Bloglist

This page contains all my blogs from the whole semester. It is sorted in reverse order of the date that the blog entry was created.


Meta-Searching

by thauckthauck (03 Dec 2008 13:55; last edited on 03 Dec 2008 13:56)

So, we’ve come to the end of the BIT 330 road… What can I say? It’s been quite the (electronic) ride. I used to like to think I was pretty internet savvy, but now I know that there is a lot more out there for me to learn about, and that being “internet savvy” really means one has the skills to adapt to the ever-changing online landscape.

Meta-Search Engines

wally.jpg

That brings me to my final blog entry, an exploration of meta-search engines. Basically, these resources exist in two categories: 1.) A search engine that combines a bunch of other search engines and yields you one set of results, or 2.) a search engine that allows you to search a bunch of different search engines at the same time, each search engine yielding its own results. The benefits of using these tools are obvious, as you are able to search more with less effort.

When I first tried using these tools in class, I admittedly did not have a ton of luck with them. I searched for [“southeast Michigan”|Detroit “public transportation”|”public transit”] and was not overly impressed with what I returned on the meta-searches, but had 100% success with both Google and Yahoo!.

A Second Chance

I decided to give it a go again using the meta-searches that provide one, concise set of results from multiple search engines. I decided that maybe I should think about a more versatile query, because my problems with meta-searches before likely resulted from an error on my part, and nothing to do with the tools themselves. I decided to use the tool this time to look for a topic that is noticeably missing right now from my wiki: WALLY. WALLY is a proposed commuter rail line that will link Ann Arbor with its northern suburbs in Livingston County. This time, I went with the query [WALLY Michigan “Ann Arbor”] and ran it on ixQuick, a meta-search that has an interface that I like.

I had a good deal of luck yielding results on this topic, which is nice because it is actually something I have had a hard time finding a lot of information about. Ann Arbor is not a major US metropolis, so information about its transit infrastructure is sometimes a little bit harder to come by than Detroit’s. It is quite possible that I was only so lucky finding things on ixQuick this time because there was a press release recently about WALLY's operator. There was only one way to see if my suspicions were correct, so I headed back over to Google…

Interesting find… Google yielded me about the same amount of relevant results as ixQuick, but they are different results! Again, the results were pretty news heavy, but I suppose that is a symptom of searching for a topic that is so current, rather than having anything to do with the search tools themselves. So, at the end of the day it looks like it was worth my time to use the meta-search, not because it yielded me much higher quality results, but rather because what I got back was different.

Final Thoughts

I definitely think that meta-searches are a good resource, especially if you are crunched for time. It can be a hassle to go out and search a ton of different websites, but meta-searches do the work for you. I probably would have missed out on a significant amount of the information available about WALLY if I didn’t ever venture over to ixQuick.


Video Search and my Wiki Page

by thauckthauck (24 Nov 2008 18:56; last edited on 01 Dec 2008 15:08)

Who would have thought that video search would be a useful tool for the topic of my wiki? Since I am preparing a transition for a new SEMCOG transit panel, I imagined most of my material would be of an informative nature: transit plans, transit system, important regional news, etc… I never really considered the fact that I might be able to add a little something extra to my site by incorporating video clips that bring all of the material to life… that is until we talked about video search in BIT 330.

In order to make this blog entry a little bit more interesting, I am going to talk about results I got using a less well-known video search that I really like called blinkx. According to its own website, “blinkx has built a reputation as the Remote Control for the Video Web.” This basically boils down to the fact that blinkx uses all sorts of technology to search videos: traditional text/tag based searching, speech recognition, and even video analysis. Cool, right? Blinkx takes your query and then searches across the web on video hosting sites to bring you some really good results.

Video Search and my Wiki Page

For the purpose of my project, I really only had to run one simple query ([Detroit transit]) to return exactly what I was looking for.

The most relevant result that I returned was a video that basically is a simulation of the proposed Woodward Light Rail system. I had seen this video before on the project’s website, but it was a large Quicktime file. I never considered that I might search for it elsewhere on the Internet, mostly because I assumed no one would probably take the time to post this sort of video on another site. The video really brings an important part of my project to life. You can try to imagine what this system would be like and how it would fit into the City of Detroit by the information I provided and the sites I link to, but the video makes the project even that much more tangible.

The second video I chose to take away from video search and incorporate into my wiki was a historical video that talks about problems with the Detroit Department of Transportation bus system, one of the systems I highlight in my Current Transit Systems section. What I like about this video is that I think it makes some problems with Detroit bus transit glaringly obvious, even though it is so old. Some things never change.

