Friday, July 30, 2010

Still chugging and chuffing...

I have a theory about the human mind. A brain is a lot like a computer. It will only take so many facts, and then it will go on overload and blow up.

Erma Bombeck (US humorist 1927-1996)

Having once again got myself way off track, spending time fruitlessly going around YouTube, my mind truly feels like it is on overload and almost ready to blow up. Nor do the frustrations of an incredibly slow broadband help the situation. While it has been fun exploring again, it makes you so aware of how much time you can all too quickly fritter away as you seek here, there and everywhere through the invisible ether. Sometimes you don't end up any the wiser, either. Blinkx is nice to use and I like the way they categorise and display the various sources, although I didn't have any success trying to view the full clips of several I tried. They feature an impressive selection of news organisations, although weighted rather heavily towards US sites. The major international players are present, but a wider global lineup would improve the balance. I can certainly see myself doing more exploring in Blinkx, though.

I'm not convinced about the usefulness of magazine searching in Google Books. As most magazines have their own sites anyway, I really can't think why you would want to use Google to search for a particular article? Databases such as Proquest would be a more useful option, and more up-to-date. It is nice to be able to browse through some of the magazines though, to get a "feel" for them - advertisements and all - to see if maybe you would really like to subscribe to a title. I'm looking forward to stumbling across more "happy accidents" as I continue through Google Book Search, though.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Chugging through Search Engines

When action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Well, this has certainly been an exhausting exercise, and I feel my learnings about Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ezalead et al are only just beginning. Having said that, I don't feel inclined to poke too much more deeply as I feel almost on the brink of overload. It is certainly helpful to know about all these options, but as you're trying to take in everything, it ends up just too overwhelming that you feel like shouting "Stop the train - I want to get off". It's taken me some time to get over my aversion to the apparent omnipotent power of Google, but looking at some of these other options has given me a new appreciation for this power, and thinking Google does actually do a very good job handling the incredible abundance of "information" out there. I haven't used the Wonder Wheel or Timeline features before, but I can see the potential for using these when you need more depth or clarity on issues, and will look forward to being able to put them to good use in the future. The Advanced Search in Yahoo is nice in the way you can filter sites by domain name e.g. by .com, .edu, .gov, etc, although I imagine you can also do this with others. That's something I'll try to remember to check out. There is much more of a commercial slant to Bing, and I liked the look of the Exalead page - it displayed nicely, and the thumbnails were quite useful. The filters for site type - blogs, forums - were also helpful if you were looking for those in particular. On the whole, all the sites were relatively easy to navigate around and the options nicely set out, and are well worth knowing about. We all get comfortable with our own preferences, but the more we experiment with the alternatives, the more we'll be able to appreciate the differences.Just another step along the trail in our ever-expanding quest for information...

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Google - Alert to the World

Knowing a great deal is not the same as being smart; intelligence is not information alone but also judgment, the manner in which information is collected and used.

Dr Carl Sagan

A really nice thing about the Web 2.0 programme is how we get a chance to "play" with various web tools that we would otherwise no doubt just bypass or ignore completely, albeit more from the fact we either don't know what they can do, or that they even exist. Most people, myself included, tend to only use the search function of Google, including images and maps, but 'Alerts' is another useful part of the Google Empire. I set up 2 alerts, one very general - Major League Baseball - which I am happy with so far as the "dailies" act as a kind of "highlights" package, but I may play with this in future to concentrate more on the couple of teams I particularly follow. My other alert was more specific, using a search term that I wouldn't have thought of myself, but which came up in a result I got from another Google search. I am well satisfied with the results produced for "Greater Yellowstone wolf population" with a nice variety of items which fit the search criteria well. While set to daily, results haven't come through every day, but they are regular and so far no duplicates, which is good news when you are wanting to filter out as much unnecessary information as you can. This is something I will likely continue with via another email account, and would suggest it to patrons if there is a particular event, or they have an interest in a particular area that they would like to focus on. A clever idea and relatively simple to set-up, but a useful little tool to "assist" us in our ever-expanding and for some, insatiable, quest for information. Just don't forget you can also turn off the flow when it all gets too much!