Taking advantage of specialised search
By Jay Dougherty Aug 26, 2006, 6:47 GMT
Washington - If the Internet is a treasure chest of information, search tools are the skeleton key you need to open the lid.
And the number of search tools you have at your disposal will have a direct bearing on exactly how much information you can unearth.
The fact is that the commonly-used search tools such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN Search are limited by the very fact that they attempt to catalogue and index so much.
Ironically, in their very comprehensiveness, the big search engines can fail to give you the results you seek when your goals are specific.
What if you're interested primarily in finding out what bloggers are saying about a certain subject, or what if you want to locate the best three Internet forums where stamp collecting is discussed?
You might stumble upon the results using Google or Yahoo, but you'll most likely have to wade through pages upon pages of search results to find what's really relevant.
That's when specialised search tools become invaluable. Lesser- know but deserving of a place in your bookmark list, these search tools excel at cataloguing specific types of Web sites. In doing so, they can help you to get to what you're looking for faster.
--- Searching for blogs
When you hear talk these days of the 'blogosphere,' you know that someone has ready access to a sampling of writers who blog about particular subjects. How do they find these blogs?
They might turn to Ask.com's Blogs and Feeds search engine (http://www.ask.com/#subject:bls|pg:1). Blogs and Feeds catalogues the myriad blogging pages that have turned up on the Internet over the past years - sites where individuals share their knowledge of subjects on a variety of topics.
How do you know that the information you'll see on a blogging site is worth reading? Blogs are typically ranked according to the number of times that other sites have linked to them. The theory is that when sites link to a blog entry, something about that entry has been deemed useful.
Ask.com is not the only search engine that has honed in on blogs, however. Bloogze (http://www.bloogz.com) has catalogued blogs in five languages, and Google is right in the game with its Google Blog Search (http://blogsearch.google.com).
--- Searching for forums
'Social networking' is the latest buzzword used to describe sites where people from around the world congregate to share information and anything else that can be distributed digitally. But in some ways, social networking sites are really just an outgrowth of Internet-based forums and chat boards, which have been around for a long time.
Forums are valuable sources of information on a wide range of specialised topics. Need to know how to upgrade a personal video recorder? Which digital camera to buy? The reliability of that guitar amplifier you're looking at? The best type of grass seed for your lawn?
No matter what the subject, you can find a forum on the Internet where people discuss it. And if it's a high-traffice forum you're after, there's no better search engine than Big Boards (http://search.big-boards.com). Only forums that contains 500,000 posts or more find their way into the index of Big Boards, so whichever forum you turn up, you're sure to find a place bustling with activity - and full of people ready to answer your questions.
--- Searching for software
If you're looking for a software program for a particular task, a typical search on Google will likely leave you frustrated - or combing through dozens of links that do not specifically lead to downloadable programs.
VersionTracker (http://www.versiontracker.com/) is one of just a few search engines that focuses specifically on cataloguing software - freeware, sharware, and commercial products combined. Thankfully, when you perform a search using VersionTracker, you can see exactly which programs are freeware and which are not. You can even sort the programs by type. So if you're interested only in freeware, you can click the License column to sort the results in a flahs. VersionTracker also lets you narrow your search by operating system.
CNet also keeps alive one of the longest-running repositories of software in its Donwload.com database (http://www.download.com). Results are handily rated according to user reviews, which are freely available to peruse if you'd like to see what others say about a program before you download it and try it yourself.
--- Searching for search engines
Once you become enamored of the efficiencies offered by specialised search engines, the challenge becomes one of finding a search engine that has catalogued the types of sites you're interested in finding. Luckily, there are plenty of 'directories of directories' to which you can turn.
Bernie Dodge, a professor at San Diego State University, has compiled his very own specialised search engine directory that he freely shares with the world (http://Webquest.sdsu.edu/searching/specialized.html). Search Engines 2 (http://www.search-engines-2.com/) is another popular site that lists hundreds of specialised search engines, including pay-per-click engines and metasearch engines, which allow you to search multiple search sites at once.
Search Engine Guide (http://www.searchengineguide.com/searchengines.html) looks more like a portal than your standard no-frills search engines popular today, but its very useful categories listing makes it as easy to browse for interesting search engines as it does to search for ones that you know you interest you.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur