(This is originally a chapter from the book Efficient information searching on the web.)
You might use the term facts services for the type of Web sites that function as encyclopaedias. These are not search services in the common sense of the term as they don’t lead on to other Web sites. As further reading they may offer links, but their main function is to provide information. The information is in most cases self-produced (or collaborative when it comes to Wikis) and the services are not navigators but producers of information.
Wiki Web sites
Wiki Web sites, Wikis, are Web sites where the visitor can do his or her own editing of pages.
- Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org) exists in several languages
- Webopedia (www.webopedia.com) contains Internet- and computer terms
The quality of content in Wikis is sometimes discussed. It’s in their nature to be self-corrective; if anyone writes something that is incorrect this is oft en quickly corrected by somebody else. The risk of quality deficiencies is biggest when it comes to unusual subjects which are read by few people or in Wikis where few people edit the text. One of the strengths of the Wikis is that they can be updated quickly as this doesn’t require any special decision process or payment to a writer; an active member can go in and do the editing immediately.
Ordinary Web sites
- HowStuff Works (www.howstuff works.com)
- How Products Are Made (www.madehow.com)
- The CIA World Factbook (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/theworldfactbook/)
- The Internet Movie Database, IMDB (www.imdb.com)
- OneLook (www.onelook.com)
- WhatIs.com (http://whatis.techtarget.com) Searchable directory of IT terms. Good descriptions and references to related terms.
- NetLingo (www.netlingo.com) Internet dictionary which also contains slangwords and slang expressions.
- TechEncyclopedia (www.techweb.com/encyclopedia/) More than 20 000 words.
Question-answering services are services where you ask questions and receive answers. There are two types of question-answering services. There are communicative services, e.g., Yahoo! Answers, based on communication between people and there are mechanical question-answering services, e.g., Brainboost, which try to understand the semantics on the pages and which extract the text from the Web
At the Swedish Ask The Library (www.fragabiblioteket.se/default_eng.asp) you can ask questions via forms, mail or chat and get answers from a librarian. The service also exists for children and you can ask questions in twelve languages besides Swedish. The public library part of Ask The Library is manned by about 70 public libraries while about 20 research libraries are behind the research library part.
Fig. Ask The Library (www.fragabiblioteket.se/default_eng.asp).
Lists of question-answering services
- Ask an Expert, list at the Open Directory Project (http://www.dmoz.org/Reference/Ask_an_Expert)
- Ask an Expert, list at Yahoo Directory (http://d3.dir.ac2.yahoo.com/Reference/Ask_an_Expert/)
- Yahoo! has a service where other users answer the questions, Yahoo! Answers (http://answers.yahoo.com). Today the service is based on the voluntary input of separate individuals.
Fig. Yahoo! Answers where everybody can ask and answer questions.
Another variant is Brainboosts Answer Engine (www.brainboost.com). Questions are asked in normal language, e.g., Who was Astrid Lindgren?, and the “answer engine” provides answers from a number of Web sources. Brainboost converts the question into several searches, ”reads” the hit lists and then answers the question.
A similar, though simpler, function is Google’s command define: (should be entered into the search box with a search word following directly after) which gives
definitions of the search word from a number of Web resources.
Fig. Brainboost answers the questions via text analysis.
Other question-answering services are:
- Yedda (http://yedda.com)
- Askville (http://askville.amazon.com)
A new search service is Wolfram Alpha (www.wolframalpha.com). It calls itself a “computational knowledge engine” and can be described as a combination between a question-answering service and a fact service. Wolfram Alpha tries to answer questions by searching in different databases and then it computes and presents an answer. The search service works, right now, best when searching for facts and statistics.
What is a blog?
