Archive for December, 1996

Tips For Net Searching

December 12, 1996

Here’s the scenario. You have a 20-page thesis paper due tomorrow and you haven’t set foot in Hamilton Library yet.

You need the most comprehensive search on the topic of “Cockroaches and their way of life.”

You stress. You shudder. You are down to three desperate choices:

One, you can make like a book and hide within the shelves until the library closes up. Then, while trying hard to get away from your tole as “book boy,” you can spend the rest of the night cramming and learning all about those cute, little critters.

However, the librarians will be suspicious when you walk in their joint in the afternoon carrying a pillow, alarm clock and a bag of Doritos, and those cute, little critters don’t come out unless you have a special treat for them.

Two, you can physically observe those cute, little critters firsthand from the confines of your humble establishment.

Or, three, surf the ‘net.

Searching the World Wide Web nowadays has become the norm rather than something in vogue. Instead of spending hour after hour looking through a huge pile of books collecting dust, you can sit on your hiney, hour after hour, in front of a computer scr een and find just as much – if not more – information.

The cool thing about searching the Internet, as opposed to books, is that everything is so up-to-date. Something to think about is that once a book is typed, printed and distributed, it is outdated. Publishing on the web can be, and ususally is, ins tant. You could be reading a column about Crayon Shin-chan one second, and the next second you could press reload and whammo! – new information about the “elephant dance” could arrive.

Another positive reason for staying within the realm of computer geekdom is that it is so much easier to access the information. You can stay home and not see daylight for days like a troll, and still get all of the information you need. No more hik ing to a local library, having to walk and collect the appropriate books, and worrying about returning your books on time.

However, not all is swell in the world of online-ism. Because anybody can make a web page, doing a search on “cockroaches” could come up with thousands of returns. Some will cover what you want (their way of life), but others may be as broad as the movie “Joe’s Apartment,” a guy in Norway talking about his pet cockroach collection, or just a woman in New York mentioning the word “cockroach” in a sentence.

Doing a simple search on a search engine like AltaVista ( may come up with thousands of irrelevant sites that you must sift through to get to your information. And even though y ou find a good topic, that doesn’t mean the information is 100 percent accurate. As mentioned before, anybody could have published this page and you would have to rely on their information.

Also, if you want to take and view this document for later use, you would have to become your own Gutenberg printing press (no matter what the file size). Large documents will have you running to the bookstore for more printer ink.

There are many search engines on the web that serve different purposes. Yes, all of them help us find information on a variety of topics, but each has its own unique characteristics that set it apart from its competitors.

Some of the more popular search engines on the web that help us netizens find the information we need are as follows:

Yahoo ( is one of the Internet’s first and most popular engines. It is an excellent source for finding a more directed search. Everything is categorized in a hierarchial manner, making finding sites of similar content simple. However, the catalog of sites listed is very limited in comparison to the other engines. Yahoo has a very selective nature and it is often difficult to get your sites listed. Doing a search on cockroaches, for i nstance came up wity only 10 sites.

AltaVista ( is one of my favorite engines. With one of the biggest libraries of Internet sites, AltaVista returns far more results than most other search engines. Doing a search on cockroaches gave me 6,704 sites. However, you would have to visit and do a process of elimination deal to find the sites that you need. AltaVista is one of the easiest sites to get listed in. They say that once you submit a site, it’ll take one to two days for it to be in their database.

Infoseek ( and/or Ultra Infoseek ( are two other good engines. The cockroach search gave me 6,390 on both.

Infoseek used to be Netscape’s primary search engine when you clicked on “net search.” Also drawing from a huge database, Infoseek has something else. It brings up, by percentage, your results, letting you know how relevant the site is to your searc h.

Because of the limitation of space here, I can’t mention some other notable sites like Excite (, HotBot ( and C|Net’s ( I can, however, refer you to an excellent site that has a list of most of the free search engines and rates them in their Top 100. The site is called “Web Step Top 100” and is at If it’s submitting or intense searching you are looking for, then visit this site.

Happy searching! Hamilton’s gonna miss you…