Search mavens and gurus

Danny Sullivan celebrated 18 years of writing about search – search engines, algorithms, optimization, marketing – in April – and I’ve been reading his work – mainly at Search Engine Land for most of that time. (Danny Sullivan: 18 years covering search)

Tara Calishain at Research Buzz, another long timer, noted that she published the Official Netscape Guide to Internet Research in 1996.

Which got me thinking about how long I’ve been teaching and blogging about web search. Sandra Wood and I developed The Internet Guide, a web-based comprehensive, self-study course on searching  the Internet in 1996.  At that time searchers also needed to know about  telnet and ftp, mailing lists and usenet. TIG, as we called it, was used by librarians in public libraries across Canada for four or five years  through an agreement between the Faculty of Information Studies at the University of Toronto and Industry Canada’s Library Net and VOLnet.


When that contract ended,  I moved  the web-search content into Web Search Guide, a free self-study course on tools and strategies . Around that time (roughly 2002), I began this Internet News blog. I closed the self-study course in 2012  because it was ihoplelessly out of date, but continue with the blog, somewhat as a personal notebook.

Over these years I owe a great deal to other writers on search. In no particular order, they are:

  • Danny Sullivan for his detailed analysis of how search engines work. Fortunately for all interested in search, he continues to contribute substantial articles to Search Engine Land, which he founded.
  • Chris Sherman for search strategies. Sherman, with Gary Price,  wrote The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can’t See. He tweets @CJSherman
  • Gary Price  for curating resources  for librarians from the beginning of Internet time. Follow his posts at  InfoDocket or @Infodocket.. Shirl Kennedy also contributes.
  • Genie Tyburski, a law librarian, for her valuable articles on professional search.  She started Virtual Chase in 1996. Follow her now through Twitter. @GenieTyburski
  • Greg Notess for his substantial website on websearch,  and regular column in Online. Notess also wrote, Teaching Web Search Skills, which helped many search more effectively. Greg @notess tweets occasionally.
  • Tara Calishain, the maven of ResearchBuzz, for teaching me many tricks and approaches to search through her free e-newsletter in the late 1990s, and her books, Web Search Garage, Google Hacks – both editions. Tara continues to gather and observe with a wry humour. @ResearchBuzz
  • Mary Ellen Bates, for her presentations about web search at conferences,  occasional postings, and tweets @mebs.  She too has been generous with her time in helping  information professionals.
  • Karen Blakeman in the United Kingdom for providing a wealth of tip sheets and advice on search strategies and business research.  (RBA Information Services founded in 1989. @karenblakeman)
  • Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea, for explaining so clearly what he learns about the operation of search engines and the intentions of the designers through patent filings.
  • Daniel Russell, Google’s search guru, for the Search Research challenges – especially the answers.  Find him at Google Plus.

I’m sure to think of other names the moment I post this. Follow these gurus through whatever means they are most active: Google Plus, Twitter, or blogs.

New top-level domains

Do the new top-level domains  make you think of “a fool and his money are easily parted”?

.Guru(s) Galore: New Top-Level Domain Passes 50K Registrations, Matt McGee, Search Engine Land (April 18)

New top-level domains 2014

New top-level domains 2014

First: There are over 50,000 registrants for the .guru domain. Cute – but is it useful? Site:guru search at Google shows over 1.8 million hits. Here are a few:

  • – buys gold coins
  • – by a “pioneering investigative journalist”

Others include .company (presume  registrars have run out of .com), .tips, .berlin.   NTLD Stats has a longer list of the new TLDs from the top 30 registrars.

Second: .sucks is being considered for tld status. Senator Jay Rockefeller calls it a “predatory shakedown scheme”.

These are not cheap. instra Corporation has an overview of pricing. The ICANN Statutory Application Fee alone to open a new tld is $185,000 plus annual fees of $24,000. Those companies collect from their customers for registering organizational domain – often a setup fee, and an annual fee – as at OpenSRS.

Marketers such as Larry Levenson argue for it for reasons of better branding. In Why Marketers Should Care About The 1,300 New Top-Level Domains (Dec 27, 2013) Levenson asked, “Which is better: or hilton.hotel, or, or ”  Actually, I prefer .com.

Strikes me that most of these tlds are cash grabs that succeed because of their appeal to vanity or foolishness. They will look cute on a business card but won’t be easier to remember. It’s unlikely that these will make it easier to find these organizations and individuals through a web search. An expanded classification system might have encouraged self-organization rather than this chaotic free-for-all.

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality – “the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites” (Google define).

Net neutrality is not assured. Internet providers may want to favour some content distributors over others, and especially to promote their own. A large cable company like Comcast in the US or Rogers in Canada may not want to allow high volume streamed content over their network without additional compensation. Or the ISP may have some political preferences and wish to control distribution. Or the provider may want to package information for a fee. Making any exception to the principle of net neutrality can be a slippery slope.

MakeUseOf has an article on this outlining the arguments: What Is Net Neutrality & Why Should I Care?, Matthew Hughes, (Apr 17)

This fact sheet Keep the Internet Free and Open! from Common Cause list further reasons for concern.

New look to Twitter profile

Twitter is rolling out a Facebook-like design of user profiles – announced on the Twitter Blog – Coming soon: a whole new you, in your Twitter profile – one more thing to gussy up with a photo.

Twitter Rolls Out Its Facebook-Like Profile Redesign, Stan Schroeder, Mashable (Apr 8)

The new profile features a larger user photo and customizable header image. Twitter highlights your tweets that have the most engagement by displaying them slightly larger than the rest. You can also pin one of your tweets to the top of the page.

Twitter will look different after today: everybody freak out , by Shane Dingman, Globe and Mail (Apr 8)

But the reality is, not many people visit the profile page. Most action on Twitter is mobile, and most of that is in its app, and these changes will not affect those experiences. This is essentially a play for desktop Web, and it’s fair to say the old profile was looking a little … er, 2009-ish.

What Heartbleed means

Heartbleed bug in the OpenSSL type of encryption technology used on many web servers is of grave concern – enough for Revenue Canada to close online submission of  income tax returns and accessing accounts until it can fix the security hole.  The bug has made it possible for usernames and passwords to be leaked.  It may be necessary for us all to change our passwords on all accounts.

‘Change every password everywhere’: Heartbleed’s threat to Web security , Michael Liedtke and Anick Jesdanun, Globe and Mail via AP (Apr 9)

An alarming lapse in Internet security has exposed millions of passwords, credit-card numbers and other sensitive bits of information to potential theft by computer hackers who may have been secretly exploiting the problem before its discovery.

Canada Revenue Agency shuts online service to guard against Heartbleed bug by Tu Thanh Ha and others, Globe and Mail (Apr 9)

The Heartbleed security bug has forced Canada’s tax agency to block public access to its online services just three weeks ahead of the April 30 deadline for filing personal income tax.

Slideshare for staying up to date

Slideshare is an excellent source of presentations for getting a quick overview. Acquired by LinkedIn in May 2012, it has content on business, travel, technology, career planning, and likely any topic you might search for.  Users upload  presentations, infographics, documents, videos, PDFs, and webinars. Viewers may easily follow favourite contributors and people in their LinkedIn network, and get updates on featured presentations.


For web searchers two to follow are:

Mary Ellen Bates – Super Searcher Tips from a session at Computers in Libraries. She mentions as method for digging more deeply into Google’s index; also searching Twitter and some other social media searches; and some bits on Google Scholar

Karen Blakeman – How we really search: the end of Google’s supremacy – presentation at Southampton University, UK.  She covered social media, main web search engines, some specialty engines, images – much more.