many databases have an HTML interface allowing the user to search the information contained in the database through a web site.

Meta-search engines use several different search engines and combine the results. Usually they will use the same method of determining which results they will show as other search engines. Meta—search engines usually do not use the top search engines when gathering their results, and, currently do not offer much better results than other search engines.

Where to Go
Google is a good place to start. According to almost every survey recently done about searching the web, Google is the most popular and widely used search engine on the World Wide Web. Google is a crawler. Besides searching the web, Google also lets you search for images, groups, news, and more.

Yahoo is also a great place to go. Yahoo is one of the oldest search engines on the web. unlike Google, Yahoo is a directory search engine. You can either choose from categories or type in text in a search box to search through descriptions of web pages. Yahoo offers many other services besides a directory search including email, travel, news, and more.

Flament #1
About may be another good resource. About is a directory based search usin9 what they call Guides. They have a large staff of people who are knowledgeable in their fields to ensure your search results give you the answers you are seeking. As with most directory searches, you can either choose categories until you find what you want or use a search box to type in search items.

You may also want to consider using search en9ines with a specific focus. For example city search is a great place to find information about different cities. You can find tourist attractions, restaurants, entertainment, real estate, etc. all focused on the city you have chosen.

Finally, Ask Jeeves is at least worth mentioning. In the late nineties, Ask Jeeves pushed itself as the search engine with the human touch; they had people going through the most popular search topics looking for the best results for those searches. Today Ask Jeeves is a crawler based search engine. They do a good job at it and even have a Smart search.

Web Resources
Google
http://www.google.com

Yahoo
http://www.yahoo.com

About
http://www.about.com

City Search
http://www.citysearch.com

Ask Jeeves
http://www.askjeeves.com


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