Bravely searching


When I go searching on the web, I have a number of schemes to help me feel like I’m getting the best results. Note that I’m using the word “feel”. I don’t know if what I do is the best but at least I feel like I’ve given it the ol’ college try.

If I know that I’ve read an article about it previously, my first stop is my Diigo account. Every time I read an article of interest and share it on social media, it’s automatically tucked away there for future use. My logic is that if I’ve read it and found it significant enough, why should I search for it again? After all, the internet is a pretty big place.

For day to day searching, I bounce between Google and DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo claims not to follow me around and, as a result, I have this warm feeling that I’m going to get objective, unbiased results. Google, as we know, does follow us around and that can be a first step is zeroing in on results that would be important to me.

Yesterday, it came out that a new search engine has entered the searching realm. This time, it’s from Brave, the organization behind the Brave browser. Its claim is that it doesn’t track you as you navigate online. It claims that it lets you search without a trace, consistent with its message about the browser.

Now that there’s a new player, what to use? It’s going to take some work and some thinking but it’s always nice to have options. I decided to put it to the test with something near and dear to me – “dougpete”. After all, I should be the ultimate judge on the results.

Google

DuckDuckGo

Brave

It was interesting to see the results and priorities of each search engine. Of course, the results could have been predicted. My blog and Twitter account would be like shooting fish in a barrel to any decent search enging. So, I kept on scrolling. It’s important to note that there is a connection between Brave search and Bing for results.

At this point in time, I’m still plugging away at it. It’s always nice to have options. Speaking of options, one of the things that should happen is to change the default searching options. That’s pretty easy with most browsers since they do offer a choice. Brave search, being the new player on the block gives you instructions about how to install it as the default search engine here. Or, if you’re actually using the Brave browser, the latest update has it built-in as a selectable option.

Details about Brave Search are available here.

Image searching


I was lead to this from Doug Belshaw’s newsletter. The site is called Same Energy. It’s a website devoted to finding images for you.

So, what makes this stand out in an environment full of search engine?

For the most part, search engines accept the descriptors that you send them and does its best to locate images that meet those descriptors. If you’re really good about describing what you want, you have success. If you aren’t that good, you might go back and add a few more terms to tighten up the descriptor. Or, if you’re in a hurry or you’re a student, you take the best fit and move on.

Same Energy works nicely to help you refine your search.

We believe that image search should be visual, using only a minimum of words. And we believe it should integrate a rich visual understanding, capturing the artistic style and overall mood of an image, not just the objects in it.

So, I put it to the test and promptly went down a rabbit hole!

For yucks, I started with the search “Toronto” and got this.

Now, we know that Toronto is more than the CN Tower.

I found a picture of a cute pooch sitting with the City Hall in the background which led me to this.

A few more clicks and I was well off the track from my original search or another way of looking at it was I was refining my search as I went.

Now, a starting point of “Toronto” isn’t the best of starts. Anyone who has ever taught students how to search knows that.

I went back and started with some more specific search terms like “White German Shepherd” and found that I could refine an image search nicely.

I found it responsive and very easy to zero in on things I’m in search of very quickly. Certainly much quicker than trying to describe the item in words.

You can create an account for yourself to download the images or create collections. This is a very interesting refreshing approach to finding images. The author warns that it’s in Beta and will likely change but what online doesn’t these days.

The author is very open about how it works.

The default feeds available on the home page are algorithmically curated: a seed of 5-20 images are selected by hand, then our system builds the feed by scanning millions of images in our index to find good matches for the seed images. You can create feeds in just the same way: save images to create a collection of seed images, then look at the recommended images.

I found the experience fascinating and look forward to hearing more about this search engine as it matures and grows based on feedback from users.

As always, I’d encourage you to take a look and share your thoughts about it in the comments below.

How did you search?


One of my morning indulgences, thanks to my friend Craig is playing 7 Little Words. And, one of the clues in one of the bonus puzzles this morning was:

early search engine – 9 letters

Of course, I threw out Google right away for two reasons. It’s not 9 letters and it wasn’t one of the early search engines.

I didn’t have to think too long until I came up with the answer – Altavista.

That certainly took me back a ways.

