Social Media – Year in Review

Can we remember a time when we didn’t have  Facebook updates, LinkedIn groups, and the day recapped in  tweets – oh – and Pinterest? Social media has a firm hold in personal life, business and government. This infographic tells the story for 2012 – a story that includes the rise of Pinterest, the competition between Google+ and Facebook (who is winning?), usage in hours, numbers of people, and stock prices.

The State of Social Media 2012 by The SEO Company
The State of Social Media 2012 by The SEO Company

Online Tech Tutorials

Learning a new software application requires more time than we are usually willing to give it.  A few “how to” searches might provide an answer to a single problem but won’t provide a big picture of the breadth of function in the application.  For that it is better to turn to online tutorials. There are several sites than can help us with that.

For any of Microsoft’s Office products, start with Office Training. It has free video screencasts showing how to do things.  Titan Tech Training also has several YouTube videos on Office 2010 products and Adobe Creative Suite. These have been done by California State University Fullerton.

Alison specializes in providing free interactive, self-paced courses in workplace skills. It has a wide range of subjects and many publishers. IT Training is one of its strengths. There are instructions in everything from Google Docs to HTML5 to Skype.

Lynda is all about learning software, creative and business skills. It delivers e-learning through high quality videos. Browse by subject or by software to find what you need. There is a free trial period, after which subscription is $25 / month.

If you plan a sustained training program for yourself, consider the points in this article at LifeHacker – How to Decide Whether to Invest in an Online Training Program  (Dec 24, 2012). Above all – set your goal, find the time, and apply what you learn.

Postscript (Jan 4, 2013): GCFLearnfree.org, and arm of the Goodwill Community Foundation, also has some step-by-step illustrated tutorials on using computers, the internet, MS Office products, and searching with Google. The tutorial on Google search was quite good (although they’ll have to update the screen shots for Google’s latest redesign).

I liked the description – “GCFLearnFree.org® creates and provides quality, innovative online learning opportunities to anyone who wants to improve the technology, literacy and math skills needed to be successful in both work and life. ”

Postsript (Mar 22, 2013): Courses online and certificate – some in computer science, textbooks, ebooks, movies, k-12 resources – and all free – at Open Culture

Custom Search from the Browser

Speed up searches at individual sites or at a selected search engine directly from your browser.  Chrome and Firefox are especially well suited for creating custom searches.

Five Custom Searches You Should Enable In Your Browser Right Now by Whitson Gordon, LifeHacker (Dec 28)

“These custom searches are very easy to set up. In Chrome, just right-click on the address bar and choose “Edit Search Engines.” You can edit existing ones or add your own, giving them a name, URL, and a keyword that you’ll type to initiate the search (like the example of lh above. Firefox users just need to create a bookmark with the necessary name, URL, and keyword, and it’ll work like a custom search engine when you type that keyword into your browser.”

Armed with that knowledge, follow the examples given in the posting of setting up custom searches on date ranges, particular topics, dictionaries, favourite sites.

Lycos still has a spark

Lycos, an early search engine and portal that seemed washed out a few years ago after buyouts and decline, may still have some life. There has been talk of a new “proprietary search product” in the coming year.

Remember Lycos? It’s planning a new search engine for launch in 2013 by Martin Bryant, The Next Web (Dec 27)

Its look today is  family friendly, even kid friendly. Personalize it, play games, check the weather – it seems like a nice, friendly place – complete with dog for logo (replacing the spider of years ago). Yahoo provides the web search results.

CEO Rob Balazy would only hint at what is to come in 2013  — “we have a vision to merge the notion of a search-type activity with a curated content experience.”

Lycos web search

Lycos web search results – Dec 2012

Lycos owns Tripod, another blast from the past, a space for people – novices – to build their websites at very low cost. This has been dressed up with Zeeblio, a front end to help in creating the site – proof that not everyone is leaping to wordpress.

Lycos is currently owned by Ybrant Digital, an Indian company  with offices in 20 countries.

Safe Searching with Ixquick

For fully private searching, head to Ixquick and its sister site, Startpage. These do not record IP address or track search queries. The only cookie it uses is to save search preferences you set up.

Ixquick used to search several engines at one time. These are no longer shown as choices but stars on results indicate Blekko, Gigablast, Yahoo as current sources. Some grouping is still available by selecting Power Refinement on the Settings page – it “enables clustering of shown web results”.

Startpage forwards your query to Google – without your IP number – and returns results free of the personalization that Google applies.

“Search Suggestions” is an option on the Settings page for both. Ixquick doesn’t use a log of user queries as other engines do, but picks from broad resources on the web such as dictionaries or common pages.

Other security features include secure socket layer, and not passing  search terms to websites.

Usage of Startpage climbed to 2 million queries a day in mid-2012.

