Tuesday 8 July 2008

When to use something other than Google

When Google invented PageRank, they became the best search engine on the Internet, a default place to find anything online - and I like many other people changed my search habits from trying multiple engines (AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, Webcrawler, Lycos etc) to just one. What I am starting to find now though, is that while Google is still the best for straightforward keyword based searches, there are a few specific types of thing where Google is not my first point of call:

"How To" videos

I have found that VideoJug is an excellent place to find really good quality instructional videos. Recently my wife and I held an Egyptian-themed murder mystery party and I used VideoJug to find this excellent video on how to tie a turban. Just today, I was looking for something I could make out of paper as part of my present to my wife for our first ("Paper") wedding anniversary and found just what I was looking for.

General overviews of a topic

If there is a topic, person or area which I know nothing apart, I have found that it is far quicker to go directly to Wikipedia than to bother searching Google. Wikipedia is excellent for giving an overview of a topic. For example I found myself using this yesterday when I wanted not specific information, but just a quick general high level overview of what Java Web Start is, and how it works.

I also use the Googlepedia Firefox add on so that when I do a search, the page is split and I get both Google and Wikipedia results. This is not only very useful, but also due to the "I'm feeling lucky" effect I sometimes learn some weird and seemingly unconnected things on the right hand side of the page when I am not looking for a wikipedia type topic.

Movie cast information

There's no competition - if I have any wonderings about a film "who is that actor? What have I seen him in before" I cut out google and go straight to IMDb, the Internet Movie Database, which has the best film information anywhere online.

Checking out email forwards and suspicious facebook FunWall posts

Whenever anyone sends me any "heartfelt true stories" or anecdotes attributed to a particular famous person, I always get the urge to find out whether they are true or not. One way is to put a key phrase into Google and add the word "hoax", but an even better way is to go straight to Snopes, the Urban Legends Reference Pages, which is almost certain to have encountered your email urban legend before and give you the lowdown on what truth, if any, is behind it.

Blog searching and "opinion" finding

If you specifically want to find the opinions of Joe Public, general ordinary people rather than journalists and media outlets, I have found that Technorati's blog search is by far the best way to pick up only results from Blogs.

In summary

I guess what I'm saying is, if you know what "type" of information you need, you can sometimes speed up your search by cutting out Google (where the results will not be in a consistent order) and go straight to the best quality source of that type of information. Maybe this is obvious but I just caught myself doing it a lot recently so I thought I would share!

I am sure there are others I have forgotten, these are a few off the top of my head. How about you, what places do you shun Google for when you want certain types of information ? Add your tips to the comments and we'll build up a list of really useful sites!


Alex said...

Not long after writing this, I just found this page which lists the top 100 places online for good answers.. Not been through it in detail but could be useful!

Joe Chacko said...

I can remember comparing results from *both* search engines—obviously before Google!

That's an interesting link you gave, though they are coming from a slightly different angle. They are suggesting alternatives to Wikipedia, rather than Google. I'm sad to see that Snopes doesn't even make it into their top 100.