Introducing josh bostwick

by joshuaaajoshuaaa (02 Mar 2015 20:05)

When I Teach This In 2010

by samooresamoore (29 Dec 2009 15:06)

This page is going to contain my (periodically) updated thoughts about what to do in the next version of this course.

Tools that I should definitely include next year

At suggestion of students

  • Pipes (a full day on this)
  • Factiva
  • Diigo (over delicious)
  • VideoSurf (emphasize over other video search)
  • Addict-o-matic (emphasize on twitter day)

My own thoughts

This is where I need to reflect back on what we just did.


What to do? Different?

Suggested structure of next year's project

I tried to clarify what I wanted for the project, but it's still the case that too many students could not figure out (though many could, obviously) from the instructions what was required for this project. So I'm going to use the following next year as a way of (I hope) simplifying the instructions.


  1. Home page
    • One sentence description of the topic of the site
    • Instructions (containing links) on how to get started
      • Pointer to tutorial
    • Table containing five most recent news analyses
    • Search engine field
  2. Current events
    • One "news" entry per week summarizing what went on in the industry that week; include links to stories
    • Possibly multiple pages if you're doing companies and a specific industry (or possibly not)
  3. Background
    • Contains a brief overview of the topic
    • Contains many pointers to Web sites, Web pages, videos, etc. — whatever would be appropriate to get the analyst up-to-speed on the topic
    • Lots of text is not needed on this page; you are simply showing the analyst all the good information that is scattered on the Internet
  4. Tutorial
    • Describes how to get up-to-speed on this topic
    • Describes how analyst should work their way through this site
    • Describes how analyst should use the most useful tools (for this particular topic) to find new information (web sites, blogs, news, twitter information, deep web, videos) and to keep up to date on changes (RSS feeds, page monitors, twitter feeds, and email alerts)
  5. Blogroll
    • Contains list of RSS feeds subscribed to
    • Contains evaluation of each of these feeds
  6. Custom search engine
    • Contains the CSE itself
    • Contains a description of the resources behind the CSE (pages, sites, additional terms, or whatever)
  7. Web page evaluations — this contains evaluations of the primary content-based Web sites that you relied upon for this site
  8. Search tool evaluations — this contains pointers to separate pages that evaluate each of the types of search tools that you learned about:
    • General Web
    • Web directory
    • Blog search
    • News sites
    • Video search
    • Image search
    • Tag/social sites
    • Deep Web
    • Real time search
  9. Notification tool evaluations — this contains pointers to separate pages that evaluate each of the types of change notification tools that you learned about:
    • Site-based email alerts
    • Search-based email alerts
    • Page monitors
    • Twitter monitors

Menu structure

  • Basics
    • Home
    • Tutorial
    • Search engine
    • For prof
  • Industry
    • Background
    • Analysis
    • Stories (brings up shared RSS feed items)
    • Blogroll
  • Evaluations
    • Web pages
    • Search tools
    • Notification tools


by oish330oish330 (24 Dec 2009 22:11)

While playing around after our class on real time information, I discovered the search engine uberVu that tracks real time conversation trends on the internet. UberVu will follow a conversation over multiple websites; for example, if you search for "BMW" uberVu will search for blog post comments, Twitter feeds, YouTube comments, and whatever else it can find to track what people are commenting about BMW recently. The other nice feature on this site is that it outputs a graph like the one below showing the trend by date and the sites it originated on. The idea is that you can track the evolution of the online conversation about your search topic.

Search for BMW



I wish that I had found this site over the summer while researching consumers for my job at Unilever. Out of curiosity I tried a relevant search from my summer - "bodyspray" - and look at the results:


Although the trend showed that bodyspray has not been a really popular topic, uberVu still provided a handful of links to where conversations have happened about my topic. These links alone would have been useful direction in researching where guys talk about bodyspray, what they say, and where they are looking for information. It can often be difficult, particularly with the male gender, to figure out what is acceptable in discussions about personal care product usage. Most guys are very uncomfortable with conversing about grooming and without this information it is very difficult to design products properly suited for consumers. This link to uberVu illustrates a conversation of comments from a website that posed the question Women: Do you like the smell of Axe body spray?. This is the kind of information that brand managers are paying thousands of dollars to collect through focus groups, and it's available free on the net… that is if you can find it (and uberVu can).

Another point of note here is that I could add this search to my Google Reader RSS feed through one of the uberVu tools, allowing me to track the conversation consistently. For marketers, this would be awesome to determine a reading of the effectiveness of digital marketing.


Overall, I really enjoy the graphical interface of uberVu. Although I think that their database for search could likely be expanded, I expect this is something they are working on. Also, it seems that their site crashes frequently due to capacity constraints so upgrading servers would be useful. Another thing I really like about uberVu is that there are a few nice tools to integrate their search in to your personal blog, Google Reader on FireFox, or Bookmarklet. These kinds of tools are always appreciated by end users (I may even add an uberVu widget to this blog pretty soon).

In the future a search engine like this could be used for tracking penetration of advertisements and marketing campaigns on the net, a useful tool that does not exist to date.

I give uberVu a score of 8/10 on the Omer enjoyment and usefulness scale.

RSS Aggregators

by oish330oish330 (24 Dec 2009 22:10)

One of my biggest complaints with RSS aggregators on the web (Google, Bloglines) is their interfaces. Although both of the aforementioned readers are very capable, I can never seem to convince myself to type in that URL everyday for my news updates. I would rather browse through the web pages of a handful of news sites. Maybe I am just biased or maybe I have not given the web based RSS aggregators a fair shot at winning my heart. Either way, what I do know is that I see the potential value in using RSS to check up on my favorite websites, news, and blogs in a single location (I tend to be obsessed with making everything in my life more efficient). For this reason, I decided to explore two mac RSS aggregator software-based options: Mac Mail (standard with Mac OS) and NetNewsWire (free download at NewsGator). Below you will find my comments:

Mac Mail


What I like:

  • Show your feeds in your email Inbox
  • Add feeds from bookmarked sites in Safari without having to open Safari
  • If you're a Safari browser user, you can use it to manager your RSS feeds (see these instructions).
  • Can sync Mail/Safari feeds between two computers, say your desktop and laptop for example. Here is a tutorial on how to set it up if you're interested (disclaimer: requires some copy/pasting scripting code)

What I don't like:

  • Slow to update
  • Inability to search for new feeds directly in the software
  • No pictures in expanded view for news (just text and link to original site). Note that iTunes feeds do show album art
  • Advertisements in expanded view

Learn more:



What I like:

  • Google Reader importing
  • Multiple view options. I personally really like the Widescreen view which makes it super easy to view the different feed categories you have, headlines, and expanded view to read what you're interested in
  • Ability to post to your blog or delicious
  • Bandwidth stats so you can track which feeds are most updated (and take up more of your bandwidth because they have to download to your computer more often)
  • Most/Least attention tracking. I think it is cool to see which sites you are reading most often, particularly because it can be hard to track which sites provide the best info for your interests if you are tracking 300 news sites
  • Built-in tabbed web browser
  • Scrollable headline view that allows users to see the pictures included in articles and read the first couple of paragraphs. This is a great way to see all of your day's news in one window, just scroll through and stop at the articles that look interesting.
  • Customizable skins for the expanded viewing area
  • Matching iPhone app ($1.99 at the App store)

What I don't like:

  • Inability to search for new feeds directly in the software
  • Advertisements in the main window unless you pay to upgrade

Learn more:

Conclusion and more info

Spending some time with both these pieces of software has me beginning to warm up to RSS. Particularly with NetNewsWire's really cool feature list and interface, I feel like it will grow on me and may replace my daily haunting of too many news websites. Maybe I will find something productive to do with the time I can save not having to type in so many URLs to get the daily dose of info. The only down side is that neither of software I tested allows users to search for new feeds in the built-in interface. This is where sites like Blogline and Google Reader are superior. However, I think this is a tradeoff I can live with.

Figuring out these two RSS aggregators was an interesting experience and taught me more about the features available on my Mac. For a really good review about other software-based aggregators for Mac OS check out this site.

People Search is Scary

by oish330oish330 (24 Dec 2009 22:06)

After our class on People Search, I thought it would be interesting to see what I could dig up about myself using a handful of the tools we talked about. I realize that it will probably be easy to find my phone number since it is publicly listed as well as listed under my company Elemental Brothers DJ. Let's see what happens..

  • Sex Offender Finder - This search engine is very easy to use, dragging the map around can be a helpful way to find the safest areas to live before moving to a new area. Fortunately, Ann Arbor is a pretty safe area and there are no sex offenders anywhere near my area. On the other hand, where I will be living next year (Philadelphia) has many offenders. Now I am a little scared…
  • Criminal Offense Search - Luckily, nothing showed up for me on this (and it shouldn't!). However, I did find some dirt on some of my friends. I am shocked at how easy and accessible this information is, it just makes me wonder how many companies use these tools to dig up information on possible employees.
  • Pipl - Interestingly enough, Pipl did not find that much information about me. I expected that this site (particularly with its Deep Web emphasis) would be more accurate than some of the others. I was surprised that it did not find my facebook page, but instead did pull up a link to campusgroups with information about Ross Student Government.
  • Private Eye - Found my entire family in less than 2 seconds. Scary.
  • Public Record Finder - One of many Intelius-based public record search engines, this one linked through to an Intelius search that pulled up information about me and both my parents instantly. If I was willing to pay, supposedly it would also be able to give my age, DOB, phone number, address, favorite food, and GPS location… okay maybe not all that info, but close.
  • Facesaerch - This site scares me a bit. I know that it's just based on Google image search, but it just makes it so easy to find pictures of people, including myself and my family members. The simple interface is easier to scan through than Google Image Search and I surprisingly found a picture of myself pretty quickly.


