Let Newssift Lead the Way

By JEgererJEgerer (1261516321|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

After cranking out the exercises in class today it became clear that at least for our term projects purposes Newssift is the most valuable tool.

News Search Tools

I'd like to give a quick breakdown of the pluses and minuses of all the tools we used and my overall impressions.

Yahoo! News:

Pro: Browse-ability

The most useful aspect of the Yahoo! News page is not surprisingly its directory like organization.

Top Bar

Along the top bar are the basic sections you'd find in any news source and at Google News, but clicking on one (shown above) produces sub-menu to further drill down from. Google News does not have this feature and will simply display all the top business stories when you click the tab. This to me seems far to general and is really ineffective when you are looking to browse for today's news on specific subject without knowing specifically what has happened today. For instance, I can click on the earnings tab on Yahoo! news to get all earnings reports for today. If I wanted to do this in Google News I'd need to specify a query which would surely be muddied up with other results.

Con: Search Depth

UIGEA - Yahoo Search
UIGEA - Google Search

On the other hand when making a specific query Yahoo! News falls short of Google News in this user's opinion. You can see from the searches above that while Google netted 180 results (with high relevancy), Yahoo only produced 7. I'm not sure exactly what Yahoo does different than Google to produce such a disparity since this search purposefully used no syntax which could be read differently on each engine.

Conclusion: If you are just looking to jump on the net and take in some news like you would sitting at home reading the paper then Yahoo is the way to go, if you are hunting down some specific event Google seems to have a much wider search base.

Google News:

Pro: Article Chunking

Chunking

One feature you'll find at Google News that you won't find at Yahoo is article chunking. Take a look at the search above, not only does it provide a list of relevant results it aggregates articles to that result. Its almost like mini-queries inside of your original search. This allows you to quickly follow a new search path from a relevant article rather than taking that information and starting a new search.

Con: Integration

I think that Google News should be integrated with its other news tools. It would make sense to me if you could enter a query and then click a button to have it show up in FastFlip, Timeline, or Archive format. These tools are all easy to use on their own of course, but integrating these tools into each other for side by side comparison and analysis would be really useful.

Conclusion: Google news is the go to for a very specific search, I guess a bottom-up approach. The engine behind it just nets the most, and most relevant results and I found no problems with share-ability (RSS, e-mail alerts, etc.)

Google Timeline:

Pro: Big Picture

Google Timeline is infinitely useful to analyzing something that has happened in recent history or is changing over time. For instance, if you search the sub-prime mortgage crisis on Google News you will end up with a hodge podge of results some current some back to 2008 unless you specify a narrow time range at which point now you aren't getting the full story.

Google Timeline allows you to see how a situation development, what caused changes, and just gives a better big picture look at any news search with longevity than Google News would.

Con: Integration with I-Google

It may be in the pipeline since Google Timeline is only in the lab stage of development, but it would be nice if you could turn your timeline queries into gadgets to be placed on your I-Google homepage. The usefulness of this tool is derived from its ability to highlight connections between news results over time so its something you'll want to be in eye shot all the time.

Conclusion: For any event which develops or had developed overtime Google Timeline trumps Google News. The ability to put together cause and effect and relationships between different stories based on their chronology is something not duplicated in Google News searches.

Google Fastflip:

Pro: Legitimacy

Fastflip's real contribution to news searches is that it cuts through the slop. A vast majority of the results netted by Fastflip are form sources of the utmost credibility (Washington Post, BBC, NY Times). This tool delivers on the primary attributes of a good news search, current and legitimate.

Con: Ineffective for many searches
UIGEA - FastFlip Flop

Unfortunately it is not as powerful as Google News and lacks depth for any queries which are not popular or pervasive. You can see above a search for project topic nets zero results despite my RSS feeds cranking out quite a few stories from today.

Conclusion: Basically, if its not the type of news you'd see on the 11 o'clock you probably don't want to be using FastFlip. If it is national and international news this is the quickest way to navigate to the stories on the topic from the worlds best news sources.

Rayogram News:

Pro: Top Shelf Sources and Stories

Much like FastFlip this tool delivers on legitimacy. You've got top tier papers and the most pervasive stories (it is the front pages afterall). This combination makes the site incredibly useful to someone just sitting down to catch up on the new like you would watching CNN on tv.

Con: No Organization

The downside is there is no way to search or sort on this site. This might be a function of the limited content, there is very little you could search that would net significant results anyway.

Conclusion: This site serves the purpose mentioned in the Pro section to the utmost. It is, to me, the most comfortable way to take in the current events in print format. However, if you've got specific news on the mind, stay away from Rayogram.

Silobreaker:

Pro: Source Variety

The redeeming quality of Silobreaker is the variety of information sources it aggregates after a search.

{http://www.silobreaker.com/Search.aspx?q=UIGEA&rd=true UIGEA - Silo]

You can see from this query Silobreaker pulls together stories from the daily news, corporate publications, related blogs, notable quotes, and other documents (ie. court decisions, letters from legislators, etc.).

Con: Organization

However, all these results are poorly organized in my opinion. The page seems to just explode with news making it hard to navigate. Two suggestions to clean this up.

1) Less text. There is a text sampling of all the results aggregated which really clutters the screen space. How about eliminating the text or making it pop-up with mouse over.

2) Menus. What Silobreaker does is great, now if you could just make a search then click the tabs of what you want to see it'd be much more organized. For instance, I'd like to be able to run a search then click a 'documents' tab to have only those results listed.

Conclusion: Based on the quality of the results it seems more effort has been placed on the textual analysis engine driving Silobreaker than its aesthetics. I would use this for any obscure news topic where I really needed a search engine with depth.

Newssift:

UIGEA Search

Pro: Organization

This is where Newssift and Silobreaker diverge. Newssifts result page shows very little about specific articles instead opting to aggregating the results into related headings and categories. This is invaluable. For instance after my UIGEA search I can scroll down to related people and click Barney Frank for all the news related to his lobbying against the UIGEA. This saves me the time off producing new searches or sifting through the documents page on Silobreaker for all Barney's press releases.

Not only that, but it also helps guide your search if you are ensure what your focus will be. If I was going to focus on something broad for my project like investment banking, where would I even begin? Newssift's people/places/organizations/theme/etc. breakdowns tell you what is important in I-Banking right now, and what more focused topics will have sufficient news results to work with.

These breakdowns also give you tons of ideas from aggregating news over time. From my search I was able to use the article source breakdown to find blogs to follow and the people tab to improve my Google News searches, and the themes tab to find relevant court cases.

Con: No RSS Feed

The main drawback to Newssift is that it is largely a self-contained news vehicle. It can't really be integrated into Google in any way or followed except by using the site itself. There is no RSS feed for your query results. The real downside to this is here we using a search with really great textual analysis as opposed to Google News which operates like a search engine using keyword searches and such. It would be nice to have this in a feed because it would probably produce more relevant results.

Conclusion: As alluded in the title, Newssift, for the purposes of exploring a topic as opposed to a singular event is the ultimate tool. It is well organized, easy to navigate, and helps guide you through the results with all its linked breakdowns. For our project this is the tool I will be starting with and working out into the others from there.

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