REVIEW: THE EXTREME SEARCHER'S INTERNET HANDBOOK
Randolph Hock. The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook: a Guide for the Serious Searcher. CyberAge Books, Information Today, 2004. 0-910965-68-4. $24.95. Accompanying web site: http://www.extremesearcher.com/. Reviewed by Marylaine Block
People tend to think they know more than they do, particularly when it comes to the internet; they think, "Hey, I know how to Google, what more do I need?"
Librarians, on the other hand, suspect they might not really know how to Google at all (how many regular Google users have even noticed the tabs on the front page, let alone used them to search for images, news, or newsgroups?), and know for a fact that Google doesn't even cover everything on the internet, let alone the resources accessible BY WAY OF the internet that libraries pay through the nose for and make available for free. We're also pretty sure they haven't got a clue how to evaluate the information they find there.
That's why, although this book is designed with the professional searcher in mind, it would be a useful text for students in an information literacy course. At least the first chapter, anyway, which explains to novices strategies so basic to most librarians that we don't even articulate what we're doing. And yet hardly anybody outside our profession uses those strategies.
Hock discusses the primary types of finding tools -- general and specialized directories and search engines -- and when it makes sense to use one rather than the others. He then offers some basic research strategies, including ways to narrow search results, and find out the different capabilities of a search engine. He gives guidelines for evaluating the content of the site, and warnings about inherent problems of the web: the limits to its retrospective coverage, the regrettable tendency of web sites to disappear, and the invisiblity of much of the web to search engines, for reasons he elaborates on. Hock concludes with information on copyright, how to cite web-based sources, and how to keep up to date on new internet resources.
The rest of the book is for us, the serious searchers whose livelihood depends on getting not just a right answer but the best and most complete answer that matches the person's information need. To that end, Hock follows his own advice: he looks very carefully at the finding tools to examine their range, their limits, and their capabilities for both browsing and finding.
Chapter two provides a detailed look at general web directories and portals, including Yahoo!, Open Directory, LookSmart, and Librarians' Index to the Internet. Since these directories keep adding new features, even those of us who think we're familiar with these tools will learn new things here about each one; for instance, I hadn't realized that Yahoo! had added an Inside Yahoo! feature that, in addition to web results, also retrieves information from a library of reference tools such as the Concise Britannica and the World Factbook.
Chapter three presents some strategies and tools for finding specialized directories, and then briefly presents some of the best ones. Chapter four examines search engines: how they work, typical search options, the degree of overlap between them, and different ways of displaying results. It then gives a detailed presentation of how each of the major search engines works -- AllTheWeb, AltaVista, Google, HotBot, and Teoma. I guarantee you'll discover features on each that you weren't aware of, and learn new ways to construct searches on each of them.
The chapter on building an internet reference shelf will interest any public services librarian. The chapter on finding news sources, and the chapter on finding images, audio and video will be boons as well.
The book is well-written, with clear exposition and lots of examples to make general points concrete. It doesn't hurt that it's profusely illustrated with screen shots: of the different directories' "browse" results and "search" results; of the different search engines' advanced search templates and results display. It also includes a handy chart comparing the features of different search engines.
As you may have gathered, this isn't a fun book to sit down and read. Rather, it's a book you'll want to have at your side when you're ready to sit down at your computer and learn how to use a new finding tool -- or relearn one you think you already know. I'd be happier if it also devoted a chapter to telling readers about some of the licensed databases most commonly available at their libraries, but on the whole, I think the book is well worth your while.
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Overlook is the main web search problem. Today the information that a user overlooks is picked unknowingly and indiscriminately, for example by ignoring all search results beyond the 10th. Instead we should adopt tools that empower people to ignore information more knowingly."
"Needed: a More Selective Ignorance." http://vivisimo.com/docs/overlook.pdf
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