December 04, 2007
Last Blog Entry - A quick review
Before BIT330 started, I had no what an RSS feed is, what special tools are out there to trap information and had not even heard about page monitors.
But lets review this step by step:
Everyone has already heard about Google and Yahoo and used them on a daily basis. But what about all the other search engines? However, I will continue to use Google as my favorite general search engine in the future. The main benefit is that in case I can't find an information using Google I now know where else I can go and what the main (dis)advantages of the different tools are.
I already knew what full-text search eninges and what searchable subject indexes are and what they are more or less good for.However, I did not know about all the features Google and Yahoo offer: e.g. a cool things I did not know about is Yahoo local.
A part of the course which I found especially useful but unfortunately a little short was the lecture on Deep Web since it included academic web search engines. These tools can be extremely powerful for the researches you have to do for your thesis and other academic stuff. Thus, it was nice to learn about Scirus (which I will continue to use after this semester is over) and Google scholar (which I already knew about). Unfortunately this part of the course was for my taste not complete. I would have preferred to have a bigger part of the class to focus on academic search engines and research tools related to academic content. This would enable us students to find really high level content which we could use for academic papers.
By contrast the section on RSS feeds was very in depth and well explained so that everyone who had no clue about what a RSS feed is could follow and get an understanding of what it is about, how it works and what different tools there are available on the internet. This is definately the part of the course I will benefit the most from. I will definately continue to use Bloglines as a way to get information send to me in a very comfortable way since you don't have to visit that many different pages anymore and it helps to manage your attention. Without this class I wouldn't have found out about the amount of tools related to RSS out there (Bloglines, Blogdigger, Google Blog search, Technorati, 2RSS, NewsIsFree, etc.). Or let me correct this: I could have found out about what tools are out there, but then I would have had the problem of what tool to use. What are the features that distinct one from the other. Without this course I would probably have been too lazy to go in to detail as we have done during this course and thus me search would never have been as efficient as it is now.
The next big part of the lecture was about web search principles. I think most of them are very self-explanatory (e.g. the principle of the onion). Others are however less obvious and useful to use (e.g. the principle of mass similar since this mentioned Google Set which I did not know before but which can be very helpful). In general I think it is a must in this course. However, I think this part could be speeded up a little bit in order to be able to spend more time on other less self-explanatory stuff like academic databases.
The nex big topic, email alerts was again useful in that it showed all the different tools out there. However, I already knew quite a view of these tools and what you can do with email alerts. The part that was much more interesting and which I am sure wouldn't have got to know without this class are page monitors. I really like working with them since you are much more flexible with respect to trapping information when you know about these tools. I think this is also a part of the course that could be a little bit more in detail. Especially about Feed43. I think it would be a good idea to have a whole lecture on Feed43 and the basics of HTML. For this purpose it would have been helpful if the instructor would have explained - illustrated using a representative example - step by step how to set up this page monitor because without a basic knowledge of HTML this is nearly impossible. Besides that, I enjoyed learning about page monitors and will continue to use them.
The part about the multimedia search was a nice way to end this class since this might be things you would use more in your leisure time than for something really "productive".
Regarding the term projects I have two basic remarks: Firstly, I think this is a good way to get used to working with the different tools presented in the class. Secondly, from my point of view it would be better to have only one term project per person since two are just way too much work and don't compare to the workload necessary in any other class. In addition to that it does not feel like learning something when doing the stuff for your second term project since you are basically trying to do more or less the same things you have already done for your first term project. The only difference seemed to be the topic. Thus, having only one term project would allow to go really into detail and use much more different tools. Besides from that, it was a good experience since you really used all the tools presented in class and thus won't forget them as fast as you probably would have without using them on such a regular basis throughout the semester.
I hope that I could give you a good overview and that I could make my points with regards to what is really good about this course and would could potentially be improved without you getting the feeling that I thought it was bad. Overall, I really learned a bunch of stuff.
November 28, 2007
Video Search Engines
In this blog entry I am going to compare 3 different video search engines: Google Video, Yahoo Video and AOL Video. Now you might be surprised that I did not take YouTube. The reason for that is that Google bought YouTube. Thus, you would expect to find all the YouTube videos by searching using Google's video search engine.
