Visualising web search
Attended an interesting talk by Karen Blakeman on Getting more from the Web at the Institute of Directors last night. The audience were business leaders, not technology people so Karen's talk focused on tools and strategies for accomplishing better searching. She did a great job in the time available.
With more time I'd have loved to hear how she undertakes some common business searches. I'm sure every business has looked for information on their competitors, customers and market dynamics. New tools like RSS and blogs also have great potential for actively monitoring market perceptions.
I was surprised how few of the audience had used the advanced search capabilities of Google, probably less than 25%. Admittedly, I'm a Google addict, colleagues get sick of hearing me say "Google is your friend!" to every question. But without some basic knowledge like using phrases and boolean logic you can't get the best results.
Better user interfaces would help searchers to undertake the right search and visualisation tools help to interpret results. My research for web search visualisation tools didn't turn up anything brilliant – ironic I know!
Grokker is the best visualization/visualisation tool I found, it shows you an outline view by subject and a dynamic map view. It's in Flash and searches Google and Wikipedia. It works fine on Mac, I haven't tested if it is compatible with the Linux version of Flash. The Brain does simple but easy to navigate visualisation. It's in Flash and doesn't work properly on Mac or Linux. Kartoo is again written in Flash, and the look and feel seems like it's designed for children but it's an interesting tool. Quitura may be the best tool, if you are a Windows user and are allowed to install software on your computer.
The only cross-platform, non proprietary interface, visualisation for search engines I could find was Clusty. It gives you categories which are somewhat useful. I think the one I may use is, Dogpile, although it isn't aiming at visualisation you can do some comparison between different search engines.
Do you have any secret search tips? And, do you know of any good search visualisation tools or use any of the ones I've mentioned?