After trying out a bunch of the people search sites, I was surprised by the information some of the sites found. From Student Government paperwork to my picture, it is pretty surprising how accessible information is. The internet has many fantastic things going on, but with the proliferation of knowledge and information comes a sincere risk to privacy and security. In particular, Google is a great yet scary tool. Storing all their information from day one with no guarantees of what they will do with it in the future, one day the world may not love Google as much as it currently does. Let's hope that does not happen, but in the mean time we have organizations like Google-Watch to advocate privacy over the internet.

Fortunately for me, I do not have anything negative out there on the internet, like a criminal record, and it is also fortunate to not see any misleading information. It seems that the search engines are more accurate than one would assume since there are so many similar names in existence. In the future, I plan to keep up with the stream of information available on the internet about me. Hopefully, nothing negative will ever show up.

Delicious vs Diigo

by oish330oish330 (24 Dec 2009 22:05)

Delicious and Diigo are both online bookmarking utilities that we briefly discussed in class 21 on Social Sites. These sites allow users to create a login and bookmark websites just as one would in any web browser. However, these bookmarks are not linked directly to users' computers so they are accessible from any web browser on any computer. Also, both Diigo and Delicious have Firefox add-ins, so users do not have to have a separate web page open to bookmark, it's as easy as a single click of a button.

Delicious is the vastly more popular of the two tools as illustrated by the below graph from Google Trends. However, Delicious has been clawing to maintain its users, consistently losing traffic over the past couple of years. Originally, the site was located at the URL, but in an attempt to make their site easier to use and prevent losing more consumers, they altered their URL to Obviously, this did not help out much.


Despite having issues with popularity, both these sites are very capable. There are a few key features when using a bookmark site and it is important to distinguish between the two most prominent ways of using these sites: bookmarking vs. discovery. Bookmarking is self-explanatory; use the site to save the locations of websites you want to visit later. Discovery is what makes online sites better than built-in browser bookmarking. This feature allows users to search bookmarks from all people using the site and find pages of interest. It also allows for browsing based on what is popular or recent, similar to social news sites like These features are available because of the tagging system used on both websites. Users tag pages, allowing themselves and others to find them later.

Let's look at their features briefly:


The front page to Delicious is shown below. Overall, the site is very simple and easy to use with a clean user interface. This makes navigation simple and the learning curve to use the site not very steep.


Like I already mentioned, Delicious is a very simple site that intends to fulfill the basic bookmarking and social needs of its users. With this in mind, Delicious does a fantastic job. I personally like simplicity and Delicious unquestionably delivers that.

Delicious explains its feature set as:

Delicious is a Social Bookmarking service, which means you can save all your bookmarks online, share them with other people, and see what other people are bookmarking. It also means that we can show you the most popular bookmarks being saved right now across many areas of interest. In addition, our search and tagging tools help you keep track of your entire bookmark collection and find tasty new bookmarks from people like you.

Delicious keeps all your bookmarks in one place so you will never lose track of your bookmarks again. Since we store your bookmarks online, you can get to them from any computer, whether you're at home, at work or on the road.

Folders were the old way to organize your bookmarks. They were great if you only had a few bookmarks and a few folders, but as your collection grew, it became harder and harder to decide what goes where. Delicious has a new and better way: tags.

Tags are simply words you use to describe a bookmark. Unlike folders, you make up tags when you need them and you can use as many as you like. This means, for example, that all of the bookmarks you tag with funny and video will automatically be placed in the "funny" collection and the "video" collection. Since tags work the same way for everyone, you can also check out other people's "funny" or "video" bookmarks. You can even combine tags to see bookmarks with funny and video.

That pretty much sums it all up. The site's philosophy is that the best sites will bubble up based on the amount of users bookmarking and tagging them, and from these tags you can find the most popular subjects at any given time. Plus, users can share their favorite sites with their friends who are also using the site

Learn more at Delicious.

I have been using Delicious for nearly 4 years now on and off, and every time I come back to the site I realize how useful it is. I usually will still save my bookmarks to Delicious even if I am not going back to the site (thanks to the browser add-in), and then when I do revisit Delicious I find all kinds of interesting things. It can be easy to lose a few hours of time from the interesting sites that are becoming popular. For example, while searching for some new pages about German Autos, I quickly found this interesting article that I otherwise never would have came across. Yes, it has nothing to do with what I was ACTUALLY looking for, but it is news that would not pop up anywhere else.




Diigo works in very much the same way as Delicious. Users bookmark and tag websites and can also discover new sites based on what others are saving. However, Diigo has some cool additional features:

  • Highlighting - Highlight text on the websites you are bookmarking. Very useful if you run in to a website in the midst of some other work and bookmark it to check out later. I tend to forget why I bookmarked some sites, so highlighting could really help with that.
  • Add-in flexibility - Delicious only has a Firefox add-in. Diigo works on Firefox, IE, or Flock and the 3rd party bookmarklets supposedly work quite well too (Delicious' has these too, but not as functional according to this review.)
  • Commenting and In-document messaging - Users can add comments to web pages and others can view these comments. Additionally, you can see when another user is viewing a site and can instant message with that person about what you're both reading.
  • Twitter and Facebook functionality - Diigo makes is really easy to tweet or Facebook about a site with a one-click feature built in.
  • Bookmarking the entire page - Unlike Delicious (that just bookmarks the link to a site), Diigo bookmarks the whole thing. You can view sites within Diigo and search for text within sites through Diigo.

Learn more at

Diigo is pretty incredible. It is one of those sites that a person uses and thinks "it would be great if Diigo did…. OH IT DOES." What I mean is that the creators of this site have definitely spent time to understand the desires of users and have created a feature set that speaks incredibly well to those users. This is the kind of site I love to use. By the way, the Diigo toolbar is VERY easy to use, even with all the additional features. In fact, it may be a bit nicer than the Delicious toolbar.


Before writing this blog I had no experience with Diigo. After working with it, there is no question in my mind that it is a more capable tool than Delicious. Although I like Delicious' simple user interface, Diigo is not much more complex and it is significantly more feature-packed. I think I'll be making the switch…

Other competitive sites to check out

Auto Meta Search

by oish330oish330 (24 Dec 2009 22:01)

This blog entry reviews the use of a handful of metasearch tools to find information about German autos. I decided to try the same search criteria on each of these sites to see what they would each come up with. Since the Los Angeles Auto Show was just last week, I was interested in finding information about the news cars from each of the big German car companies.

Search Criteria: L.A. auto show AND (Audi or Porsche or Volkswagen or Mercedes or BMW). If this format did not work on the particular metasearch site, I used a handful of L.A. Auto show + German car company searches and looked at the results overall.

Approach: Since I am a relatively picky search user and do not have a lot of time on my hands to go through tons of results, I usually stick to reading what a search engine pulls up on its first page. Following this logic, this is how I will be analyzing the metasearch engines.

My expectation in completing this exercise is that the search engines will, for the most part, return similar results. However, hopefully I will be surprised at the diversity in the results that will help me to find more resources to include on this website.

Integrated Metasearch Sites

  • Startpage - 7/10 Startpage came up with 15,199,338 results for my search criteria. In the first page I found some interesting sites sourced from blogs like Jalopnik and Autoblog. Of the top 10 results, 8 were of interest for my site. This sounds pretty good to me, except that the best of these websites were down near the bottom of the top 10 results. Notable article: Porsche Spyder
  • Dogpile - 6/10 I have used Dogpile for years. Back in the days when Google did not own the world (hard to remember that far back?), I preferred using Dogpile as my search engine since it summed up results from multiple places. Of course, back then I did not know of any other metasearch engines either. The problem with Dogpile has always been that it typically is hard to find specific results, I have no idea why. Running this search criteria is a perfect example, most of the results were about auto dealerships in L.A. Specifically, the top 5 results were for different dealerships. In fact, none of the top 10 results were particularly what I was searching for. I find this strange since all of the metasearch engines search Google, Yahoo, and Bing at the least. Why are the overall results so different?