Google's video search can be used the same way as Google's normal search engine and the design is pretty much the same: clear and straightforward. Therefore, you don't need to get used to the tool before being able to use it properly. Google's video search offers advanced search options (including the usual ones plus duration, genres and videos that are hosted by Google or all videos). The results are shown in thumbsnails. The search results include things like customer ratings and a link to related videos in addition to the usual Google result items like title, description and URL.
On the main page of Google video you get a list of popular videos as well as videos out of specific genres.
Yahoo Video functions pretty much the same way as Google Video does. However, with Yahoo Video you have the possibility to specify the type of videoformat (AVI, MPEG, Quicktime, Windows Media, Real or Flash) you want to search for by clicking the appropriate boxes in the advanced search menu. Another difference is the way in which the results are presented. Yahoo - in contrast to Google (see above) - only presents a collection of thumbsnails without any description but just the filename, its duration and the source.
Its main page does provide a list popular video searches but you can choose the option that this list shall not be shown.
Aol video gives you the possibility to upload your own videos. In addition it shows you recently uploaded videos, a daily free show and a list of the most viewed videos as well as the "videologist". Furthermore at the bottom left of the page there is a list of top video tags and the possibility to search by tags.
When you search for a keyword (in the general search field), you get 6 different categories of results (Best Match, Most Viewed, Highest Rated, Most Recent, Featured and Video Uploads) with each of the categories showing a bunch of thumbnails with the filename, artist, channel, category, rating, number of views and the duration next to it. You can add a result to your personal page after having created an account. Furthermore, AOL provides you with a list of related tags. You are also able to browse by a bunch of different categories.
Music Search Tools
In this blog entry I am going to compare 2 different music search engines: Yahoo Audio Search and Alta Vista Audio Search
When first going to new.music.yahoo.com it immediately jumps into ones eyes how hip this page is designed. It is really designed for younger people and the pop colture. However, I also searched for some classical music and I got some pretty good results.
On the left side of the page, the first 10 of the top 100 charts are displayed.
In the middle of the page you can choose from 4 different tags: videos, songs, albums and artists. Each of the tags shows several thumbnails of recommended items. If you click on one of those in the video tag, a new window will pop-up playing the selected video and suggesting additional videos on the right side. When you select a song, you are directed to a side where you have the possibility to either listen to a 30 second sample or to buy the selected song. Clicking on one of the items in the album tag does pretty much the same as what happens in the song tag only that now you don't only see one song but all the songs of the album and you can hear a 30 second sample of each of the songs and buy an individual song of the album or the whole album. In the artist tag you can select an artist an Yahoo Music will show you different available items of this particular artist.
On the right side of the main page you have the possibility to create, view and edit your own playlist. This is a very cool tool since it allows you to have a playlist to which you have access from any device with which you have access to the internet. However, to use this feature, you need to create a Yahoo! account. Another feature is the possibility to access radio stations.
You can also search Yahoo Music. You have the option to search for artist, videos, albums, songs and lyrics.
Altavista offers a section in which you can search for MP3s and other audio files. It's much clearer and more straightforward than Yahoo's music search. However, Yahoo's design is very helpful if you are not sure what song you are searching for and want to know what is popular. With altavista you however have more search options: you can specify many different filetypes you want to search for (MP3, WAV, WMA, Real, AIFF and Others) and the duration of the file to be returned (all length, >1 min. or <1 min.)
The results include the filename, filetype, duration, url and a link to more information (e.g. the size). This is again in a much more clearer design than the service offered by Yahoo.
To sum it up: Yahoo and Altavista are two very different search engines where Yahoo seems to be better suited for looking for what is popular right now and is organized with a lot of pictures. Altavista's audio search on the other hand is much more straightforward with a clear, not special at all design. However, if you want to do a search supported by some special language and syntax to narrow down your results Altavista is the tool you want to use!
