Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Return of Google!

The month has gone, the task was done, reflection has taken place (over a lovely cup of Earl Grey) and I am now ready to sit down and pour forth my findings.

Erm … it doesn’t really matter whether you use Google or not, but it is pretty pointless going out of your way to avoid using Google based services. There you go. Nothing to see. Move right along.

Ok, ok … so you want a little more than the above. You feel that I have copped out because I haven’t been aggressive enough about finding alternatives or trying different things out. Well, I was pretty aggressive about it. Browsers were tweaked to use different search engines, toolbars removed, more careful research was done prior to doing blanket searchs, I stopped a lot of my ‘lazy’ searching and thought before I typed … and what did it cost me? A bit of time and some carfeul thought but not that much.

What did it save me? Erm … nothing really. I had to think a bit more carefully about where to search, I had to change a few of my options when doing advanced searches … but mainly it came down to a personal choice not to use a product. Now, this is something I often berate others for … Mac FanBois who will not touch Windows (hmm … but they will use MS Office for Mac, and even have the release candidate for Windows 7 running via BootCamp, but let’s not go there) … Microsoft users who can’t see the point in using something that isn’t the common choice (well … that means that we will always vote for the political party that is already in power then since they must have been the common choice to get there!) … or those preferring open source solutions including the sandal-wearing, linux-loving, bearded uber-geeks (yeah … those with the latest iPhone 3GS or HTC or Samsung running Windows Mobile 6.1 … and itching to upgrade it to 6.5 when it comes out … if they don’t already run a beta of it!)

So … what have I ended up with as my search engine of choice?

Well, I did use http://blindsearch.fejus.com/ for a bit (many thanks to Ray Fleming for pointing me towards it). It searches via Yahoo, Google and Bing and displays the results in three columns … and you choose which column you think is the best set of results. It then shows you which engine it was and in general no single engine came out on top. For product searches Google tended to be a bit better. For plain information searched then Bing and for news it was Yahoo. However, it looks clunky and having to make a decision about what type of search I am doing I might as well go directly to that engine anyway.

I have already listed some of the workarounds and exceptions I made to the ‘No Google’ choice already so I’ll just put down my general bits.

  1. If you have an idea about the type of search you want to do then it is often better to go to sites specialising in these areas … you want news they use yahoo, or maybe BBC … sport you have BBC or Sky … Plenty of places for celebrity gossip … technical stuff will tend to be specific to supplier sites (microsoft, apple, nvidia, etc) or forums like edugeek.net and experts exchange … So it boils down to random searches, things that you are trying as wide a possible area to get advice or information from. At this point use pretty much anything.
  2. If there was a prize for the stupidest thing to do to avoid using google it would have to be trying not to use the Maps tool on my iPhone and using things like the AA routefinder instead. If there is a good tool out there, then use it. Keep looking for other options as well and be willing to try new things out, but just accept that when you have something good then it is better than other options for a darn good reason.
  3. Websites that use Google as their search engine are sometimes not doing themselves any favours. There are a few forums that the in-built search is a lot more powerful but it is hidden away and the Google search is what people use … missing key word searchs, tag searches, category searches and even people searches. Think twice before using such a search tool.
  4. Don’t be scared to have a guess at a website. You want information about WW1 then by all means use a search engine but if you want to find out stuff about Coca Cola then go to their site, or do a site specific search. Once you have found good websites then bookmark them for later use. There are some fantastic websites out there for sharing these links and I can’t praise Digg and del.icio.us enough.
  5. Don’t be scared to ask others. It doesn’t matter whether you still use Usenet and newsgroups, whether you use forums and boards, or whether you now use facebook and twitter. Ask your peers and you will be amazed how quickly you get reliable information back. Admittedly, some of them will have just used Google or Wikipedia to find the information, but you soon build up a group of people you know will have information to hand. Be warned though, these sort of groups are a two-way thing. They also rely on *your* expertise too.

So … there you have it … and the net result is that I will continue to do pretty much what I did before. A few minor changes … on my PC setup I tend to have Bing as my search engine (Windows Live toolbar) and on the Mac it is Google (Safari or Firefox). iPhone is back to Google rather than Yahoo but the homepage of most browsers is My Yahoo again.

One side note from all this … as well as bookmarking things more I have also been making more use of Evernote, a tool for takign scraps of documents, websites, images, etc and storing / syncing them between systems. I tried Springnote for a bit and have been trying out Microsoft’s Thumbnail too … but Evernote still does the business. I might even cough up for the premium subscription for more storage and bandwidth.

Thanks to all those who sent over suggestions about what I could try. The next thing to feed into is Tom Barrat’s latest project ‘* Interesting ways to use Search engines in the Classroom!’