Unified Interface for Separate Search Engines

  • Search.IO - 8/10 Search.IO has one of my favorite interfaces out of all the metasearch engines. Apart from Kosmix, Search.IO is my favorite graphically (although I have no clue where the arabic language ads on the sidebar come from?). The quality of the search results is great since it splits all the major search engines from Google to Alltheweb on different tabs. It's easy to look through the top 10 results from each search engine and find the things you like. Additionally, it is great to be able to view web pages within the search site so users do not have to deal with tons of windows while looking through different websites. Notable article: German Car Scene
  • Leapfish - 7/10 I really like the organization of this site. You can flip between viewing results from Google, Yahoo, or Bing. It also shows images from Google or Flickr in the main search results page. In terms of the quality of the results, they were overall pretty good (of course this site separates the results of different search engines, so the site itself is not doing any of the real work in picking the best results). Interestingly enough, I would say that Startpage did a better job overall in coming up with what I was looking for through prioritizing the results from all the different search engines. I will also note that some of the results from were not the most recent articles (ie from 2006 and not the LA auto show). Notable article: VW Up! Lite Concept
  • Kosmix - 9/10 Kosmix has the best graphical layout of any of the metasearch engines I've used. I love how it splits up pictures, news, blogs, videos, conversations, etc… on one page. This makes it incredibly easy to look through a bunch of different sources of media for what you are looking for. It is also clear that Kosmix does not emphasize web search, which is a different tactic from its competitors. Instead, it makes it easy to find information from just about every other source on the web. In the case of this search, I found a ton of pictures from the LA Auto show, a great video, and some blog entries. Nothing new from the web search though, which was just a Google search page (same one I've seen repeatedly while writing this blog). Notable find: YouTube

Note: I know this method of reviewing sites is not the most accurate. My intent was to figure out which sites would be the most useful in finding the information I am looking to include on this website.

Google Wave Update!

by dbaodbao (24 Dec 2009 16:45)

After watching the video (below) at the beginning of the year, I've been extremely interested in Google Wave. I mean it makes sense - email can often be a mess, especially when you start sending things back and forth with a group of people. So…I was extremely excited when I scored an invite a week ago!!!

Initial Reactions

From the preview video, I thought using Google Wave would be much more intuitive than it was, although it's easy to adjust fairly quickly. A quick overview of how Wave works: instead of sending an email back and forth between a bunch of people, there is one Wave document that everyone can view and edit in real time. This really means real time - instead of sending an entire document the way you would with email, you can see what people are typing as they type it. This can be really great…but people can also see the typos you are making and anything you start to say (even if you think better of it.) To get things going, you start a wave and drag people into it. Within this wave, you can then track changes, communicate with people in real time and work on documents together. The main appeal to me seems to be significantly improved coordination from "traditional" email, but I'm waiting to discover more cool aspects as I become more familiar with Wave.


So far, the number of Gadgets is limited, but I definitely like the few that I've found so far.
As shown above, the three main gadgets are the poll, map, and ability to play games. The poll allows wave participants to vote "Yes", "No", or "Maybe." I hope that it will become more customizable and allow you to pick your own response options in the future. The map is also editable by all users and can be used to pinpoint locations, share directions or point out locations of interest between people. The only other support gadget so far allows you to play games with other Wave users. One thing that I do really like about Wave is the integration of Google Search. You can perform various searches (images, websites and videos) and paste these directly into your waves. So far, I've had fun playing around with these gadgets and can see myself getting a lot of value out of them in the future.

Future Value

I remember when Gmail came out and it was all the rage because of it's innovate way to organize your email - although it's value was still part of the existing email system, it just excelled at its organization and customizability. While there were features that increase in usefullness as the number of Gmail users grew (how did it anyone make through those boring lectures without Gchat?), you were still able to interact with other people who had not yet jumped on the Gmail bandwagon. That's the thing with Google Wave though: they claim to have integrated all of these cool features from various search engines and social sites into a new method of email, but the value depends significantly on the number of Google Wave users. As I only know a handful of Wave users right now, I have mainly been using Wave as a new way to chat with friends. The feature that allows you to edit what other people have written provides for many chances at entertainment.

Change Notification

One thing that I have become accustomed to with email is being alerted on my phone when I receive a new one. As Wave is still obviously new technology, Google has yet to integrate notification into the everyday function of Wave. In order to see if anyone has updated any of my Waves, I have to actually go to my Wave inbox (which is INCREDIBLY slow on my computer - one of major complaints about Wave. Although this may have something to do with the fact that my computer is about to kick the bucket…but anyway I digress) to check if anyone has updated any waves. Google tells you the time each wave was last updated, but I often have trouble finding exactly what the last edit was. You can always use playback, but this slows things even more and confuses me a little. I will often think that one wave has been edited and been unable to find where exactly the change was, even after using playback. It would be a lot better if Google could automatically replay the changes that have been made since the last time you opened Wave.


I think the idea of Wave is representative of what Google does best - taking something that everyone takes for granted (flaws and all) and finding a way to make it significantly more efficient and better suited for everyday use. However, I don't think it will replace traditional email anytime in the near future. The nature of what email has come to be used for means that some emails are sent out without the intention of recipient interaction. While Google Wave provides a lot of value in collaboratively working on documents, not all emails are intended for that kind of use. That being said, it's certainly an interesting concept and something cool to play around with. If you have a few friends that already have Google Wave and have extra invites to spare, I would definitely recommend getting one and checking out what Google Wave has to offer. Rating: 8/10


by dbaodbao (23 Dec 2009 04:44)

summit in Copenhagen gets underway on Monday. While search-engines and climate changes aren't the most related topics in my mind, a new announcement was also made in the search engine world to coincide with the summit. Ecosia, the self-proclaimed "world's greenest search engine" is now available for use, with an official launch date of Monday, December 7.

How does it work?


So you maybe be thinking Searching for things on the web isn't that harmful for the environment. After all, I can find information without need to waste paper by buying printed books, BUT there are still environmental costs to performing online searches. Google must have physical location to store its servers and for its employees to work, which emit harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

According to Ecosia's home page, each search you perform on Ecosia will save around 2 square yards of rain forest. The video below describes exactly how this works. Google and other search engines earn money from the ads that are placed on each page. Every time you click on them, Google earns a few cents. Add up all the searches that occur each day, and this starts to up to significant amounts of money. Ecosia works on the same basic premise - but donates a portion from the revenue to saving the rain forest through World Wildlife Foundation. I feel a little bit misled about finding how this works - I thought that every time I hit search, something magical would happen in a rain forest some where, but it's still a worthy cause to donate your search time to.

Search Functionality

Although Ecosia claims to operate the same way as Google, the actual search experience is a litle bit different. According to the video, Microsoft and Yahoo provide the sponsored ads that generate revenue (not sure why Google isn't included.) They recomend helping them generating revenue by either going directly to the website or by installing the search bar into your browser. The video advertises Ecosia as not being only green, but also incredibly user friendly. However, when I load Ecosia, it doesn't quite have all the customizable features shown in the video. For example, I only had a number of search options: Amazon, Google, Google Images, Google Maps, Google News, Weather, Wikipedia and Youtube. The results page itself is very simple.
It's pretty bare bones - absent of the plethora of options I'm used to seeing on Google. However, there is a "preview" option that has become pretty standard for search engines that I am excited to see - you get a little screen shot of the site you are about to visit. I'm also impressed the most of the Google search syntax also worked with Ecosia. Also, the main option for searches is the distinction between: "the web" and "pages in English", which is hardly comprehensive or exhaustive.

My Thoughts


While this is certainly an interesting idea for a good cause, I'm not sure that I would entirely replace my trusty Google homepage with Ecosia's. That being said, thinking about saving the rain forest would definitely motivate me to meander over to Ecosia every now and then to perform a few searches. It may not be the best suited for searches that require high levels of manipulation or search power, it is sufficient for searches on a basic level. I like that you are able to track how much of the rain forest you've saved in the bottom left corner of the Ecosia page. With every search you run, you are also able to see the total amount of rain forest that has been saved to do. I applaud the folks at Ecosia for this innovative idea and am happy to donate to their cause, but they haven't quite convinced me to give up Google just yet (it's proven to be a very difficult task thus far), even to save the monkeys!

Bing Maps

by dbaodbao (23 Dec 2009 02:56)

In Microsoft's continued effort to catch up with Google's various search engine tools, they have recently announced new additions to the beta version of Bing Maps. While Bing Maps itself is not a new feature, some of the features announced this week are brand new to Bing.


This move is obviously intended to directly match up with Google Maps' popular features in the constant race to catch up to Google's stronghold on the better part of the search engine market share. Google is currently dominating with around 70% of the market, while Bing currently stands at roughly 10%. Google's Street View, introduced in the U.S. in 2007, allows users to see actual images of your search destination instead of just grids. With this tool, you can visually explore your neighborhood and any other place you're interested in. Bing Maps has added Street


People nowadays have dozens of different social networking tools that they use on a daily basis, but these are usually separate and require visiting each site to receive the benefits. The newly announced Application Gallery will allow users to integrate Twitter with Bing Maps.


As shown above, you can see recent Twitter updates from your location and where they were updated. You can refine your results but search by keyword or username as well, if you're more interested in the location of one particular Twitter user. Or you can see only updates for a specified location (you can enter an address or landmark.) There are a number of other ways you can interact with Bing Maps. If you're interested in exploring a new neighborhood, there's a feature called Local Lens that has (supposedly) has developed content for local areas. Additionally, Bing has integrated PhotoSynth, which can create a 3D visual experience from a collection of images. This will even allow you to virtually view some museum exhibits (at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for example.) However, it wouldn't load on my computer. However, almost none of the apps worked for Detroit (which was the closest city to Ann Arbor that Bing had map results for.) Bing has announced that around 100 cities have been mapped so far, with more to come in the near future.


