A Trio of Tips for Bing, Google, and Wolfram|Alpha

Search engines continue to evolve, changing the content they offer, the way they dish it up, and the options for searching.  This month Information Update looks at new capabilities of three popular search engines.

Bing Maps

Key WestBing Maps already offers a solid collection of areial and satellite imagery, but they recently added bathymetry data (ocean floor shading) from Scripps Institution of Oceanography to their images. This picture from the Florida Keys provides a view of how this looks in search results.  I’m not sure if this will help identify the good surfing beaches or snorkeling spots. What say ye, readers?

Google Maps

Google earthengineGoogle Maps (can you tell I was a geography major?) has also launched a new map feature.  They’ve partnered with TIME magazine, the United States Geological Survey, and NASA to deliver a timelapse feature.  TIME offers a detailed overview of how this works, along with stark examples of changes over time.  Watch Las Vegas expand from 1984 to 2012 or the Columbia Glacier shrink.

Wolfram|Alpha Superlative Search

WA superlatives

WolframAlpha (WA) calls itself a computational knowledge engine. In addition to crunching numbers, it now has the ability to identify superlatives.  According to WA, the tallest mountain near Colorado Springs is Mount Elbert at 14,439 feet.  The computational knowledge engine also dishes up an image of the mountain, the distance from Colorado Springs, east-west and north-south profiles, and a list of nearby mountains.  Sounds like a great tool for anyone seeking to bag a few fourteeners over vacation. WolframAlpha also “understands” tallest, closest, higher, most, and biggest.  For more on superlative searching check out the WA blog.

Connecting the Dots of Creative Innovation

On October 4 the San Diego Chapter of the specialized librarians association will hold its annual Fall professional development seminar.  Cindy Shamel will be there presenting a program titled “Beyond the Needs Assessment: How a Knowledge Audit Informs Strategic Planning”.  Register to attend, or contact Shamel Information Services for more on the value of a knowledge audit.


Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook, 4th Edition

Way back in January 2010, eons ago in “Internet years”, Information Update published a review of Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook, 3rd edition.  Author Ran Hock has been busy putting together the 4th edition, and Information Update readers will want to take a look.

In the forward to this edition, Gary Price makes a good point.  Web databases from Google, Bing, and others continue to grow larger, so finding what you want becomes ever more challenging.  “In other words, the haystack is growing and finding the needles takes more time and requires greater skill.”

Every chapter of Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook, 4th Edition includes important skills and interesting tid bits.  For instance:

Chapter 1 – Basics for the Serious Searcher – Add search terms to narrow your search (get fewer results), and remove search terms to broaden your search.  Did you know that the Internet began as a network of four (4!!) host computers?  At this point we’re getting pretty close to a billion hosts.

Chapter 2 – Directories and Portals – The Open Directory Project is the largest general web directory with about 5 million sites.

Chapter 3 – Search Engines: The Basics – Search on page titles to limit or focus your results.  Enter intitle:your term in the search box.  Try intitle:urban gardening to see how this works.

Chapter 4 – Search Engines: The Specifics – You can enter up to 32 words in the Google search box.  I’m not sure why you would want to, but you could.

Chapter 5 – Discussion Groups, Forums, Newsgroups, and Their RelativesOmgili searches more than 100,000 forums, newsgroups, and mailing lists.  Hock tells us it has more “searchability” than its competitors.  I agree.

Chapter 6 – The Internet Reference Shelf – The Internet includes an abundance of reference works like dictionaries, almanacs, and encyclopedias.  Here’s a good one.  Infobel has phone directores for more than 200 countries and contains links to white pages, yellow pages, business directories, and email directories.

Chapter 7 – Sights and Sounds: Finding Images, Audio, and Video –  Here’s a great tip from page 190. “When searching for images, start by limiting your query to one or two words.  Most images only have very few words of indexing associated with them.”  I didn’t know that!

Chapter 8 – News Resources – Hock makes a good point about news sources.  Where you look will depend upon what kind of news you are looking for, current stories or older stories.  This chapter provides all the scoop on where to turn.  I’ll throw in a plug for Patch to find hyperlocal news.

Chapter 9 – Finding Products Online – The author categorizes Amazon, Yahoo! Shopping, and eBay as online shopping malls.  Never thought of that, but it makes sense to me.

Chapter 10 – Your Own Place on the Web: Participating and Publishing – This chapter reminds us that the web is not just for research and finding things.  It also provides a platform to contribute.  Remember MySpace?  It’s still out there, and in taking a look I learned there’s a New MySpace.  Who knew?

Extreme Searcher’s Internet Handbook, 4th Edition, is a must have. Searchers, whether novice or experienced, will benefit from the many tips, tricks, insights, and websites described in this book.

For those hearty readers who have persevered to the end, here’s a really great tip.  Author Ran Hock has created a website with links to all of the resources mentioned in the book.  Check it out.