R.I.P Google Answers

November 30, 2006

Google Answers is officially closing:

“Google is a company fueled by innovation, which to us means trying lots of new things all the time — and sometimes it means reconsidering our goals for a product. Later this week, we will stop accepting new questions in Google Answers, the very first project we worked on here.”

There’s also a brief article at Forbes.com.

I never used Google Answers, and only ventured on to Yahoo! Answers once or twice. But to me Yahoo! Answers appeared to be a (a) more accessable and (b) usable product, even if a lot of the answers were less authoritative than some of those being produced on Google Answers.

Pages from Yahoo! Answers definitely appeared in a lot of my search results when I was surfing the web for various things, which would have contributed a lot to its success at the expense of Google Answers, which was a fairly buried product as far as discovery of it was concerned.

Looking at the success of Wikipedia, not many people who are using the web are overly concerned about transparently well researched and authoritative information on the web. They are more than happy to take the quick and dirty. Another area where Yahoo! Answers was ahead of Google Answers.


Using Google Co-Op for Current Awareness?

November 23, 2006

Google’s customisable search product (Google Co-Op) has been out for about a month now. I was aware of it through various library blogs when it first came out, most of the posts were pretty excited about it. At the time I didn’t share the excitement and was not really interested in exploring it as a tool.

Lately, however, I’ve been ruminating on how good a tool Google Co-Op could be for current awareness. My ideal situation, I thought as I ruminated on the possibilities before even having tried co-op out, would be to set up a number of news and other key websites for this particular customised search to search over, have the results ordered by date, and have the results available in (preferably) RSS format or via email alerts, similar to what you can do with the Google News search. Then I’d be able to set up a number of search strings relevant to particular topics and have each of those delivered by the RSS feed or email alert.

I’ve just had a quick play with co-op and it didn’t really live up to my ideal situation:

  • search results are not ordered chronologically, and there is no option to change the sorting of results
  • there is no option to setup rss feeds or alerts from the results
  • results are more typical of using Google’s standard search rather then Google News (perhaps I should have expected this, but I had it in my head it would be more similar to Google News given my current awareness mindset!)

So, at face value, Google cop-op (which admittedly is still only in beta, like a lot of Google’s offerings) does appear to have its limits for use as a current awareness tool.

It does have some strengths compared to other similar products, for instance Rollyo limits your customised search to 25 searchable sites, whereas in co-op the number of sites your search will cover is unlimited. Phil Bradley over at Search Engine Watch appears to have a good run down of these customisable search products (Your Search, Your Way Part I and Part II), written before the release of Google Co-Op. I’ve only skim read this article, but have added it to my reading list.

Disappointed at what Google Co-Op appeared to offer I searched online to see if anyone had been hacking results for RSS feeds or hacking anything really. And what I found has shown me that co-op offers a lot more than what appears to the pleb when first setting up a customised search. To get the most out of co-op it appears you just have to delve a bit further into API’s and other offerings.

For instance, take a look over at Zooie’s blog where Vik Singh has a run down of some of the hacks and customisations that can be made to co-op searches. In some examples the Google AJAX search API is used to create a subset of results from ‘news’ sources (example #1, example #2). Which I plan on exploring further in my attempt to create my ultimate current awareness tool!

Response to : The “OPAC doesn’t do like Amazon/Google” problem

November 22, 2006

I posted a response to Opacula’s recent post The “OPAC doesn’t do like Amazon/Google” problem. My comment covers what I think really, but I can totally see where Opacula is coming from with this.

Coming from a special library background, I’m often irritated at the lack of customisation or experimentation done by special librarian’s with regards to their online catalogue(s) and other tech-tools they should be using. This is usually due, in my experience, to the lack of IT skills in the library… and relying on an in house IT team to help you out is usually totally out of the question. Mostly because of a lack desire to explore and experiment with new technology from the IT team, who is too focussed on security and procedure, or because they have no clue about what the library does or what it wants to achieve.

Google News Source List

November 22, 2006

Google News is a great tool for sourcing recent news items without having to pay a fee to your preferred fee-based news service. One weakness of Google News though is its lack of information regarding the primary news sites it indexes.

Google News Report is a web site that tracks the source(s) of news items that appear on the Google News homepage. Its data is available for a number of the local news homepages (eg. USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India… plus others), and provides a number of different break-downs of the data (eg. news sources by month and top 25 sources by date… plus others).

I will find this very useful if I manage to make any progress on a project I’d like to undertake that compares the results of running saved searches on Google News vs. my organisation’s preferred fee-based news service for current awareness purposes. I’ve been under the impression for a while that a lot of the news that comes through these fee-based services such as Lexis-Nexis and Factiva are available online for free, but haven’t yet had the opportunity to do a proper comparison. If I do manage to make some comparisons it will be important to know what sources Google News indexes and makes available, hence my excitement at finding this very useful website.