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 😉 ) 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 😉 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 like 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 🙂

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 🙂

Tweet-te Raho!!!

Considering the amount of time I spend on twitter each day and in an attempt to certify myself a true twitter-aholic (read Twit), I am going to publish the following list –

You know you are a Twitter-aholic when:

1. With every major or minor thought in your head, you are already trying to compose a 140 character dialogue to tweet it. (Have seen people who write tweets like –> *heard sound* *woke-up* *realised nothing* *going back to sleep*) 😀

2. You are hanging out with friends and family and they are begging you to get off your phone and stop tweeting. (Happened to me today :D)

3. Yes, you are tweeting from your phone.. because you just need to tweet all the time!

4. You tweet while driving (done that) (I think they will come up with a law against this soon) (*gulp!*)

5. You can proudly claim to know people who are bigger twits than you! (twits = twitteraholic —> Look at the top right widget. Yeah I’m a twit :D)

6. You have participated in one of the rollicking trending of hashtags marathon. Great fun! Especially when we trended #iconicindianads

7. You start hashtagging each conversation with friends – even on IMs and SMS. (also, if you know what a hashtag is :-P)

8. You write everything in a hashtag and create bizarre and insane hashtags. I’m a newbie at this, but some great examples would be Dr. Gonzo, TyagiG and Nothing Man (great people all of them! Follow them at your own risk 🙂 ) #YouCanAlsoDoItLikeThis.

9. You feel very happy when someone RTs your tweet (RT is ReTweet you nOOB!)

10. You have a lot of fun on twitter and start believing that you are making great friends there (this could also be a sign of how you don’t actually have a life, but that point of view is just of people who don’t get it 😉 )

11. Follower count matters! You feel bad each time this count drops and hope it was a bot leaving and not someone you bored with your tweets. Yeah it matters.

Also, you have to admit, signs of a true twit is to be writing this post :D. So we will call it number 12. (For those of you who know me in real life.. don’t you dare laugh at this number!!! :-P)

Know of some more signs? Please do add to this list.

Is Google losing the race because it’s trying to catch up?

There was a time when every company wanted to be a Google. That was back when Google was being itself, was leading the pack and making stuff  THEY believed was of  value. Examples? Google Maps, Google Docs … way back with Gmail, way way way back when it all started with Google Search.

They had a little something going for them back then. All you had to do was land up on a Google application and you just knew what to do. The applications were designed so intuitively, that as a user you really didn’t have to think about what to do next. I remember thinking, Hey I wish I could do that! Make something that simple to use.

But something started going wrong along the way. Wave happened. A tremendous buzz was created about it (pardon the pun). A lot of anticipation built up with the way it was introduced and the way invites were restricted in the beginning (Now I have about twenty of them lying waste in my inbox and no takers. I even offered them out on Twitter and no one was interested). I don’t know about others, but Wave really failed to create any ripples in my life. I hardly log onto it – like never.

Where Wave came with a bang, Google Buzz crept up on us silently. I woke up one morning with my Twitter timeline abuzz about this new “Social Networking” platform from Google. There was a lot of anticipation and sure I was intrigued too. So ok Wave failed, but a Social Networking site from Google’s gotta be something to look forward to right? Umm.. Apparently not. This time round Google was faster. I got access to the application the very next day. It was in my inbox when I logged in. So obviously I checked it out. But it left me confused. I opened Buzz and I didnt know what to do next! (which is so

unlike Google!)

Google Buzz creating a fuss. Some examples of the concerns expressed by tweeps.

First of all it took me through this initial compulsory step of making my Profile. There were 4 things prepopulated for me and nothing really for me to do there. Moving on.. I land up on the interface and well I don’t frankly know what to do. I see a field there and I write a post. Was getting late for work so logged off after that. The next time I logged into gmail, I had an Email from Google Buzz that 4 people had written a comment on my post. This kinda ticked me off you know. I mean Buzz was RIGHT there in my inbox! Why did I need another EMAIL from them? I could go on complaining about how Google decided for me who I should follow and how it exposes my contacts to everyone else etc etc.. but I think a lot of people already have that covered.

What I don’t get is, why should I use Buzz? I wanna connect with my close group of friends all open in public – already doing that on FB. I wanna post updates and get to connect with the world at large – Twitter’s covering me for that. Talk instantly with my very close group of friends – Covered and right there in the Google inbox. So what is it that Buzz is offering to me that isn’t already in my Google inbox and other sites? Maybe I am slow, maybe time will reveal it. But to be very frank, I don’t get what I will ever use Buzz for. It just seems to be adding another distraction when I am already over-booked and hooked and cooked with the other SN sites.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-Google. Or anti-social networking. Infact ask  some of my friends and they will tell you how much time I spend on these sites. And I do think Google does continue to provide tremendous value in some things. Their integrating real-time twitter search in their search results for an example. I was really impressed with that. But there was a difference there. There Google partnered with Twitter. They realised someone is better than them at real-time info, so they collaborated with them. Isn’t that the entire power of Web 2.0? Collaboration? Needn’t be just between the people using the services. Why can’t the services talk to each other to provide us value? Google proved that with integrating real-time search. Why can’t they do the same with social networking sites? I mean obviously Facebook and Twitter have the lead there and doing enough of one-up-man-ship in that area. Why does Google want to take the same stuff and repackage it? Why can it not collaborate with Facebook and Twitter and work out a way for us to easily manage the already heavy bombardment of information rather than pointing yet another cannon in our direction?

So why is Google doing this? Is it the panic of losing out to the FBs and Twitters of the world? After all they came much after Google and a huge threat to be as big a name as Google. Bing must’ve surely caused a heart-flutter there too somewhere. So does that mean Google should try to be another FB and Twitter?I don’t think so. Clearly by doing so they are actually just losing out. Google should stick to doing what they do best and that is being themselves. They will lose their personality – of being revolutionary, intuitive, simple and mindblowingly easy to use – and eventually get lost in the crowd if they try to be a part of the crowd.

This is my rather long (and maybe inexperienced) observation of the scenario. Comments and opinions are of course welcome 🙂