So how exactly does it stack up against Google Maps?

Search Feature Google Bing Winner
Image Quality Images often get grainy, especially when you zoom in further Clear (see below) Bing
Coverage Fairly extensive, but still hasn't covered house in Marquette Only major cities for now, Detroit and Cleveland Google
Maneuverability Use directional arrows Can navigate freely Bing
Interactive Can show you nearby restaurants & businesses Links for "What's Nearby" all returned no results Google
Add-Ons Not compatible with Twitter Can link your twitter and map results, extensive Map Apps Bing
Software Only need Internet to access Requires Microsoft Searchlight Google
Overall Well-established, fairly comprehensive New entrant to market, similar functionality Google

Although Bing Maps beta features of number of new additions, I still think Google maps has the competitive edge for now. Microsoft attempts to match Bing on the core competency of visual search, but adds new features that they're using their users will want integrated with maps. Having been around for a few years, Google has the advantage of already street mapped significant portions of America, while Bing is just beginning. The limited areas that Bing Maps covers currently will hurt them, as many users who hear about Bing Maps will still be unable to use them. Additionally, some people may argue that simpler is better and that all of Bing's applications don't really add any value to the map search experience. When Bing Maps becomes more developed and a little older, I will certainly try it out, but for the time being, I'm definitely sticking to good ol' Google.


Google Facelift?

by dbaodbao (23 Dec 2009 02:54)

Google is constantly tweaking and updating itself to continually improve the search experience for users. I recently discovered that Google plans to implement a new and improved user interface in this article and set out to try it for myself. Although this upgrade, named Caffeine, will not be publicly available for everyone until January, it has been released for a limited number of users. However, some people have found a way for everyone to try it and I'm sharing the love. Instructions are at the bottom of this post for those interested in checking out Google's new UI. According to Google developers, the main improvements of Caffeine will be improved speed in searching and indexing the web to compete with efforts from Bing and Yahoo Search to overtake Google's dominant position in the search industry.

First Impressions

The first thing you notice is that now the main search options are now in a panel on the left side of the screen. You still have the same options that were previously on the top of the screen - but Google has made manipulating your search a little bit more maneuverable. You have options for what kind of search you want to perform - you can choose whether you're looking for everything, or specifically news, images, books, blogs, or a number of other options. If you choose a specific medium, obviously Google will only display those kind of results. If you choose everything, Google gives you a preview of each of the types of results. Google gives you headings: a few news results, a few blog results and a book results. Another new feature that I noticed is the integration of time search into the search home page (and not just with the news search.) You can choose how recent your search results are. When you choose to search within a particular medium of results, like Books, Google gives you further options that pop up in the left panel for you to refine your results. When looking for books in particular, you have the options for what kind of view (preview or full) as well as what document (books or magazines.) There are similar options for video search and the other modes.

Many of the different types of search we learned about in this class have now been aggregated in one central location with Caffeine. You no longer have to perform a search repeatedly to return different types of results - Google endeavors to do it all for you in one convenient location.

One thing that I did notice was that ads seem to take up significantly more space than they used to. Developers have described Caffeine's new layout as a 3-paneled (from left to right: menu, results and ads.) However, there seems to be additional white space to the right of the ads (almost enough for a fourth panel.) I didn't particularly like how the space for results appears to have shrunk while ads get more space on the page.

New Search Tools!

Also on the vertical panel, Google has options for new search tools. These options that used to be less accessible are now alongside every search that you perform. There are options for pages (previously viewed or not), different views and layouts for searches now.


From what I've noticed in my exploring, it seems that the main difference is in the increased ability to easily customize and refine your results to return relevant results. Instead of having to go into the menu bar to modify your results, you now have greater control of how you want to view your search results. However, in exploring the differences between the new and old google (running them both in different browsers), I did find a few things that disappeared in Caffeine. One feature called "Wonderwheel", that I hadn't even known existed, can no longer be found in the new Google.
Wonder wheel was introduced earlier this year, and generates visually related searches in a wheel of wonder! One really nice thing about wonder wheel is that no ads show up on the page when you are using it. I'd never this before, but now I'm seeing that it potentially be useful in general searches where you don't have a specific result in mind. Maybe it's just hidden in the new google, but I have yet to find it. I highly doubt that this new interface will revolutionize the search engine industry the way that the original Google did, but it certainly makes the search process more user-oriented and easy to manipulate. Test it out and if you don't like it, you can always go back to the current interface (at least until the change becomes permanent.)

Try it out for yourself!

And if you want to check this out for yourself, here's how:

  • Go to the Google Home page
  • Enter this into your browser:


  • Enjoy!
  • To go back to normal Google, just clear your cookies!

Milo Shopping

by dbaodbao (23 Dec 2009 02:51)

As you may have noticed in my blogs and project analysis, a huge part of why I use the Internet is to help in one of my FAVORITE pastimes - shopping. A news article that recently caught my idea has to do with search tools that can help you with shopping the traditional way (in stores), as opposed to through online web browsing. Milo has made news, as seen in the article here because of the large amount of venture capital that it has attracted recently.

What is it?

From what I understand, Milo collects information about the local inventories of products that you are searching for. You can browse their catalog online, enter your zip code and find out what local stores are selling your product for and whether or not they have any in stock. Additionally, if you can't find it locally, you often also have the option to buy it directly online.

Why is this important?

Recently the trend has been on improving the shopping experience online - Bing's cashback, Amazon's convenient check out, many free shipping offers, among other ideas - but Milo actually uses the web to improve your real life shopping experience. It can be extremely frustrating (especially on a day like Black Friday) to see something you want, but to be unsure which stores have it in stock and how much they are all selling it for. Milo allows you to use the vast powers of the Internet to improve your in-store shopping experience.

Feature Overview

Searching for Ann Arbor returned a lot of specific results, but I had a number of issues with finding results in my hometown of Marquette, Michigan. I searched for "winter boots" and the following turned up:
Their claim to fame is the ability to display the local stores that carry these products, but a number of the results returned with "click to check availability." Additionally, there are options to filter search on the left side of the page: there are check boxes for categories, brands, sizes, price and local stores and ratings. It leaves off one rather obvious separation when it comes to buying any kind of clothing: gender/age. There's no way to search for only womens', mens' or kids' items within the results that Milo returns.

Going Forward

As Milo is just a start up and has recently attracted a great deal of funding, I would expect the features and depth of the site to grow with time. Currently, Milo has the ability to index more than 1.5 million products at more than 42,000 stores in the U.S. Right now, it features some of the bigger retail chains - I saw results for Best Buy, Walmart, Macy's, and many nationwide chains. However, I think more value would come from being able to index unique local stores that may not have flashy websites or lots of internet advertising. Many of the chains featured have their own websites where it may be possible to check if your local branch has a particular item in stock (it may take a little more digging and time, but still possible.) Local stores are where it may be harder to track this information down, but that's where Milo is running into a bit of trouble. It is relatively simple for these chains to integrate their inventory systems into Milo's, but smaller stores may have more complicated or less-updated inventory systems that are difficult to update online. Hopefully Milo will be able to find a way around this to make their database more comprehensive.


For now, I will probably elect to keep my online shopping and in-store shopping as separate experiences, but if Milo can put this venture capital money toward developing their technology and expanding their database, I can definitely see myself using Milo a lot in the future. I would recommend keeping an eye out for improvements to this website coming up.

Bing Cashback

by dbaodbao (23 Dec 2009 02:48)

As we are all learning in BIT330, search engines aren't only useful for finding out how many ounces are in a quart, or what the weather is outside. There are a millions of different ways that search engines can make your life easier, and almost as many different search engines to choose from. Bing's Cashback Program gives search engines yet another use - one that I certainly haven't seen before - the ability to make you money.

How it works

From what I understand, Bing collects and lists products for sale on its cashback shopping home page. In addition the normal description and price, Bing also lists the amount of cashback for each purchase. You then follow the links to purchase whatever you're looking for, and you get the cashback percentage * the price of your item. Bing will then give you that money back through paypal or a bank account.

Where does the money come from?

This sounds like a great idea - Bing helps me find good prices on the things that I want and then gives me more money back (so I can find more things that I have no need for but feel compelled to buy…it's a vicious cycle.) Even though the cashback percentages are usually not substantial (15%-2%), it really starts to add up if you are a frequent buyer or are buying expensive things. Companies pay to have their listings made available on Bing, and part of that money goes back to you. One potential drawback that could result from this is the lack of discrimination of quality of companies. Even right on the homepage, companies looking to participate in the program can immediately find out how to go about doing so.


You have to buy from websites that are listed on Bing - which is fairly extensive, although obviously not comprehensive of everything available on the web. For example, in looking for shoes, neither Zappos nor were listed and they both carry a lot of variety in shoes. Another slightly annoying thing is that even if you know a retailer participates in the cashback program, you have to access it through Bing first - you can't just go directly to the website. Bing also warns you against:

  • Waiting hours to complete a purchase
  • Closing your browser window
  • Shopping with InPrivate Browsing enabled in Internet Explorer 8
  • Navigating away from the store's site after you start the purchase process.