DuckDuckGo for default search

DuckDuckGo – quietly and steadily makes itself known as an alternative – maybe THE – alternative to Google.  DuckDuckGo doesn’t track your history, it exercises some quality control over the sites it indexes, and it has syntax for narrowing the search. But if our tendency is to use Google, we need some help to redirect our searches.

The answer – set up your browser to default to searching  DuckDuckGo  from the browser bar.

DuckduckGo has add-ons for all the browsers. Review the list at http://help.duckduckgo.com/customer/portal/topics/292237-desktop/articles

If you use Chrome, this article –  DuckDuckGo Vs. Google – The War Gets Dirty  from Search Engine Journal (Nov 22) –  describes the method for setting DuckDuckGo as the default search engine in Chrome.

You’ll note some acrimony in Gabriel Weinberg’s view of Google.

Guide to Google’s Search Options

This guide to the new search interface at Google just saved me a lot of time. Google moved search options from the left panel to the top and hid them all behind dropdown boxes.  These screenshots and explanations will show you how to find the options (click on Search Tools), and suggest ways you can use them for better searching – translations, pages with images, verbatim etc.

More Free Google Search Tools You Might Not Be Using So Much by Saikat  Basu, Make Use Of (Nov 26)

Customizing Search Choice with Soovle

If you like a customized page of search engines rather than dealing with bookmarks (or your memory), Soovle might be the tool for you. Pick your tool, then search.  Soovle starts with a basic set of Yahoo, Google, Bing, Amazon, YouTube, Answers.com, Wikipedia. You can changes these or add more from an engines list that includes Russian and Chinese.  I don’t see a way  to add an engine that is not on the Soovle list.

Soovle search page

  • As you enter keywords, Soovle fills the screen with suggested queries and shows the top result.  (Doesn’t show well in Firefox.)
  • You can save your search queries.
  • The saved search box has a link to Google Trends – another way to explore the topic or analyze the keywords.
  • Soovle picks up the history of queries for the day done at the engines. (Cannot think of a good use for this.)

Soovle simply directs the search to the target engine. It doesn’t bypass any personalization  that Google or Bing might apply.

Soovle was reviewed in Better Searches on the Internet with Soovle by Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter (Dec 22)

Yippy buys HighBeam Research

Yippy, the family-friendly search service, will be buying HighBeam Research.  This announcement has prompted me to look at Yippy again. Has it improved in the last year and will this acquisition make it even better?

Yippy prides itself an Internet search engine and environment that is “family-friendly” – safe in all respects (no “adult” material here), and private (no tracking), highly suitable for the education field, and especially K-12.  To many it may be chiefly  known for its meta-search engine, formerly called Clusty, which it bought from Vivisimo a few years ago and is open to all. To avail oneself of the fully protected area, it is necessary to register and install a customized browser (described at Yippy Hub).  This interface provides webmail, file storage place, video games, video conferencing and chat.

It has  announced an agreement with Gale to purchase HighBeam Research, a for-fee subscription service for access to magazine and journal publications and diverse databases with information on companies and industry information.

Quoting from the press release  Yippy, Inc. (YIPI) to Purchase HighBeam® from The Gale Group, Inc (Dec 24)

Edward Noel , the Company’s Chief Executive Officer, stated, “This is an acquisition that makes sense on every level.”  He continued, “Yippy wants to provide its users with the best and most trusted tools to educate themselves on the web.  With our clustering search technology and Highbeam’s extensive archive, we believe this will take us to the next step in becoming the featured destination for online research and learning.”

Yippy has been picking up content from HighBeam Research and linking searchers directly to the article along with HighBeam’s offer for a trial subscription.  With this purchase, Yippy will be able to provide its users the full research package – and, one presumes, generate an income stream.

One problem, however, with HighBeam has been that articles are generally stripped of images – it’s just the text.  And judging from its list of Canadian newspapers, there is a problem with the indexing.  One of the serious challenges HighBeam has always faced is that the savvy searcher will connect online with the local public library to access databases – mostly from Gale – for free.

But what has it been doing to the search engine?  Not much.

Search on Yippy about plastic polution (dec 2012)

Search at Yippy showing clustering and results

Yippy does not name all the web search sources it uses. It will list Gigablast, a lesser known web search engine, and HighBeam Research as two sources.  Open Directory is still on its list – though the directory is seriously out of date and poorly maintained. Reuters will show on current topics.

Yippy has two generically named sources – Yippy Sources and Additional Sources.  I suspect that Additional is mainly Bing.  Yippy Sources might be their own robot – but this should be stated somewhere.

Other signs of trouble:

  • The Preferences for customizing tabs no longer works.
  • Cached links are broken.
  • Breakdown by time periods is dubious – but may be correct for News.

We should check later to see how well HighBeam’s collections are integrated into Yippy,  but I suspect that there will be very little change.