In a sense, there's almost no need to review this book -- if ever there was a book that sold itself on the basis of the authors' reputation, this is it. It seems like every other week on NeatNew I'm pointing out yet another invaluable guide Gary Price has put together (the most recent one being original documents and transcriptions related to the terrorist attacks). And Chris Sherman, as search guide for About.com/, was known for his lucid lessons on improving your search technique; now many of us are getting daily tips from his Search Day column (http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/ ).
But I'm here to tell you that this book surpasses these elevated expectations, mainly because it does what books do best: it provides history, context, and lengthy explanations of the whys and wherefores. It provides annotated descriptions of invisible web sites and databases as well, but most importantly it takes the bits and pieces of advice both men have offered in many columns, articles, and speeches and integrates them into one seamless package.
The authors explain how search engines work and why they fail to find answers available on the Invisible Web. They even point out what we know and our students do not: some answers are not on the web at all, or likely ever to be; bless their hearts, they even tell readers that sometimes the only way to get their answers is in a good library, aided by a good librarian.
They teach readers the advantages and drawbacks of both general and focused search engines, directories, and other search tools. They explain how to recognize when you might need an invisible web site, and ways of finding an appropriate one.
The authors are gifted explainers who never lapse into unintelligible technical jargon even when explaining the technical underpinnings of search systems, which means this their book is just as accessible to casual users as to information professionals; anyone teaching courses in internet searching or information literacy should consider using it as a text.
Throughout the book, the authors make all their points concrete, illustrating them with real life search problems. After they've outlined all the basic concepts, they also offer seven case studies of research problems, seven of them answered on the invisible web. Significantly, the eighth is not, because the authors want to reinforce the point that some kinds of information simply do not exist on the web.
After a discussion of what they think the future of search engine technology might hold, they proceed to chapters on invisible web resources in specific subject areas. This is where the book's web site will come in handy, because as we all know, the web is a fickle place and web addresses often change. For each web site they've chosen, they explain what kinds of content can be found on it and what related web resources are available.
In case you didn't guess, I'm suggesting you buy the book and read it. Even if you're already a proficient searcher, I guarantee you'll be moreso by the time you finish.
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There are many ways to approach the needle in the haystack problem:
A known needle in a known haystack
A known needle in an unknown haystack
An unknown needle in an unknown haystack
Any needle in a haystack
The sharpest needle in a haystack
Most of the sharpest needles in a haystack
All the needles in a haystack
Affirmation of no needles in a haystack
Things like needles in any haystack
Let me know whenever a new needle shows up
Where are the haystacks?
Needles, haystacks -- whatever
Matthew Koll. "Major Trends and Issues in the Information Industry." http://www.asidic.org/techsumf99.html
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