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.


Search Anonymously and Other Websites Worth Knowing About

Here’s the bottom line up front – For private or anonymous searching, use DuckDuckGo or StartPage.  This is one way to avoid those annoying ads that follow you around the Internet.

Here’s how a typical Internet search might unfold:

  1. Open your Internet browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.)
  2. Navigate to a search engine page (Google, Bing, Yahoo!)
  3. Enter your search term (home health care)
  4. Click on search results (Visiting Angels)

So far so good, eh?  Maybe, maybe not.  How come now I’m getting ads for Visiting Angels and other home health care services when I’m on Facebook and other unrelated sites?

Behind the scenes, unbeknownst to you, the search engine site sends your search term to the site you click on (in this case Visiting Angels).  The site, in turn, sends your search terms, browser information, and computer information to a third party vendor who dishes up ads.  That vendor builds a profile for you and continues to dish up ads wherever you go on the Internet.  Furthermore, the vendor may choose to sell your profile.  It’s kind of like when subscription services sell your address and you start getting ads and catalogs from companies you’ve never done business with.

DuckDuckGo and StartPage do not share your search terms, browser information, or computer information.  They offer anonymous searching.

duckduckgoDuckDuckGo has been around since early 2008.  Privacy is the prime concern.  As founder Gabriel Weinberg says “By default, DuckDuckGo does not collect or share personal information. That is our privacy policy in a nutshell.”  DuckDuckGo uses its own web crawler to gather Internet information, but it also partners with WolframAlphaYahoo!Wikipedia, and others to reach across cyberspace for content.

StartPage serves as an intermediary, anonymizing search queries and delivering them to Google.  StartPage gets the results and delivers them to startpageyou in total privacy.  According to the StartPage website, “Your IP address is never recorded, your visit is not logged, and no tracking cookies are placed on your browser.”

I know you have come to trust the search results you get from Google, but you will also get good search results from DuckDuckGo or StartPage.  Give it a go, and let us know whether anonymous searching makes a difference in your life.

Websites Worth Knowing About

PronounceHow.com – Learn to pronounce a person’s name before telephoning.  You really don’t want to start the conversation by saying their name wrong.

MarineTraffic.com – Free, real-time ship tracking including cargo and passenger ships.  Fun and interesting.

Streamer – Visualize and understand water flows in America.  Follow streams from their source to where they empty.

Swizzle – Clean up your email inbox and unsubscribe from unwanted commercial mailing lists.

Search TV News

Do it Yourself: Search TV News

You’re trying to settle an argument or win a bet.  You know you heard it somewhere, but where?  You remember a snippet from a news show, and you’d like to go back and hear more.  You want to look for the evolution of a story or topic and how understanding of an issue has changed over time.

Now you have a tool to dig up those answers.

TV News on the Internet Archive indexes 389,000 broadcasts and makes them searchable.  For this article I searched “BP executives” and retrieved stories from CNN, CBS Morning News, MSNBC, BBC World News, Fox News, and many more.

TV News delivers the information in 30-second snippets.  To get more of the story you can search for the next snippet or you can borrow the broadcast on DVD.

Did You Know? – You May be Missing 25% of the Information You Need to Succeed

It’s not all free on the Internet.

One company analyzed the information they collected from a fee-based news aggregator and compared that to the stories available free on the Internet.  They found a 25% gap in coverage.

Had they relied totally on free sources for competitive intelligence information, they would have missed one quarter of the valuable content they need to stay ahead of the competition.

Don’t take the chance of acting on incomplete information. Contact Shamel Information Services today to discuss the options for your organization.

Get Ready to Go or Stay Put to Learn

Get Ready to Go or Stay Put to Learn

The end of August and the beginning of September are good times to make travel arrangements.  Airlines offer some of their best deals during this period, but it’s not all about flying.  Check out Rome2Rio for door to door options on how to get where you’re going. For purely airfare deals try Matrix.  It’s a new and worthy alternative to Travelocity.

Stay right where you are and take advantage of two powerful learning opportunities.  Showme and YouTube are there for you.

Two Travel

Matrix Airfare Search comes from ITA Software.  Some of the world’s most successful travel companies, including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Continental Airlines, Bing, Kayak, and Orbitz use ITA Software.  Now there’s a consumer friendly version. Enter your origin and destination for a matrix of options. The flexible search interface lets you find the lowest fares, limit the number of stops, and select nearby airports. Once you’ve identified the best deal for you, simply purchase your ticket directly from the chosen airline.

You can’t get there from here.  Well, maybe you can, but it’s not easy.  Rome2Rio makes it easier by offering a multi-modal view that includes plane, train, bus, car, and ferry.  Occasionally I want to go from Southern California to the mountains of North Carolina.  A plane trip will get me into the region, but that’s just the beginning.  There are multiple airports form which to choose.  Which airport has the best price and the shortest travel times, and how do I get from the airport to the mountains?  Rome2Rio maps all of the air routes then points to a bus that goes close enough to the ultimate destination for a pick up.  It turns out I can get there from here.

Two Learn

 Recently when I wondered how the lady at the coffee shop makes those nifty pictures in the cappuccino, I searched YouTube.  I entered ‘cappuccino art’ in the search box and voila!  Lots of videos to choose from that show how to make those little hearts and flowers.  Not that I’ll ever make any, but at least now I know.  What do you want to know?

Showme strives to be a place where anyone can learn anything, but the content really focuses on things you learn in school.  Subject categories include math, science, language, English, social studies, and art.  I found some useful presentations under English/Writing on how to summarize, how to write a conclusion, and how to write an introduction.

Did You Know?

 Some knowledge workers today suffer more from information overload than information deficit.  The information stream has been compared to a fire hose and drinking from it is not easy.

When you need actionable information to inform your business decisions, do not hesitate to call in a professional.  Shamel Information Services provides expert research assistance, analysis, and consulting to tame the firehose.