If you do any of these things, we might lose track of you and the store might think you came from someplace other than Bing. If that happens, it will be hard for us to prove that you made your purchase through Bing.

Search Engine Market

Latest numbers indicate that Bing's global market share has dipped slightly from August to September. Cashback could potentially help draw new users into using Bing for shopping, only to discover the multitude of other features Bing has to offer. Since you need to have a Bing account in order to get your money, this will also increase the size of the Bing community.

Overall, I think Bing did a great job of providing innovation in the search engine market to bring together user needs and firm capabilities in a way that is profitable for everyone (except if you're not listed, and that's easy enough to solve.) While I may not use Bing exclusively to shop (sometimes I still prefer checking out individual websites), I will certainly consider this when making my next purchase.

Jamesoo Search Engine

by dbaodbao (23 Dec 2009 02:47)

The main page of Jamesoo proudly advertises that you will "find what you'll never expect." I was a little unsure of whether or not that would be a good thing. Often, I end up search engines because I am looking for a particular answer to a question. Jamesoo introduces a novel presentation of online news search, but the quality needs to be improved to match the superficial features


One of the more unique aspects of Jamesoo is its layout. Results are returned in a newspaper format, with each search result represented as an article.


Jamesoo attempts to combine the traditional front page format of news with the functionality of internet search. The headline even includes the date and the price ($0! Free newspaper! On the internet!) From the searches I tried, Jamesoo seems to have a limited number of results. "Health care" returned 5089 results, but there were only 5 results pages. I counted less than 1000 articles per page, so I'm not entirely sure how they select which articles to display, or what that number is relevant to.

Quality of Results

One area of Jamesoo that needs significant improvement is arguably the most important aspect of any online search engine - does it tell you what you are looking for? Jamesoo promises to surprise you, but it seems like sometimes this surprise isn't a good thing. You generally don't expect (or don't want) irrelevant results, but not all of Jamesoo's results were helpful. Additionally, the only way to organize search results is in the default newspaper layout. While that certainly puts a new spin in the same ol', same ol' we're used to seeing with Google, it doesn't help if you want to search results by date or author. The first result that comes up for health care links to what appears to be Jasmyne Cannick's personal website (and in case you've heard of her, check out Who She Be, as opposed to a reputable newspaper or television station website. I would hardly categorize her link as an article, as it really more a short blurb with a poll attached. It's hard to gauge how reliable and trustworthy Jamesoo's news sources are.

The default settings for Jamesoo (it doesn't seem to be too customizable, I haven't figured out how to change the layout from the default) searches for exact matches for your search term (using quotation marks.) Although this could be beneficial in returning more relevant results, the lack of options means that you may have a hard time if you are trying to perform a more general search.


Additionally, it appears that you can't change the default setup for each article. Jamesoo provides a link to the original article, but doesn't list an author on the main page (meaning that you have to actually go to the link to find out who wrote it if it is not included in the body of the article.) There are also no dates listed. The main headline indicates that results are from the last seven days, but there isn't any quick way of knowing exactly how recent an article is.

Overall, the main benefit that Jamesoo provides appears to be the integration of traditional newspaper layout with low-quality results. I would consider using this in the future if the quality and relevance of results can be improved, and if the functionality of the website becomes more user friendly (ability to play around with different options for the newspaper view, ability to manipulate search results). For now, Jamesoo was limited in its ability to help me search for news and find relevant information about the health care/medical devices industry.

Silobreaker Experiment

by kfreelskfreels (23 Dec 2009 01:57)

In this blog post, I'll be examining how Silobreaker, a news analysis tool, works. Since I finally picked my term project topic (fast food industry - hooray!), I'll be delving into all kinds of fast food industry news.


Silobreaker Overview

Silobreaker is a site that helps the user find news articles and analyze them. On the home page, headline articles are listed along with the date they were first posted, the last time they were updated, how many documents are available, its category, and links to related entities. Silobreaker also has some category links at the top of the home page. These include global issues, technology, science, business, energy, and the world. So it might not be the best site to find news articles about John & Kate + 8 developments…

When I click on one of the headlining stories, I'm taken to a Silobreaker page dedicated to that story that provides a summary of the story, what others have reported on it, quotes regarding it, related stories, and many more tools that I will get into when I do my search experiment. The bottom line is: Silobreaker is not just a website that coughs up links to articles when you do a news search, it uses textual analysis to categorize stories, summarize the internet buzz about those stories, and figure out how various stories are interconnected.

Now, onto the experiment


I began with a generic search for [mcdonalds]. Silobreaker automatically asked me if I meant [McDonald's Corporation (Company)], and thank goodness it did, because the results for my [mcdonalds] search were less than impressive. Once I clicked on their suggested search, my results improved. At the top of results, Silobreaker had a section with the McDonald's logo and the type, name, nationality, and fact sheet about the organization (see right). This would be helpful when researching a company you don't know a lot about. Instead of scanning through various search results, you could get the current, need-to-know info right up front. Now I will dive a little deeper into my analysis, and tell you about the unique features you can find on Silobreaker

Unique Features of Silobreaker & How they Helped my News Search!

Mouse-Over Information

In Silobreaker, you don't even have to click on anything to get in-depth information! When I mouse-over the title of any search result, a box pops up that shows a longer summary of the article, in-text content, and more documents about that story. This is a feature not available in other search engines, and it's useful because the user can quickly find out more about the search result right on that page. Below you will see what popped up when I moused over the article called "Why the Fat Police of South LA are Failing". The most important thing that the mouse-over showed me was the main point of the article in the "In Context" box. Now, I don't even need to read the full article - I know exactly what it was talking about because of the mouse-over function.

Content Volume

Many of the search tools we've learned so far this semester do offer a tool that shows the popularity of a specific topic over a period of time. Silobreaker "Content Volume" feature not only shows how much stuff was posted about the topic over a period of time, it also breaks it down into whether or not that content was news articles, blogs, or audio/video. The one thing that did disappoint me about this feature was that it isn't interactive at all. For instance, I can't change the period of time it covers, or see any information about why the content peaked on a particular day. I can't even enlarge the graph! So all it really told me was that for some reason, between September 6th and 13th, there was a peak of content volume about McDonald's.


The Network tool is probably the coolest tool that Silobreaker offers. It shows the relationships that McDonald's has with other entities in the news. In the image below, you can see that the network connects McDonald's with companies (i.e. Burger King), organizations (i.e. NYSE), locations (i.e. Kuala Lumpur), and keyphrases (i.e. Food Chain). You can also see that I have the ability to select the period of time the network covers, and I can adjust the inputs to the network. So if I only wanted to see the companies that McDonald's shares a network with, I could do so.


The best thing is, I can mouse-over any name in the network to get snapshot information about it. Here's what comes up when I mouse-over Burger King Holdings, Inc:


Additionally, I can hover my mouse over any connection in the network to see the article that corresponds to that link. For example, when I mouse-over the midpoint between Taxes and McDonald's, a box pops up that shows documents and stories indicating a relationship between McDonald's Corporation and Taxes, and also allows me to search further is this particular connection is of interest to me. I believe that this is the most useful tool that Silobreaker offers because it allows the user to see a big picture explanation of the most current McDonald's news stories and how they are linked to other entities. Since my goal for this semester is to research the Fast Food industry, I will keep checking up with Silobreaker's Network tool to see how it evolves.


Another very neat tool that Silobreaker provides is "Trends". While a few of the blog search tools I analyzed in my last blog post had cool trending features, I would have to argue that Silobreaker's "Trends" feature is THE coolest (and I should mention, about news, obviously). The image below shows the relative share % of McDonald's news compared to other entities. The grey bar graph represents the total news article volume for all the entities combined. The very cool thing is that I can choose whatever, and however many entities I want to compare McDonald's to. Silobreaker even gives me suggestions from various categories like company, keyphrase, and city. Additionally, I can select different lengths of time for the graph to depict (4 weeks, 3 months..etc.), AND can also manually insert a range of time I want to see.

Since the Content Volume feature told me that there was a peak in articles about McDonald's between September 6th and 13th, I decided to see how Mickey-D's stacked up against some other companies during that time period. Sad face - it didn't work. All I got was a grey bar graph and no indication of what % share McDonald's had. So my conclusion is that the Trends feature is COOL, but you need to give it a long enough range so that it has something to work with.


Silobreaker really does a great job of analyzing news, not just spitting out lists of news. It tries to collect and decipher as much information about a particular news topic from all types of media. For instance, on the right hand side of any search results page, Silobreaker has a section called Blogs that lists blog posts about your search topic. The mouse-over feature works on these too, so you can quickly get the gist of the post without having to click on it. In addition, the Blogs section can be sorted by relevance or date, much like the blog search tools that I've previously analyzed. This was helpful during my search about McDonald's because not only was I getting news about the company, but I could see how people were reacting to that news.


Silobreaker is a great news search tool. Its unique tools actually help the user analyze news, as opposed to just find it. Additionally, it's focused on legitimate, newsworthy entities which makes me trust the results more than I would any regular full news site. The most useful features are Network, Mouse-Over and Trends. Silobreaker could improve its Content Volume tool by making it more interactive. I did like that they included the Blogs tool with my search results but if I was really looking for relevant blogs, I would probably use a dedicated blog search site. Ultimately, Silobreaker is a site I will use again to learn more about the Fast Food industry!

