Overwhelmed by getting way too much when searching?
The people who bring web searching to more desktops than any other now have a solution. Google custom search engines enable anyone with a Google account to create their own ‘slice of the web’ search engine.
To demonstrate, we developed two custom search engines in areas where we have some experience. First, we created a custom search engine for Health Promotion information sources. Using a current list compiled from our own experience of the past twenty years in health promotion, current consultations, and others, we quickly created this customized search engine.
Next, we created another custom search engine focusing on Chronic Disease Prevention programs in Ontario. This one searches through more than 1500 web sources. Try them out.
Health Promotion Information (1786 sites)
Of course both of the above can be improved. The Health Promotion engine has a personal bias. The Chronic Disease Prevention engine can easily expand.
In a recent consultation, one participant correctly identified Google as one of the biggest obstacles to directing people to local resources. We advised the client to consider applying their own significant internal IT resources to creating a shared search engine that would focus on very specific regional and local sources. Obviously someone at Google recognized that such a strategy might draw people away. Once again, they demonstrate their innovative spirit by extending core capacities to create new opportunities.
Their custom search engine feature allows individuals and organizations to collaborate on improving searching while retaining customers for Google . They retain the right to send advertising with the results. It appears that non-profits in the USA may be able to avoid displaying ads. It is not clear why this option was unavailable to us during setup. Early testing of our two custom engines did not produce any ads, but that may change.
Custom search engines complement the more structured searching in databases. While lacking the precision of database structures, they are often easier to search and they do capture the information on web sites which is not in the database.
The idea of special collections is as old as libraries. Once we have an idea of what we are looking for, we prefer areas, stores, offices, sites, and shelves where most content is relevant. When we established the Health Promotion Intranet, Livelink had a similar capacity for searching and indexing specified external web sites. Unfortunately, neither the money nor the computing resources required were available to implement it . Now, it’s available to anyone.
Take a page from the Google strategy. Use your existing resources to collaborate in enhancing these two custom searches engines. Ideally, this should be an inter-organizational effort. Collaboration will improve the quality of the custom search engine. Working together on promoting use also benefits everyone. Unfortunately, this capacity also makes it easy to re-create the information silos that many have worked for years to break down. I will gladly relocate the results to a site agreed to by the collaborators.