By Len Monheit
We’re in the middle of the information age, inundated from all sides with paper, resources, directories and databases and getting access to the information we need, as we need it, has become much more difficult. How do you obtain and then store reams of information for easy access, then, how do you access what you need.
Almost all of us use the Internet for research and information gathering. And as more information is stored on the Internet, navigating the search engines and directories can be tedious and time-consuming. Where do you start? Where’s your roadmap? And most importantly, where are the short cuts that can help us make effective use of this tool?
It makes sense to start with search engines which hopefully contain the information you need. With more search engines going to paid placement and submission strategies, I personally find that the engines that are active spidering engines (searching the web for pages to index and add to their database) are the best initial resources, as opposed to those that operate either mostly or entirely on site submission like Altavista, Yahoo, Lycos and others. Since most of my searches are for business, I also tend towards spidering engines. (Examples include Google and Hotbot) In all, there are over twenty main engines that can be used for various purposes.
OK, so now you’re at your search engine, what next? Defining your search terms is an art form that can mean the difference between over 10,000 search results and just a few. And if there are thousands of results and your search is general, the chances are that you’re going to have to scroll through pages of information to fulfill your quest. You’d think there’s got to be a better way, and there is.
Let’s say we’re using Google (www.google.com). Using multi- word combinations can reduce the number of results substantially. One of the biggest time-savers I now use is the “not” or “-“ modifier to eliminate a lot of results I don’t need. As a quick example, a Google search for dietary supplement locates approximately 31,400 pages, while eliminating government, FDA, university and drug reduces this number to a bit over 4000. Choosing your words carefully to be as specific as possible is obviously a good move. (A fun exercise is to choose a three word combination that gives the fewest results—personal record with mainstream words is 28)
An excellent article and resource on search strategies is located at:
http://www.bcentral.com/articles/enbysk/144.asp, so if web searches are consuming more and more of your time, this article is an excellent reference.
What are the more popular engines? For general searches, some of the leaders include Google, Altavista, Lycos, MSN, Yahoo, Infoseek, AOL and I’ve had some recent success using Alltheweb. Each of the search engines indexes pages and sites differently, so expect your results to be different in the various engines.
These major directories and engines are not the only launch points for your Internet search, and here is where portals and other directories and databases have value. Why go to a general engine if one more targeted already exists? Why look for links to a series of related sites, when excellent link directories have been created? In an industry targeted portal, obviously NPIcenter is one, information about a vertical or subject has already been collected and sorted.
Any time you locate one of these portals likely to be useful as a launch point for future searches, save it in your favorites for easy access. (A word about favorites--organizing these into a useful filing system as early as possible will save a lot of frustration later.)
Another valuable web resource you may come across in your searches is a link directory. Here, someone has gone to the effort of creating a launch point for you to access related information. If you find one of these sites, bookmark it too. An example of an excellent link directory is the one compiled by the Saskatchewan Nutraceutical Network (SNN) at http://www.nutranet.org/subpages/links.htm.
Trying to do an industry search on events to find upcoming shows, seminars and conferences can also be very frustrating. The CANI site (Consultants Association for the Natural Products Industry) site has two pages of listings that can short cut event searches and there’s also our NPIcenter calendar of events. The CANI links are: http://www.cani-consultants.com/tradeshows2.html and http://www.cani-consultants.com/seminars.html.
In the future, we’ll talk about some of the file and document management strategies we’ve experienced and some common pitfalls in information management.
If you’ve got a tip or site that may be of interest to our viewers, send the information to us or share your thoughts in the NPIcenter Discussion Forum