Web Search Engines and Me

"Search Engines: Cruel or Cool?"

Table of Contents
Data Collection Prior Generational Reports
Conclusion *Instructions for Report 2*

Data Collection
"Ok here goes Nothing"

I've used search engines before, but never this extensively.  Usually I stick to one search engine and stop when I find something I like.  When I first learned about search engines, I thought they were pretty cool because I could just look up anything I wanted on the web.  My first real use of a search engine was during my freshman year in college.  I need to to look up some resources for a report I had.  "This is gonna be easy!" I thought.  Little did I know I would spend the next two and a half hours searching the web.   Boy was that painful.  I never really liked the fact that using search engine took up so much of your time, but then I guess it's a lot faster than looking for webpages yourself.  My favorite search engine is AltaVista (by Digital), mostly because it was the first one I used and got attached to it.   Another one that I like to used is Yahoo.   I don't usually use Yahoo unless I'm searching for things related to pop-culture.   After those two, it's a toss up between Excite, Lycos, and HotBot.

For this report we were suppose to collect our data according to the following: date and setting, mood, name of search engine and familiarity, search statement, number of expected hits, number of actual hits, reaction to hits, evaluation of hits, comments, and some quantitative ratings.  For more details, see instructions.  The purpose of this report was to get more familiar with search engines so we could express our ideas and feeling about them.  For my data collection I decided to pit "old reliable" (AltaVista) against some of the other search engine.  Also, the words I used in my searches were specific things because I wanted to see how well each search engine handles finding "needle(s) in a haystack."  To see my results, please click here.

To summarize my data a little bit, my "old reliable" did pretty good in certain searches and not so well in others.   HotBot impressed me, while Lycos turned out to be disappointing.  I decided to use these search engines in my data collection because they were the ones that I hear about the most.  For my last two searches, I decided to see how the two better, "still new to me" search engines faired against each other.  I did this to determine how I would rank them according to my preference.  This is what I came up with (first to last): HotBot, AltaVista, Excite, Yahoo, and Lycos.

*If you missed it, my data can be found here.*

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Prior Generational Reports
"Just Taking a Look at the Past"

Jean Leong | Homepage | Report |

"Search engines are actually not as complicated as it may sound. I feel that it's like using the terminals at the library to locate material that you need. At times, I may not find exactly what I'm looking for. It may be either I'm searching the wrong word or there really is nothing out there on my subject, which is rarely the case."

"I think the main thing to remember when working with search engines is to have at least a couple of index words in mind to search. The material or information you are looking for may be indexed under a different word or words other than that you have in mind. Do some exploring in other related word topics."

Jean gives a pretty good explanation of what a search engine is and how it works.  Finding what she was looking for seemed to be Jean's only problem.  Above are two things that I felt were interesting from Jean's report.  In the first quote she stated a common problem with search engine.   Then in the second, she give an explanation to the problem and how to counter it.

Shawna Honeycutt | Homepage | Report |

"What I have found is that you can get side tracked very easily. Be prepared to make sure that you stick to the topic at hand. I find myself thinking that it would be fun to see varies websites on a topic, and then half an hour has gone by. Yet, getting side tracked can be fun!!!! It can also be vary educational in finding out about the subject that you are studying."

From her report, it didn't seem like search engines gave her problems.  The only thing that she found to be an obstacle is getting side tracked from her search when exploring them.  I kind of have the same problem, that's why I make it a rule not to search more than the first 50 matches... unless I have time to fool around that is.  One reason why Shawna may have not had too many problems was that she seemed content with what she found.  I guess if you don't expect much, you won't be very disappointed.

Jill Umetsu | Homepage | Report |

"When you do your search you can type in the keywords to start the search. Once the search engine has searched its databases it gives the matches a relevance score. This score indicates how strong the match is to your keyword. There is also a little summary of the page which is usually some text from the beginning of the document. To do a more advanced search you can do a Boolean search. This is more specific because you can use the words AND, OR, or NOT. This will allow the user to make the search more concise. By using NOT you can eliminate unwanted matches."

Jill report was very well written.  I was especially impressed since she says that she wasn't too familiar with search engines before she did her report.  The quote above give a pretty good explanation of how search engine works.  Jill also has a good explanation of "What is a Web Search Engine."   I didn't seem like Jill had any real problems.  She learned a lot as she went along using search engines.  I really suggest reading her report yourself.

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"Final Thoughts"

What I Gained from this Experience: Well I think I'm now a more knowledgeable.  I've used Boolean operators before, but thought nothing of it.  Now I realize how big a difference it really does make.  Also, when searching the web, you have to understand that you won't always find what you're looking for.  Another thing is that searching with multiple search engines does help you in your search.  On a less serious note, something I found out that was reassuring was that I'm not the only one who gets side-tracked when using search engines.   Heheh.  Finally, I've learned to give other search engines a chance no matter how attached you may be to one.  You could find one that you may like better.

Words of Advice to Future Generations: Keep in mind that searching the Internet for something will take some time.  So plan ahead.  Also, if you don't get what you're looking for try adding Boolean operators such as AND, OR, or NOT.  They are very helpful in limiting the amount of words and combinations of words a search engine will look for.  Another thing is don't be too hesitant trying out different search engines.  Like I said in the previous paragraph, you may find a better one than the one you like to use.  Lastly, and most importantly, be in a good mood when you do your searching.  It makes a lot of difference whether you know it or not.  Searching the "web" takes up a lot of time and patients.

Advice for designing you pages:  Invest in an WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) HTML editor.  It helps cut down on the time you take making your pages.  Trust me on this one, making tables for your data is a pain with just HTML.  One of my classmates, Earl Cachola, suggested HTML editor and Adobe PageMill.  I heard that FrontPage 98 is good too.  It has an spell checker and a tab where you can view your HTML tags, but is a little more pricey.  Also, take a look at page from other generations as well as your own.  It is very helpful when trying to come up with ideas.  Finally, make sure that you are happy with your page.   If you wouldn't want to look at your own page, what make you think someone else would.

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