Image Search

by kfreelskfreels (23 Dec 2009 01:57)

In this blog post, I will compare the results of Google Images to Exalead in my quest to find great pictures for my fast food wiki. Both Google Images and Exalead are general image search engines that find images across the web and allow users to filter through the results. Here are screenshots of what both sites look like when I search for 'hamburger':


In my analysis I will focus on four factors: quantity, quality, advanced search, and filtering options.


Here's a sampling of the # of results from each site for various searches:
Google Images Exalead
"hamburger" 3,620,000 41,246
"fast food" 39,900,000 33,252
"taco bell" 1,480,000 6,421
"french fries 3,140,000 6,699

You probably get the point. Obviously, Google Images returns far more images for searches than Exalead. However, does this really matter? Chances are, 98% of people don't scroll down past the 60th image or so. Okay I made that up, but seriously, no one would EVER scan through all 39,900,000 images related to fast food on Google Images. In fact, I actually think Exalead appeared to have a higher quantity because as you scroll down the page, more and more images appear. After lots of scrolling on my Taco Bell search, I could see the first 187 images on Exalead, whereas I could only see the first 20 for Google Images. 1 point for Exalead.


In the top 20 images returned for my "french fries" search on both sites, there were only 3 images that overlapped and were results for both image search engines. Google Images and Exalead seemed to be of pretty much the same quality, which unfortunately is not great quality. They both had roughly the same amount of irrelevant results for broad search terms and I wouldn't classify either has having high-quality or photography-like images. It was mostly grainy pictures pulled from random websites for each search engine. However, since I was searching for things like "taco bell" and "french fries", I thought maybe the quality issue was with my search terms, not the results themselves.

So I decided to search for "snapdragon", which is one of my favorite flowers. Google Images definitely dominated in the quality ring for this search. Exalead returned a lot of irrelevant images, and a lot of bad images. For Google, 8 out of the first 10 images were what I considered quality results in that they were relevant to my search and were not a grainy, un-useable images. Only 5 out of the first 10 on Exalead were quality images in my book. 1 point for Google.

Advanced Search

Below you will find the screenshots for the advanced search menus on Google Images and Exalead:


The Google Images Advanced Search menu has some cool features. First, filling out the form is pretty intuitive. It spells out exactly what the user would be looking for so they can find it easily (i.e. you can't really screw up "Find the results not related to the words…"). You also have the options to specify what content types Google searches (news, faces, etc.), the size of the image, aspect ratio, file type, and color (black & white or full color).

Exalead's Advanced Search tool was interesting. It had filters exactly like the first four on Google Images Advanced Search, and were pretty easy to use. If you click on "Exact Words" to filter, it populated the search box with exactly what you will need to do an exact word search, you just have to fill in the words. The interesting part of Exalead's Advanced Search was some of their other filter options; they have a phonetic search for people who don't know how to spell and just sound out words to search, as well as an approximate spelling search (if you kind of know how to spell the word), and a specific search for adult content. Maybe I'm naive, but do people really use these? Are they necessary? I tried out the phonetic search by typing in "shakespeer", and it definitely did not give me the results it would have, had I spelled the word correctly in my search. Only 1 of the top 10 results had anything to do with the real Shakespeare. Overall, I think Google Images Advanced Search is more useful because of its numerous, intuitive, and useful filtering options. 1 point for Google.

Filtering Options


To the left you can see the filtering options on Google Images, and below the filtering options on Exalead.

They both have the same kind of options: size, type, and color. Exalead also has filtering options for file type and orientation, that weren't available on their Advanced Search. For size filtering options, I like Google's a little better. I find their "icon" filter to be very useful. Many times I am looking for a tiny picture or logo and this suits my searches perfectly. Additionally, Exalead's size options are limited to Small, Medium, Large, and Wallpaper, whereas Google has 17 size options since you can pick from the drop-down menu of "Larger than…". Google had one more type filter than Exalead, allowing users to search for line drawings of an image. The color filters were essentially the same for both, except Google also had white, black, grey, and brown filters.

One thing I really didn't like about Exalead's filter is that if you're playing around with the filters, you have to undo a filter you just put on in order to try a different filter. For example, I wanted to browse through the color filters on Exalead. I first clicked on the yellow filter, and then wanted to see what the blue filter did, so I clicked on it. Exalead thinks I want to see images that are BOTH yellow and blue; not yellow OR blue which I could handle. So in order to get around this, after I've clicked on the yellow filter, I have to click on it again to undo it, and then click on the blue filter. It's tedious and time consuming, and it goes for all their filters, not just the colors. I hate to say it, but Google takes the cake in this round too. 1 point for Google.



Google: 3 points, Exalead 1. Google dominated in both quality, Advanced Search, and filtering options. The only thing Exalead had going for it was that it populates the page with far more results than Google does, making it easy to scan through. All in all, I'll be using Google Images (and probably some other tools too) for the rest of the semester as a I search for images for my site.

Financial Research on the Web

by kfreelskfreels (23 Dec 2009 01:54)

One important aspect of doing industry research is to understand the financials of the industry and individual firms. Two web-based tools, Wikinvest and Wolfram Alpha, are free and easy to use sites that are immensely helpful for doing financial data research on the web. In this blog post, I will describe how to use each site and what you can learn from them for your research.



This tool wasn't covered in BIT 330, but I honestly think it's one of the most useful tools on the internet for business and financial research. I discovered it while researching the Fast Food industry and it will be my go-to source from here on out. And as its name suggests, Wikinvest is the Wikipedia of investing. Hundreds of thousands of contributors, from everyday investors to industry experts, have created an online reference covering a variety of investing topics: individual companies, industry analysis, commodity monitoring, investing funds, global markets, and even basic personal finance advice. While you should spend time exploring all of these features on Wikinvest, for the purposes of this blog post I will focus on demonstrating and evaluating the industry and individual company analysis features.

Industry Research

Wikinvest offers industry analysis on over 80 industries, a list of which you can find here. The Fast Food Restaurants wiki is incredibly informative, comprehensive, and up-to-date.

The wiki includes a general background and description of the industry, followed by a breakdown of the composition of the industry, explanation of industry trends and forces, and links to the company wikis of the industry. There is also a section for recent news in the industry on the right column. Additionally, the Data tab includes a table listing the Fast Food Restaurants with comparable data metrics. The user can choose the time period and which metrics are shown.

What can the industry analysis be used for? For one, it can be used to monitor the trends in the industry. For example, the wiki currently highlights the US spending slowdown, rising food prices, international expansion, health and wellness concerns, and the rising threat of fast casual restaurants as the trends in the fast food industry. Second, if you were putting together an industry report or needed information on industry competition for a particular company, the Data tab on Wikinvest would allow you to pick the important metrics, the time period, and assemble a table of all the information you need.

Company Research


The company wikis on Wikinvest are even more useful than the industry wiki. As you can see in the image above, the company wikis are organized into three main categories, Analysis, Data, and Financials. There's a ton of information on the wiki, so I will just cover the highlights.

Business Overview

The Business Overview section can be found on the Summary page in the Analysis category of a company wiki. For the purposes of demonstrating these features, I'll be using Burger King Holdings' (BKC) wiki. Within the Business Overview, Wikinvest provides an in-depth description of the following:

  • The company's financial results
      • For example, from BKC's wiki I learned that "in FY 2008, Burger King increased revenue by 10% to $2,455 million from $2,234 million the previous year." This section also provides info on why revenue increased, its affect on net income, a graphical representation of the figures from 2006 to 2008.
  • Various business segments
        • This section outlined the three geographical segments that BKC operate in.
  • Quarterly financial results
          • This section gives the most up-to-date quarterly financial figures. For example, I learned that "BKC reported revenue for Q4 2009 (ending 6-30-09) of $629.9 million, a decline of 2% from the same quarter in 2008". It also provided me with a description of strategic operations.
Data Central Analysis

The Data Central tab is by far the coolest part of Wikinvest. It's really fun to play around with, and it's incredibly helpful! At the top of the page there's a drop down box that lets you decide what you'd like the key metrics for BKC to be compared to. The options are: top competitors, fast food, fast food restaurants, fast food restaurants (QSR) or food and beverage. Basically, it allows you to compare BKC on a narrow scope to its top competitors up to a broader scope against the food and beverage industry as a whole. The Data Central tab presents six different kinds of data:

Industry Metrics

  • This section lists BKC's key metrics and rates the as average, high, or low compared to its top competitors, or whatever other comparison the user elected to use. There's also a bar chart that lets the user look through key metrics and visualize how BKC stands up against its competitors. Additionally, be mousing over the name of the metric or the comparative rating, Wikinvest shows a graph or chart giving more details about BKC's fianncial position. For example, I learned that the number of total restaurants has steadily increased since 2005 by mousing over the Total Restaurants metric, and that BKC is in the 47th percentile in terms of sales per restaurant.
  • Another great feature of Wikinvest is that every graph and chart has an embedding function that provides the user with an HTML code to embed the image on their own site.

