New dimensions in answer searchJul 20th, 2009 | By editor | Category: Science & Technology, Specials
Net has become the de facto expert to consult on all kinds of issues
This edition of NetSpeak discusses the features of a new on-line service that enables you to seek advice live from real-people across the Net.
Net has become the de facto expert to consult on all kinds of issues.
Search services are the primary means through which we generally clear doubts. However, obtaining appropriate answers directly from a general search service is always not that easy. Generally, one has to dig out several web pages to obtain a proper understanding of the subject.
To counter this inadequacy of general search engines, a new stream of special search engines called ‘answer search services’ came up.
The search service Lexxe, discussed in the past ( http://www.hindu.com/biz/2006/01/23/stories/2006012300321800.htm), is a good example.
Enlisting the service of subject specific search services (like Querycat-Health — http://www.querycat.com/health/) is yet another means to serve this purpose.
Though different types of search services help us obtain answers to our queries, all of them have one shortcoming. These services explore the web pages/databases already existing on the Net and provide us links to the pages that might contain relevant answers. But there is no guarantee about this information being current/authentic.
The answer you obtained from a health search service may be relevant but it cannot substitute an advice from a real-doctor.
Besides, it may not be that relevant and timely compared to a direct answer from a real doctor. So, the question is this: is it possible for us to use the Net infrastructure to seek an answer directly from an expert’s mind instead of compiling it from web pages created by unknown experts? The innovative service Ardvark (http://vark.com/ask) proves that this is not wishful thinking, but an implement able concept. Aardvark enables you to submit questions via its web page or your IM client and obtain live answers.
The service forwards your query to real experts in your network and presents the answers received from them immediately.
First it tries to comprehend your query and attempts to place it in relevant subject group. If it fails to do so, it will ask you to provide the category for your question. Once the question topic is identified, the service sends it to appropriate experts available on-line. Most probably, after a couple of minutes you may receive an answer.
Here, instead of scanning the web pages, the service scans the experts-database. Obviously, the answer depends on the quality/quantity of experts available in its database.
Of course, services like Yahoo Answers India (http://in.answers.yahoo.com/) also offer tools that enable netizens ask/answer questions each other. However, in terms of speed, interactivity and real-time dimension, Aardvark pales them. Another advantage of Aardvark is the ease with which one can use it. As mentioned earlier, you can fire question (and receive answers) via your IM client (Gtalk/AIM/MSN).
In addition, Aardvark records all your questions/answers for accessing them later (via the ‘History’ option). The service is still in test phase and you may not obtain satisfying answers always. But the concept is revolutionary and has disruptive potential.
For a large majority of netizens the hunt for information starts with Google. But, if you are doing serious research with the Net, ordinary goggling may not always produce relevant output.
Knowledge of various Google search commands, internals of the search engine and the like will certainly improve one’s Google skills. In this regard, Google for educators ( http://www.google.com/educators/p_websearch.html), the search lessons recently released by Goolge, assumes significance. This search lessons pack contains three modules namely: “Understanding Search Engines”, “Web Search Technique and Strategies” and “Google Web Search Features”.
Yahoo’s search pad
In the midst of search innovations from Google, we generally miss out the new tools being launched by other search service providers. Yahoo’s on-line note-taking application, searchpad, is an example of such a tool. Once enabled, searchpad helps us easily record the sites visited while searching with Yahoo’s search service (http://search.yahoo.com/). When you invoke a search on Yahoo, it automatically brings up the ‘Search Pad’ feature. Once this feature is on, the service automatically keeps a log of all the sites visited. In addition, you can add extra information, edit and share your notes.
As mentioned in the past, the search service WolframAlpha ( http://www.wolframalpha.com/) comes in handy when searching for information that involves data. Now, while doing a Google search, would you like to see Wolfram output also in the search output?
If so, install the firefox extension available here: https://addons.mozilla.org/ en-US/firefox/addon/12006.
NetSpeak always pays attention to special search engines. DocMazy (http:// docmazy.com/index.php), the search tool that indexes on-line documents, is the latest one tested by NetSpeak. If you are looking for Word, PDF documents or PowerPoint presentations or Excel sheets, take a look at this service.
The facility to preview the document is a definite advantage of this service.
The hallmark of the Net today is the proliferation of services meant for sharing different types of content (like Citeulike — http://www.citeulike.org/, for sharing scholarly materials-, and the document-sharing application Scribd). Wattpad ( http://www.wattpad.com/), the on-line application that enables one to share e-books, is yet another service of this kind.
The author can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org