2003-11-07 / Columnists


By L. Robinson
WaveTech By L. Robinson

The web is really a wonderful place. It’s full of curiosities, anomalies and most importantly…. information! And it is true, you can find just about anything your heart desires on the ‘net if you know where to look!

Now, most of you have heard about all the negative stuff that can happen on the Internet. Before I go any further, I must remind all of you to use the Internet wisely and responsibly. If it is illegal offline more than likely it is illegal online. And remember, monitor what your children do on the Internet! If you do not have monitoring software like ‘net nanny’ or ‘cyber sitter’ installed on your machine, then you need to be there physically to see what’s going on when your child is online. Remember, with great power comes even greater responsibility.

Ok, now that we have gotten that out the way, let’s take a crash course in web surfing…

The mysteries of the search engine revealed! It’s amazing! Isn’t it? You type in some words or a phrase and you get page after page of results! Some relevant, some so far off left field you have to wonder what its doing there! Well, if you understand the mechanics of the search engine, you can make sure that at least 9 out of every 10 search results will be relevant to your needs.

What is the search engine? In the simplest terms, a search engine is just a huge database! It is maintained and updated with these little thingies called spiders and robots! No, I don’t mean real spiders and robots (although that would be kind of cool)! Spiders (sometimes called crawlers) and robots are little programs that run around the web looking for new sites gathering information about them, such as keywords and other meta information (we will get into meta tags in a later column) as well as checking links and other stuff on the pages they come across. They also collect information about updates to sites. Then when they are done with their trip around the web they head back to the search engine and deposit all of their newly acquired information into the database. They then head back out for another trip around the web. This is the standard for most of the popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Excite to name a few. So every time you place some words into that little box all you are doing is accessing a huge database. Here are a few tricks to tweak the database responses so that you get only the relevant goodies in your search results making your web surfing more productive and saving yourself some time online!

Getting rid of the fat…

Let’s say the family has just gotten a new pet. Let’s say a gecko lizard and like any responsible pet owner you probably want to find out as much as you can about this new addition to your family, eating habits, habitat, health issues…etc. You head over to your favorite search engine and type in gecko lizard. Now you should get a return of probably 50,000 responses to your query. If you sift through most of them, you should get all the info you need as well as one heck of a case of eyestrain. So how do you find the info you need without going through tens of thousands of pages? Easy! Remember the search engine in all of its glory is just a database. Therefore you can tell it what information you want to see, as well as what info you don’t! First off, you should place gecko lizard in quotation marks like this "gecko lizard." This tells the search engine to only return pages with the words gecko lizard together. Since you are looking for tips on how to care for your lovely pet you should include this into your query, so just add the plus sign (+) before the word care like this +care. Your search query should look like this "Gecko lizard" +care simple right? You should see right away that your results are becoming a little more defined. But since I am an impatient soul, if I don’t get what I want within the first 30 results, I will begin tweaking my query even further. How, you might ask? Well, if you get results about subjects that may be close but they aren’t what you really want just insert a minus sign before that word. Let’s say you are getting pet stores in a lot of results (and since we have a gecko already, we really are not looking to purchase another one). Just tweak your new search query like so "Gecko Lizard" +care –pet store.

This will eliminate pet store from most of your results.

These are really some very simple tricks that will prove invaluable to those that use the Internet to research for school or work! Another simple way to define your search is to use what they call Boolean Logic. Just place the following words: And (acts like the plus sign) Not (acts like the minus sign) and Or (I guess this would be used on those indecisive days!) Once you begin power searching, you will be the envy of all your friends and more importantly you will spend more time doing what you want on the web not spending all of your time looking at a search engine page!

Wow! Now you are a true power searcher!

Fun with search engines…

Right now Google has to be one of the hottest search engines on the net today!! With an insatiable hunger to index everything online, Google has taken to integrating the online with the offline world! Indexing news, catalogues and yes even phone numbers! You can put just about anything into Google’s hungry maw and it will return something! Try your name for instance, or research a company or perhaps find out some more info about that actor or actress and that tasty rumor you just heard! Or maybe you want to see the holiday catalogue for that specialty store in the UK. In any event, you more than likely would want to have all of this power right at your fingertips. So if you use Internet Explorer just head over to http://toolbar.Google.com and get the toolbar! The really nice thing about Google is that (the other search engines need to pick up on this) you are not bombarded by advertisements!

Lost in the excitement…

If you ever have gotten online to do some research but you really had no clue where to begin? Well the Excite! search engine would be a really great place to start! Since the search engine employs a sort of fuzzy logic, it kind of adds terms or words that it thinks you might be looking for and returns them in your results. Eerie! Yet cool, as well as helpful.

Invaluable research tool number 1!

You won’t find this search site on the regular Internet radar, but writers and journalists have known about this one for quite a while! I don’t think they ever planned on sharing this gem (right now I am pulling the blinds down as I type this)!

Karnak! Get this, you type in your search query and walk away! Karnak will just keep looking for your info and email you the results it finds! You are allowed to register and use 1 tier for free but to do multiple searches you must join! But one tier is really sufficient for students or the casual surfer. Why is Karnak so gosh darn great? Because in essence you can be doing one report online while Karnak gathers the necessary info for another report!

Or, you could just relax and let Karnak do the hard stuff! Or you can go on vacation and Karnak will still be busy at work! Get it at http://www.karnak.com If anybody asks, you don’t have to tell them you heard it from me (this will ensure my safety until the next column!)

Well, I think that about covers it for this column.

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