November 07, 2007
Search Engine Results Champions League
Search results page DB
November 05, 2007
RSS feeds report
I used Blogline as my preferred RSS feed reader since I find the way it presents and organizes the Feeds you have subscribed to in a very clear either related to my term projects' topics or just for my personal interest. The purpose of this blog entry is to present you the RSS feeds I find worth while mentioning for various reasons. This includes information about where I found them, i.e. where they come from, how helpful or not helpful they have been, things that would make them better, etc.
One of the greatest feeds I found was a feed related to my business topic. It was a feed available on topix.com. I found this site by searching for Deutsche Bank together with some other keywords relating to news, credit crunch, mortgage loans, performance, etc. using Google. The great thing about this feed is, that it does not monitor all news on topix.com but rather only news about Deutsche Bank AG. This feed returned a very manageable number of results all highly relevant to by business topic. I got for example 11 results for the last week. Thus, this feed is very helpful to get a quick but nevertheless thorough idea of what is going on within Deutsche Bank AG. The huge advantage of finding this page was that in contrast to subscribing to a customized RSS feed you can generate for a special query on let's say Google News, you don't have to spend all the time needed to come up with a narrow enough but still relevant search query you want to track. And there are a lot of topic you can track using Topix since it gets its information from a large number of news sites.
Another way I found extremely helpful was creating customized RSS feeds using Yahoo Pipes. This is - in comparison to other tools you can use to track changes on a particular page rather than on the whole page (which most sites offer through the availability of prespecified RSS feeds) - streightforward and self-explaining. As a result you don't have to go through all the pain of examining the HTML of a page - as you would have to when using Feed43 and which I found really difficult and time consuming to do when you have no idea whatsoever about HTML - but have a bunch of helpful tools that allow you to create a RSS feed in only a few streightforward steps. I used this on several pages (for example the news/press release page of Deutsche Bank AG) that did not have a prespecified RSS feed for this particular page but only for the whole site. The drawback of Yahoo Pipes in comparison to Feed43 or WatchThatPage is that you can't further specify about what exact part of the page you want to get information. However, Yahoo Pipes also offers some useful tools that let you narrow down your search even within a specified page (e.g. by using the filter option). By setting up the above mentioned RSS feed on the Deutsche Bank AG presse/news page gave the possibility to track everything the Bank itself released without having to go to the page every once in a while to check if there was something new out there.
Two other options I used was to set up RSS feeds on search queries I entered into Google News or Yahoo News. For most of the topics I tried that they returned more or less the same results. Of course depending on the quality of your search query the results get more or less relevant and focussed and the number of results varies. If you have found a search query that really is helpful for your purposes and that is neither too narrow nor too general and that returns for the most parts highly relevant results, this tool can be very helpful since it searches so many documents out there. However, it takes quite some time to come up with such a query and for some topics it might even be impossible to find the right balance between narrow searches and relevant results coming from different sources.
For my personal topic which is on the UEFA Champions League, I subsribed to a RSS feed available on UEFA.com since this is the official site of UEFA the organization that is responsible for the Champions League. I found that at the early stage the tournament is in right now, the number of results is pretty high and during weeks where there are some matches they can easily become overwhelming. But looking forward, I have the feeling, that the number of results declines with more and more teams dropping out of the tournament. This variation of the news related to the topic is what makes the information trackting the most difficult. It makes it necessary to adjust your queries and sources from time to time since you have to start extremly narrow and can get broader as less teams are left in the tournament. Nevertheless, since UEFA is probably the most reliable information resource out there with regards to the UEFA Champions League, from my point of view subscribing to the RSS feed on Champions League offered by UEFA.com is a must for everyone interested in tracking the Champions League.
Another way to find useful RSS feeds was to look out for Blogs using different tools to find Blogs on the internet previously discussed in the course. Here you have to be careful about how reliable the sources are and how often the blog gets updated. Follow a blog for a week, look out for what other people say about the blog and then decied whether you have the feeling that you can trust the author, if the blog gets updated frequently, if the information is relevant for your search and stuff like that. Don't waste your time with blogs that don't meet these criterias. There are so many blogs out there that you don't have to stick to blogs that are not that good. And the cool thing is that using Bloglines you can subscribe to nearly everything out there!