Stock Summary

  • The Stock Summary lists the opening price, day range, 52 week range, volume, average volume over 3 months, number of shares outstanding, and market cap for BKC stock.
  • A huge advantage of Wikinvest is that if you don't know what a financial metric is or how it's measured, Wikinvest has a Definitions page that clearly explains, in layman's terms, what the metric is. Here's the Definition wiki for "Market Capitalization"

Income Statement

  • The setup of the Income Statement section is much like the Industry Analysis in the image above; certain key Income Statement metrics are listed for BKC and are rated as average, high, or low compared to its top competitors. Next to that is the bar chart that allows you to visualize how BKC stacks up against its competitors for several metrics, in different time periods.
  • If you click on "See All" at the top of the section, Wikinvest navigates you to the full Income Statement page in the Financials category of the BKC wiki.

Balance Sheet

  • This section again lists key metrics from BKC's Balance Sheet and rates it in comparison to competitors. Then, it summarizes the Balance Sheet in an easy to read format by listing total assets, liabilities, and equity for BKC, as seen in the image below.


  • This section lists key valuation metrics including: P/E Ratio, P/B Ratio, P/S Ratio, ROA, ROE, EBITDA, and Dividend Yield.

Analyst Recommendations

  • This section shows analyst recommendations regarding BKC stock compares to their recommendations about stocks of the fast food industry in general.

Wolfram Alpha


Wolfram Alpha is a "knowledge engine", that attempts to answer the question it thinks you're asking with the data it has available. While Wolfram Alpha has really only one useful feature for industry analysis, its ability to quickly, succinctly deliver accurate financial data for a company in easy-to-read table and graph form are worth trying out.

In the Financials table, shown below, the user can click on the drop down menu and see all the options for financial data, including: Fundamentals, Ratios, annual or quarterly Balance Sheet, annual or quarterly Income Statement, and annual or quarterly Cash Flow Statement. In addition to this table, Wolfram Alpha has a customizable graph depicting stock price history, performance comparison chart and correlation matrix for the company's stock against its competitors and the market average, and a graph that shows projections for the company's stock 1 month and 1 year out. This information is standard with any company you search for on Wolfram Alpha.

Another really useful feature of Wolfram Alpha is to compare two different public companies. By typing in two companies' names, like {wendy's mcdonald's} in the seach box, I can see all the data for both companies laid out in easy-to-compare tables, and the stock charts compare the prices of both firms.



Wikinvest and Wolfram Alpha are great tools, but serve different purposes. I would use Wikinvest if I was preparing am industry outlook report, and wanted to understand exactly how my company sized up against its competitors, how its financials have fared over time, and what strategic choices the company has made to get where it is today. Wolfram Alpha, on the other hand, should be used as a quick reference. I would use this if I were summoned into a meeting with my Manager and the CFO of a company who needed to know, immediately, what the annual dividends per share was for their biggest competitor.
Overall, I think these are both excellent tools that should be used weekly, if not daily, while researching an industry like the US Fast Food industry.

Geography on the Internet

by kfreelskfreels (23 Dec 2009 01:51)

I love the internet. There's so many things you can do and learn from it. The best part is, I probably know 1% of everything that's out there. I'm sure there are hundreds of sites that I would find fun, interesting, and useful that I don't know about yet. One thing that the internet has helped people do so much better is explore different geographic locations outside of the town, state, or country they live in. Today I'm going to use some of the geography-based sites on the internet to learn more about San Francisco, CA, where I'll be living this summer!

Travel Sites


Kayak is a travel search engine that aggregates information from a lot of other travel sites and helps the user find the cheapest flights, hotels, cruises, and rental cars. Users don't actually make reservations through Kayak. Kayak just links to the source of the flight, hotel, cruise, or rental car deal and makes its money off of advertising.
Kayak is amazing and I'm definitely going to use it next summer. One of my favorite features is the Deals section. I can periodically check it for great deals for hotels and vacations in California or anyplace else. As you can see on the right, the deals are listed and can be sorted by relevance, popularity, price, destination, or newest. Another awesome thing is that I can sign up for weekly deal emails to be sent to me that are tailored to my home airport.

So if I'm looking to take a weekend trip, or my mom needs a hotel to stay in next summer, I can head to Kayak to find great deals from all over the internet. You can also explore the deals by interest, with choices like all-inclusive, family, golf, romantic, or resort & spa. Of course, you can also use Kayak to search for specific flights, hotels, and other services and find the cheapest options, or the options that best suit your needs.


Goby allows you to "create your own adventure". It's a pretty cool site that allows you to search for activities, restaurants, events, and places to say in a city during a specific time period. While I would like to think that I could easily and succinctly describe how Goby works, the CEO probably does it better in the following video:

I think that thoroughly explains what you need to know about Goby but here is how I used to it to find things to do in the San Francisco area. First off, I wanted to find a beach. Who lives in California for the summer and doesn't go to the beach? After searching for "beaches" in San Francisco, I moved the "my location" point on the map closer to the Pacific Ocean. Goby had 76 results for me, the first 15 of which made me want to go to California now, instead of waiting until next summer! The only kink I noticed in Goby's system is that since it pulls the information from hundreds of travel and destination sites, some results, like Ocean Beach in San Francisco, are listed multiple times. This isn't necessarily a bad thing because it could indicate the popularity of the attraction and offer links to different discussions about it, but the negative aspect is that you don't see 15 unique results on the first page at Goby.

I also decided, just now, that I'm going to drive up highway 1 next summer and tour some wineries on the north coast. So I went to Goby and searched for just that, wineries on the North Coast, CA! Goby came back with 23 results, all of which looked delectable. One thing I liked on Goby was that as I scroll down the page to see the various wineries, the map that shows where they all are and where "my location" is scrolls down too. So you can easily change your location! Goby is definitely useful for someone just looking for something to do, especially when they don't know the area!

Local Search Sites

MSN City Guides

City Guides are like home pages for a city or area. When you log on, it automatically recognizes where you are or takes you to your last searched City Guide. It includes weather forecasts, customized search for businesses, movies, and events in the area, features nearby restaurants and events, shows a map highlighting hot spots around the city, and includes related videos, editor's picks, and local information on a multitude of topics. It's a one stop shop for city life! Here's a snippet of what the site looks like:


My favorite part of the site is the ability to explore the city events. City Guides lets you find concerts, festivals, and other events, find movies playing near you, and discover the hot restaurants in town. Want to see the Nutcracker? Go on a Golden Gate Bay Cruise? Ice skate in Union Square? Find a golf course? MSN City Guide can help you do that and so much more.

I definitely see myself using City Guides this summer. The only things I didn't like were that you can't narrow your search of restaurants and other events to a specific address. Also, just to note, you do have to sign up as an MSN member and sign in to use many of the services.

Like MSN City Guides, is a local search engine that tells you "where to go, and what to do". It also recognizes your location or your last searched city, so when I open up the page it automatically goes to San Francisco, CA. You can browse by type (i.e. Arts & Crafts, Fairs & Festivals, Music, Dance, etc.), or by broader sections (i.e. Events, Movies, Restaurants, etc.). You can also narrow your search down by the broader section you're looking for. has a lot of great features that I think make it better than MSN City Guides. First, it has a section for free events! Who doesn't love free events? This will be helpful next summer when I'm spending all my income on rent and don't have a lot of discretionary funds. Also, for all events it has an option for the user to add it to their calendar (the only mainstream one it didn't include was iCal - but I'm a Google Calendar kind of girl anyways). In the Restaurants section, it includes dining deals and coupons. The fact that has so many unique categories and types of events is extremely useful. will also be a weekly, if not more often, visit for me this summer when I'm looking for things to do!


Road Trips and Driving Sites


Waze is a "social mobile application" that combines a map of traffic with user-generated reports on commuting issues. Waze is best utilized as a mobile app, on an iPhone for example, but for now I'm just exploring the website to see how helpful it can be. To see an in depth explanation of what Waze is and how it works, watch the tutorial on this page. In short, Waze tracks traffic through the GPS coordinates of its users' phones. In addition, users can submit reports about accidents, hazards, and construction.

Looking at the Live Map on, I wasn't all that impressed. Here's what the map looked like for San Francisco, which is generally pretty busy with traffic. Those red lines represent heavy traffic, and the orange lines moderate traffic. The construction barrel symbol is a user-generated report about road construction on a particular street. The side bar has scrolling updates that tell you which streets have heavy or moderate traffic, and give you the average speed of drivers.


Now, it Waze's defense, it's Sunday morning at 9am in San Fran, so it could very well be that there's just no one on the road! But even searches for Chicago and Detroit didn't turn up too much traffic, and it's noon here. The problem with Waze is that its success and usefulness factor is based on how many people use it. The more people who use it, the more information they have about travel time and traffic jams, and the more reports they will get about accidents or construction. Waze was just launched back in August, so it's relatively new. So while I don't think its that useful right now, as more and more people find out about it, it will become exponentially better. That's why I'm going to keep using it and hope that by the time I have to make the drive out to San Fran, or commute to work in the city every day, Waze will be a great app to make my travels easier!

