On a quest of how to search …

Everyone knows that search on the web is synonymous with Google. Or is it? I’d say it used to be … still is to some extent … but not entirely.

Anyone who spends a considerable amount of time browsing the internet and searching for content is bound to be – knowingly or unknowingly – using more than one medium to search. I will try here to share some that I use.

Well, see the problem with google search is that it throws up a lot of irrelevant search results along with the relevant ones. So that means you have to dig through the search results, drill down, refine your search string and despite that at times come back all sweaty, grimy and empty handed. Well maybe an exaggeration, but it could still leave you wanting for more.

The second problem that I see with google search is, that I am not getting any feedback, opinions, ideas related to the topic I am searching for. So there is no conversation happening. I cannot ask any questions, get any replies .. it is like watching television… very one sided. It is because of this reason that I had said on twitter once that “Twitter is making me lazy. I prefer to ask a question here and get contextual answers rather than do a search on Google”. This other time I tweeted that “Twitter search has something Google doesn’t have – people”.

But I digress. The point here is not to put down Google search (They are doing their job pretty well I’m sure) but to discuss alternate means of searching for content on the web.

The trick is in knowing what you’re searching for and what could be the optimum places to look for them. I was recently looking for a prototyping tool which would give me the option of adding rich in-the-page interactivity. Searched high and low on Google but came up with nothing. That is when I turned to LinkedIn. Yeah.. LinkedIn. While it is a great community for business networking, the added advantage is that it has an active community of professionals discussing, offering feedback and opinion – all of which is a lot more useful because here is someone talking about their own experience rather than trying to sell you something. Well guess what! In a discussion of User Experience professionals group, I found a list of prototyping tools I had not come across on Google, found opinions of which ones are useful in which context and also tips of how people are using existing tools like powerpoint and visio very successfully for prototyping.

I did mention Twitter already. A very active community, people on Twitter (notice how I refrain from calling them Tweeple ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) are always more than willing to help you out if you need something. Just try it sometime. Looking for something? Ask a question on twitter. Believe you me, you will not be disappointed. People offer suggestions, opinions and if they don’t know, they will RT- retweet – your tweet so that someone in their network can offer you help. People on twitter called it Crowd Sourcing. I have indulged myself on various occasions, asking about tools I needed, acronyms I shouldn’t have mentioned ๐Ÿ˜‰ and hell even opinions for narrowing down options while buying my car.

Even Twitter Search throws up very useful results. I now often tend to put a search string in http://search.twitter.com/ before I google. Twitter search again brings to you tweets of people sharing their views and comments along with suggestions. You do want to know more about the link you are going to click, the tool you are searching for, that phrase you have to research, links people are recommending. It helps to filter out a lot of crap which you otherwise tend to encounter through regular search.

You may even consider platforms likeย Slideshare and Scribd. Although with Slideshare you are most likely to end up with a list of ‘ten things your organisation should or shouldn’t in the social media space’, no matter what was your search string. If you have the patience to dig through that content, you may come across some real insights related to the topic you searched for.

Some of the other sites I have used successfully in the past are YouTube, Digg.com (this was a very useful resource while I was searching for icons once). The point is that these are all sites with user generated content. So if you search on them, you will definitely find more than you were looking for. Opinions and suggestions make your search more relevant and the conversations make it more interesting ๐Ÿ™‚

Having said that, Google still has what none of these sites have – Pacman!! :-D.

Do share your experiences of searching on these sites and also any special tips or techniques that you use while searching. Would be really good to know ๐Ÿ™‚

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9 thoughts on “On a quest of how to search …

  1. Some more for you to consider are

    Friendfeed is still useful though it seems people have reduced usage in recent times. Users can aggregate content from various services into their account and this makes search very interesting.

    Kosmix is interesting because it consolidates various sources. It provides context of a topic .. try global warming or myocardial infarction to see impact. However this kind of data will not be available on all topics either. There are other services like Twine ( possibly called evri now ) that you could explore.

    Wolfram Alpha , One Riot, Daylife, Amplify, Mixx are some examples.

    You might want to explore bx.businessweek.com which provides interesting content.

    Another aspect of search, perhaps would be on mobile. Where the needs are various different. One is either looking for information in the vicinity one is in or exploring maps. How search services provide data in such a context is the other area to explore. Consider Ovi Maps and their tie ups with Burrp, Lonely Planet to provide information and reviews within the free service.

    There are many more. There are specialist custom search engines based on Google that are vertical specific that you can explore.

    overall it depends on the context of your search…

    • sunainak says:

      Wow! That’s quite a list. And most of which I had not heard of before. Thank you!

      And you are absolutely right. Context is the key.

      Thank you for your comment ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Searching for information on Google only aids in getting relevant information (ofcourse if the user knows the tricks).

    However the new age follows a new dictum – Relevancy and Recency. And this is where Google still fumbles despite several improvements during the last few months. Probably this is why most of the net savvy users are now shifting to a multi search mode. From my personal point – it is a bit tedious and time consuming, but it pays off.

    In my opinion Yahoo is the king when it comes to searching multiple sites; with a service like Yahoo Pipes one can search any numebr of sites in one go, then get the results either as rss or json or on email and even phone. This is useful when one has to keep track of a sector or any topic of interest.

    I made one such pipe early last year that scours across multiple new sites including Google Bing, Yahoo and social media sites like Twitter, Friendfeed, slideshare and many others. Just type in your keyword and it starts searching and fetching the latest & relevant from multiple sources.

    url: http://pipes.yahoo.com/nitin/conventional_and_social_media_tracker

    However, I do not maintain it any more but it still works. You may want to play aound with it ( but on a sytem with better RAM and a better browser).

  3. Firstly, love the new look of the blog.

    As far as the post goes, I found it an interesting read and I agree with you that social networking sites provide a better and more subjective search. Well penned. Looking forward to reading more tips from you on the subject.

    Happy Blogging!

  4. Bhanik says:

    Well I agree with you completely that searching on social media sites tends to give you accurate results as well as more personalized answers to what you are looking for. But according to me, the key thing is your query should reach the right people. With some of the social media sites, like twitter etc it boils down to if your follower happens to be one of those right person or if any of your followers RTs that tweet for you and you hope that reach that right person.

  5. hello Sunaina,
    you made some valid points about the search process which Google follows, and true that basically Google doesn’t search rather it enables the user to search. ๐Ÿ™‚
    depending upon the content and context which a person wants to run a search there are various kinds of search engines available, like the computational search engine wolfarmalpha or DeepPeep for searching the Database forms and dynamic pages (limitations with Google is that it indexes only static pages, and a lot of content online are stored in Databases).

    I have Written couple of articles on Search Engines and technologies, Have a look at them and let me know if they are helpful.

    http://www.saurabhkumar.net/blog/?p=111
    http://www.saurabhkumar.net/blog/?p=71

  6. Siddhant Goel says:

    Well, you should try Aardvark (http://www.vark.com), if you want interactive searching. With that being said, Google solves its purpose – making information across the web available to you. Yes spam is a problem, but it usually works out if you search for the right keywords.

    Searching on other websites (Digg, Youtube, LinkedIn, Scribd, SlideShare) just doesn’t make any sense (if you want information present on the *web*). They’re highly content/context specific, and are not indexing the entire web. Google is. A better comparison would have been between Google, Bing, Blekko, and DuckDuckGo. Of course, if you’re searching for a specific presentation from a specific person, searching on SlideShare makes sense.

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