Blog is an abridgment of Web log. A logbook on the Web. A short definition would be: A Web page that contains brief and chronologically arranged pieces of information. A blog may contain everything from links to other Web sites to long reflections. Possibilities are oft en given for commenting on the entries to create a discussion. Characteristic of blogs is:
- Last entry comes first
- Often updated
- Links to Internet resources
- Readers’ comments
A blog can have different forms, everything from a personal diary to an editorial writer’s debate contributions. Blogs are merely a particular type of Web site and may have just any content. In the beginning of blogging, in most cases separate individuals were behind the blogs. But nowadays groups blog increasingly more oft en in a theme blog. Generally speaking you can divide the blogs into two categories:
- Professional, concerning a subject field
- Personal, by a separate individual (e.g., about clothes)
Blogs are often used to
- bring forth and summarize useful material
- contextualize information by placing it in relation to information from other sources
- give perspectives regarding major world events that traditional media miss
What is required to create a blog? Access to the Internet, certain computer skills and some Internet skills. In the blog services on the Web the only thing required is, generally, a registration. Then you just have to follow the instructions, no knowledge of, e.g., HTML is required. But for modifications of the template and similar things adjustments of the HTML code are needed.
The Blogosphere is the denomination of the community of blogs which has developed on the Internet. The blogs comment and link to each other, forming a network.
To search for blogs
Google blog search (http://blogsearch.google.com) is one useful search service.
Fig. A search in Google blog search on the ”Invisible Web”.
Technorati (www.technorati.com) is one of the oldest blog search services.
Fig. A search in Technorati on the ”invisible web”.
More blog search services:
- Ask (www.ask.com/?tool=bls)
- Clusty (http://blogs.clusty.com/)
- Icerocket (http://blogs.icerocket.com)
In a common search engine
Do a search on a subject plus something that refers to blogs. One way of doing this is to search on parts of the address to a blog service:
Another way is to use a standard phrase automatically generated by the service:
“powered by blogger”
”blog at wordpress.com”
- EatonWeb (http://portal.eatonweb.com)
- Blogorama (www.blogarama.com)
- Blogcatalog (www.blogcatalog.com)
Forums, e-mail lists and groups
Forums, e-mail lists and similar things represent one of the more interactive aspects of the Internet. Users communicate, chat and discuss. The basic difference between groups and e-mail lists lies in how the information is mediated. In forums and in groups the messages are posted in computer networks so anyone can read them. In ordinary e-mail lists the information only goes to the members of the list. Both the groups and the e-mail lists can be moderated or unmoderated. In unmoderated lists the mail is sent directly from the sender to all the members of the list. The mails are not examined or approved. In moderated lists it’s the opposite, the list moderator controls all the mails before they are sent on to the members of the list. The control is oft en about keeping the list to its subject. Messages which stray too much from the subject or which contain commercials are removed by the moderator. Groups function in the same way, if they are moderated the entries are examined before they are posted.
Th e ways of communicating may be divided according to their aspects of time. Synchronous communication takes place when the communication is done at the same time, e.g., in a chat. Asynchronous communication is when the communication takes place at diff erent points in time, like e-mail, forums and groups.
At communities there are generally diff erent forums. Examples of large communites (social network sites) are MySpace (www.myspace.com) and Facebook (www.facebook.com). The concept of forum includes groups, newsgroups and similar groupings. A few examples:
- Google Groups (http://groups.google.com)
- Yahoo! Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com)
- Closed lists (one-way communication, e.g., product information)
- Open lists (everybody can send mails to the list)
Directories and lists for e-mail lists
- L-soft CataList (www.lsoft .com/catalist.html)
- Topica (http://lists.topica.com)
Interest groups and associations
Many companies, organizations and associations offer closed e-mail lists, often called newsletters.
- The Search Engine Report (http://searchenginewatch.com/sereport)
- USA Football Newsletter (www.usafootball.com/newsletter/index)
Find e-mail lists through search engines
Search on subject words together with words like:
- e-mail list / email list
- discussion list
- mailing list
Through searching on mailing list library in Google you’ll find several e-mail lists with their focus on libraries.