Transit on Google Maps

Now, in addition to getting driving directions on Google Maps, you can also find out how to use public transportation to get you from point A to point B in more than 430 cities across the globe. Google Maps allows you to get step-by-step transit directions on your web browser or mobile application. By specifying your start and destination locations, and the time you'd like to leave or arrive, Google Maps Transit application can tell you exactly how to get there, when buses or trains are leaving, and even how much it will cost.

I actually discovered this application a few weeks ago when I was visiting San Francisco. I was at Fisherman's Wharf and wanted to go to the Financial District, but it was raining so walking there didn't sound appealing. I pulled out my iPhone and found the route on Google Maps, then clicked on the bus icon. It showed me what bus I needed to take, where to pick it up, and how much it would cost. The friend that I was meeting up with in the Financial District was amazed that I figured out how to use public transportation after 2 days, but I really just had Google Maps to thank for that! This video explains with more detail how to use the Google Maps Transit application:

If you're curious if Google Maps Transit will work in your city, check out the list of cities on this page. I think Google Maps Transit is an awesome application that is extremely useful and easy to understand, even for people who are unfamiliar with a city.

Change Notification Tools

by kfreelskfreels (23 Dec 2009 01:47)

Here's how I used the change notification tools to help me with my project on the fast food industry.

Email Alerts:

Using the Google Alerts tool, I set up to get alerts on several keyword searches once a week. One thing I've noticed about the RSS feeds I've subscribed to is that a lot of news articles come through that aren't at all what I'm looking for. For example, my RSS feed for search results for McDonald's has a lot of articles related to crime at McDonald's restaurants. With Google Alerts, I will easily be able to manage the email alerts that I receive, adjusting the keywords to meet my needs. As of right now, I'm signed up for weekly emails about each alert, but that also can be adjusted if the volume is too much to sift through once a week. Additionally, you can choose what kind of sources you want to search. I've chosen Comprehensive but I could have searched News, the Web, Blogs, Video, and Groups. Here are the email alerts I've signed up for so far:


Google Alerts is really easy to set up and is a useful tool for any research project.

Monitoring Changes

Using, a free page monitoring service, I signed up to be notified of any changes to specific fast food restaurant web pages. On the McDonald's corporate web site, they have pages for corporate press releases and financial press releases. I elected to be notified once a week to any changes on those particular web pages. The financial press releases page actually has an option to sign up for e-notifications or an RSS feed, so I decided to sign up for their e-notifications just to compare it to WatchThatPage. I will update the blog later on when I get the first notification about McDonald's financial press releases. Wendy's, Burger King, and KFC also had similar options for their recent news and financial news web pages. For each one, I signed up on WatchThatPage and for the email alert services through the actual website. Taco Bell, unfortunately, has a web site format that doesn't have different URLs for its various sections, so I didn't add it to WatchThatPage because it would have informed me of every change on the entire web site. Taco Bell also didn't have a service to receive email updates. Here's what I subscribed to on WatchThatPage:


Feed Creation

Remember how I said I got a lot of junk with the RSS feeds I'm subscribed to? Well, I signed up with FeedRinse to try to filter the content that I'm not interested in. It will help narrow down the posts that come through on my RSS feeds.


After two days of using FeedRinse, I'm semi-pleased with the results. As I expected, I've had to go back and tweak my filters in order to sort out the good from the bad. When I first imported the file from FeedRinse to my Google Reader, I made the mistake of not checking the box that said "Only export feeds you have updated since last visit". My failure to do this meant that I uploaded every single feed I have, all 26 of them, into my Reader, and then had 300 articles to read through; not fun. So remember to check that box!

What didn't work:

Unfortunately, there aren't many email alerts searchable on the web available for the fast food industry. My search for OR inurl:alert "email alerts" OR "e-mail alerts" OR "email alert" OR "e-mail alert" along with keywords like "fast food", "mcdonald's", "burger king", "wendy's", "taco bell", and kfc" didn't result in anything relevant. Apparently it's not a common enough search keyword to generate email alerts!

Analysis of Blog Search Tools

by kfreelskfreels (23 Dec 2009 01:43)

Today I'm going to analyze and compare three RSS feed tools: Google Blog Search, Technorati, and Blogpulse. For the purposes of this experiment, I'm going to pretend that I'm very interested in hockey (I'm not actually). But since I don't know anything about hockey, it will be fun to see what information is out there!

Google Blog Search

After opening up Google Blog Search, I looked around for a bit. On their main page they have top stories from different categories (Politics, Entertainment, Movies, etc.), with the links to various blog entries discussing them. On the left sidebar, they have the links to all the top story categories. On the right sidebar, they have hot queries, recent posts, and top videos.

Now, onto the hockey experiment.

In the search bar I typed "hockey", and the site returned 14,953,661 results. At the top was a section called "Related Blogs", which listed 5 blogs that seemed to be more corporate-like blogs (i.e. The Official Site of the Pittsburgh Penguins). Perhaps they pay Google to be considered a related blog? Here's what I mean:


Additionally, it gave me the choice to sort results by relevance or by date. It also has a section on the left sidebar to narrow your search by when it was posted (last hour vs. last 12 hours)

Usefulness of the Content

After perusing through the first 20 results returned to me after my "hockey" search, I wasn't too impressed and thought maybe my search was too broad. I was getting lots of results related to field hockey and some other miscellaneous blogs. So I tried searching for "college hockey" instead. Much better results!! Google Blog Search returned 1,522,667 results. The "Related Blogs" section had several reliable blogs dedicated to college hockey including:

  • US College Hockey Organization Blog
  • College Hockey News
  • Western College Hockey Blog

One other feature of Google Blog Search is that they provide the user with certain options based on their search. At the bottom of the search results, I could create an email alert for "college hockey" blog posts, search Google News for "college hockey", and edit my Google homepage or Google Reader settings to include the RSS feed for "college hockey" related blog posts.


Upon opening up Technorati, I immediately see that it has a section for the day's top stories, separated by category. Additionally, it lists some "rising" blog posts that are gaining popularity on the internet. Technorati allows you to dive into specific categories and different media forms, such as blogs, photos, and videos.

Usefulness of the Content

When I searched for "college hockey", Technorati came back with 1,885 results (note: far less than Google Blog Search). To be honest, I was disappointed with the results on the first page. Unlike Google Blog Search where results were listed in order of relevance by default, Technorati's are organized from most recent to oldest, with no option to sort by relevance. However, the site did have a cool filtering feature, in which I could specify which media type to search, which body to pull results from (text vs. only tags), how much authority results had, and what language they were in. The Technorati Authority figures tell you "the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months". So by filtering for posts that have "a lot of authority", you can weed out the random websites that happened to mention your keywords recently.


Another cool feature of Technorati is that when I clicked on a search result, instead of taking me to the actual website, it takes me to another Technorati site dedicated to that blog, and also shows me information about the source, reactions to the blog, and gives me the option to Twitter or comment about the post. In fact, I felt so strongly about one result that came up that I actually did tweet about it! However, 2 hours later my tweet still hadn't been posted to Twitter, so the verdict is out on whether this feature really works…

ANOTHER fun feature of Technorati is their trending tool. When I searched for "college hockey", a graph appeared next to the results showing me the number of blog posts that mentioned that term over a month-long period. Additionally, I could enter another search term to compare my results to. When I compared "college hockey" with "NHL hockey", here's what I got:



To finish up my analysis, I opened up BlogPulse. The front page rotates through a slideshow of 15 of "Today's Highlights", linking to the BlogPulse search results for that subject and also showing a graph, similar to Technorati's, that shows the percent of blog posts that contain that keyword or a group of related terms over a period of time. Below that, there are tables ranking the top 5 topics in various categories (Top Links, Key People, Top Videos, Top Blog Posts, Key Phrases, etc.). The right sidebar includes the search bar, BlogPulse Stats, and BlogPulse Live, which shows the most popular topics that bloggers are writing about in real time.


Usefulness of the Content

I entered "college hockey" in the search bar and BlogPulse returned 11,766 results. One slightly odd thing I noticed right away is that the results are listed from most recent to oldest according to the date they were posted, but, among all the ones from a certain date (so for instance 9/29, when I did my search), they are listed by the ones that were "discovered" first to the ones that were just "discovered" minutes ago. I suppose this may improve relevance, but to find the most up-to-date blog postings on the topic, I had to click through to page 5 of the results.

Each result gives a direct link to the blog post, and the options to "track conversation" and "view blog profile". The "track conversation" feature apparently allows users to comment and see the popularity of certain blogs that BlogPulse permanently tracks. However, out of a select assortment of my search results, the "track conversation" was not enabled for any of them. The "view blog profile" option seemed much more useful. It gives general information on the blog, its recent posts, recent citations of the blog from top-ranked blogs, graphs of its trends, recent sources that the blog has used, and ten other blogs that cite similar links and text.


Clearly, each blog search tool has its own unique features and benefits. Overall, Google Blog Search and Technorati were even in terms of my review. BlogPulse, while useful in some contexts, just didn't provide the sorting options and content variety that I was looking for. Best of luck to you in your blog searching!
Google Blog Search Technorati BlogPulse
# Results Great Okay Good
Content Variety Good Great Okay
Sorting Great Good Bad
Trending Features Good Great Great
Top Stories Great Great Good
Add'l Options Okay Good Good
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