Everyone knows that search on the web is synonymous with Google. Or is it? I’d say it used to be … still is to some extent … but not entirely.
Anyone who spends a considerable amount of time browsing the internet and searching for content is bound to be – knowingly or unknowingly – using more than one medium to search. I will try here to share some that I use.
Well, see the problem with Google search is that it throws up a lot of irrelevant search results along with the relevant ones. So that means you have to dig through the search results, drill down, refine your search string and despite that at times come back all sweaty, grimy and empty handed. Well maybe an exaggeration, but it could still leave you wanting for more.
The second problem that I see with Google search is, that I am not getting any feedback, opinions, ideas related to the topic I am searching for. So there is no conversation happening. I cannot ask any questions, get any replies. It is like watching television… very one sided. It is because of this reason that I had said on twitter once that “Twitter is making me lazy. I prefer to ask a question here and get contextual answers rather than do a search on Google”. This other time I tweeted that “Twitter search has something Google doesn’t have – people”.
But I digress. The point here is not to put down Google search (They are doing their job pretty well I’m sure) but to discuss alternate means of searching for content on the web.
The trick is in knowing what you’re searching for and what could be the optimum places to look for them. I was recently looking for a prototyping tool which would give me the option of adding rich in-the-page interactivity. Searched high and low on Google but came up with nothing. That is when I turned to LinkedIn. Yeah LinkedIn. While it is a great community for business networking, the added advantage is that it has an active community of professionals discussing, offering feedback and opinion – all of which is a lot more useful because here is someone talking about their own experience rather than trying to sell you something. Well guess what! In a discussion of User Experience professionals group, I found a list of prototyping tools I had not come across on Google, found opinions of which ones are useful in which context and also tips of how people are using existing tools like PowerPoint and Visio very successfully for prototyping.
I did mention Twitter already very active communities; people on Twitter are always more than willing to help you out if you need something. Just try it sometime. Looking for something? Ask a question on twitter. Believe you me, you will not be disappointed. People offer suggestions, opinions and if they don’t know, they will RT (retweet) – your tweet so that someone in their network can offer you help. People on twitter called it Crowd Sourcing. I have indulged myself on various occasions, asking about tools I needed, and even opinions for narrowing down options while buying my car.
Even Twitter Search throws up very useful results. I now often tend to put a search string in http://search.twitter.com/ before I Google. Twitter search again brings to you tweets of people sharing their views and comments along with suggestions. You do want to know more about the link you are going to click, the tool you are searching for, that phrase you have to research, links people are recommending. It helps to filter out a lot of crap which you otherwise tend to encounter through regular search.
You may even consider platforms like Slide share and Scribd. Although with Slide share you are most likely to end up with a list of ‘ten things your organization should or shouldn’t in the social media space’, no matter what was your search string. If you have the patience to dig through that content, you may come across some real insights related to the topic you searched for.
Some of the other sites I have used successfully in the past are YouTube, Digg.com (this was a very useful resource while I was searching for icons once). The point is that these are all sites with user generated content. So if you search on them, you will definitely find more than you were looking for. Opinions and suggestions make your search more relevant and the conversations make it more interesting.
Having said that, Google still has what none of these sites have – Pacman.
Do share your experiences of searching on these sites and also any special tips or techniques that you use while searching, would be really good to know.