In the district, we had a group of CAITs that met with me every Friday to plan what initiatives and resources would be discussed with their schools in the upcoming week. In the late 1900s, we had rolled out internet access to schools and everyone was excited about using it in the classroom.

After all, you didn’t need to go to the library any longer and book out the encyclopedia volume for your topics; you could just search for it. One of the activities that we did was evaluate search engines because we wanted to get the best resource in the hands of students.

Altavista was part of the group we looked at. But not the only one. Courtesy of the Wayback Machine, here are some screen captures. It’s interesting to see what was important to have on the page of the day.

Altavista


Excite

Lycos

Yahoo!

Looking back now, it’s very clear that, not only were they search engines, but they were also web portals to information. You could easily find something by searching by category.

And there always was a shopping offer on the page.

One morning one of the CAITs, Ric, came in and shared that he’d heard about this new resource called Google. We tried it and liked it. Like millions of others, it became the default and off we went.

It’s still the default search engine for many web browsers who support it in that manner. Of course, the skillful know that every browser has the ability to change that to other ones. A popular one that respects privacy is DuckDuckGo. But there are others.

In fact, there are lots of options these days including Ecosia which plants trees just by you using it. Privacy takes on importance to many and here’s a list of privacy focused search engines.

As for my original list, I checked them out to see where they are today.

  • Altavista now resolves to Yahoo!
  • Excite is still there working as a portal and search
  • Lycos is there as a search engine and link to other services
  • Yahoo! is still active as well serving both search and a portal. It nicely has a Canadian landing page

Searching and search engines have been intriguing to me and I’ve probably done way more experimenting than I needed! In a way, it saddens me that many students these days just go with the defaults and use Google or Bing depending upon their browser. There is another world out there.

There’s a rich history of innovation, design, searching philosophy and concerns about privacy that they may never know.

How about you? Did you start out in Google-land or does your history go back further?

Search and save


This search engine has hit the popularity scene in some of the circles I swim in online. If your interests include doing something about climate change, this is something that you might want to check out.

The website is ekoru and there are a couple of interesting claims.

  1. All of your searches are private. We don’t log any data on our servers.
  2. Every search helps raise money for Big Blue Ocean Cleanup!

The site does incorporate cookies and if you open the information menu in the top right, it shows you what it’s setting. That was interesting to be that open right up front. I’ve often been curious about what has been set on my computer and that typically means going under the hood.

ekoru didn’t like me the first time that I visited. Regular reader know that I use advertising blocking on my browsers. At ekoru, this gives you a sad Panda graphic and a request to unblock.

I visited again in a private window and did the same search. The first part of results are advertising which are labelled as such but you do have to go looking for the little “ad” notation. The ads come from the Microsoft advertising network and there’s a link there to take you to their privacy policy.

For people that don’t use an ad blocker, I suspect that they know the routine and deal with it regularly.

So, if you’re looking for a search engine that claims to do social good, check it out.

Search them all


A long time ago, I had written a script that kind of did was Soovle does. It’s just that Soovle does it so much better.

It was based on the premise that if searching on one search engine was good then searching on more than one can be better.

So, let’s say you’re interested in finding out more about “Winnipeg”, you can give it a shot here.

The blank screen when you land looks like this.

But, start doing a search and watch them all come to life. So, it’s off to Winnipeg we go…

Results from all of the search engines are populated as you type. It’s kind of neat to play with your arrow keys to rotate the results and check them out.

There are more tips in the secret link in the top right. If you don’t like the default choices of search engines or layout, the engines link let you customize things.

When you find a search of interest, clicking on it will take you to the result in the search engine selected.

But wait, there’s more. Before Lisa and Aviva jump in with suggestions on media literacy … it’s an interesting comparison between search engines to see what they return. I’ve mentioned before that it’s frustrating when a student finds what they’re looking for in the first page of results from a Google Search. This is a powerful visual reminder that that is but one way to search.

If you live in Winnipeg right now, I would imagine that knowing when and where the Grey Cup Parade happens would be a significant thing. What search engine has the same priority? Why isn’t that the first result from them all? Can you make them all return information about the parade?

The more you know, the better a researcher you’ll be.