So, as far as my project is concerned, my next big challenge will be to figure out exactly how I want to go about incorporating these videos. I did toss around the idea of having a dedicated video section on my page at first, but have since decided against it. As far as I am concerned, these videos act better as a tool to highlight information already contained on the page. I will most likely be adding the video of the new Woodward Light Rail system on my Current Transit Plans page under the Woodward Light Rail description. As far as the old video of the DDOT bus system problems is concerned, I think I will add it to my background section and discuss the fact that many of the problems that the video highlights still exist today, and really use it as a call to action for the person I am transitioning.

Final Thoughts

Overall, video search is a really cool tool and I am just so surprised that it actually ended up being useful for my project. What is really stunning is just how much material is now available on the Internet. To think I could have a topic as boring as public transportation in Southeast Michigan and am able to find relevant videos to make it more interesting is really cool!


Election Night and a Custom Search

by thauckthauck (05 Nov 2008 07:32; last edited on 05 Nov 2008 07:42)

After learning about custom search engines, I thought I would try out a popular tool called RollYO. Basically, it allows its users to create any search engine they’d like or use search engines created by other RollYO users. One feature that I found particularly cool as a Firefox user is that you can create custom RollYO’s and use them in the search box of your Firefox browser! I know that I use that little box to search all the time, so the idea of being able to make it even more efficient by making more exact search engines is pretty cool.

So, just for fun and in the spirit of election night, I thought I would make a RollYO to search for Barack Obama. But, to make things more interesting, I am not going to put any news sites in it. When I run my search, it will only be on blogging websites I know a lot of young people use so that I can see what the general population has to say about the election.

Looking for Something Different

2619205229_cc2d84e9c6.jpg?v=0

This is the list of sites I gave it to search:

www.livejournal.com
www.blurty.com
www.blogger.com
www.blogspot.com

Basically, those are the only blogging sites that I know a ton about. Additionally, I know they are used by a ton of random people, hopefully leading to more interesting results.

So, I enter my search… “Barack Obama”

Drumroll please…

HA! Yes! Just what I was looking for! I doubt a blog called “Is Barack Obama the Messiah” would be the first return of a general search for Barack Obama on Google.

Sing for Change chronicles a recent Sunday afternoon, when 22 children, ages 5-12, gathered to sing original songs in the belief that their singing would lift up our communities for the coming election. Light, hope, courage and love shine through these nonvoting children who believe that their very best contribution to the Obama campaign is to sing.

Yup. This is definitely interesting. What else is there?

OH WOW! What do you know? Just one site above, Barack Obama was the Messiah… Now? He’s the Anti-Christ.

Well, like I said before… These definitely are not the typical things I have been seeing about America’s newest President on sites like CNN.

Evaluation of the Tools

To be perfectly honest, when I heard about custom search engines I was not really sure what good they were. I mean, can’t I just customize my search query in Google? Then I thought about it some more and realized that if I had known about these tools before election week, I could have created a RollYO to search interesting blogs all along. Typing in site:www.livejournal.com site:www.blurty.com site:www.blogger.com site:www.blogspot.com every time I want to run this search is a lot less convenient than just setting up a custom search to use continuously.

Overall, I give the genre a big "thumbs up". For the avid web surfer, especially someone that focuses in on a specific topic or type of website, I'd say setting up a custom search engine can make your life, like, at least 100 times easier, more accurate, and maybe even more fun.


Salamanca in Pictures

by thauckthauck (02 Nov 2008 16:06; last edited on 02 Nov 2008 17:03)

WOW! I wish I would have known about half of the photo search engines we talked about in my BIT 330 class before I left for Salamanca, Spain this summer.

Background

Sometime around March 30, I made the split decision to apply to a seven week home-stay and study abroad program in Salamanca, Spain. I knew absolutely no one going on the trip and knew almost nothing about Salamanca. I am a very visually oriented person, so naturally I turned to the internet to search for any and all pictures I could find about Salamanca. Salamanca is a mid-sized college town not unlike Ann Arbor, so I assumed that it would be pretty similar in terms of shopping, food, and nightlife. However, when I searched for images of Salamanca using the tools I knew about at that time, a lot of what I found was of very touristy stuff in the city like the cathedral. I was getting pretty discouraged and a little afraid I was about to spend my seven weeks in a boring, historical city.

So, flash forward to late June when my bus pulled onto Gran Via, the main drag of Salamanca. I could NOT believe my eyes. Salamanca was a bustling city that reminded me more of a much larger city than Ann Arbor. There were hundreds of bars and restaurants, all sorts of shopping, and an overall awesome vibe on the streets. My attempt to predict what life in Salamanca would be like using image searches couldn't have been more of a failure.

Using New Search Tools

758986315_33bf7d04b3.jpg

I naturally I thought about this search tool failure as Professor Moore went over all of the different search tools for images. A couple of them caught my eye, so I thought I would try my Salamanca search again and see if I could yield results that were more representative of the city as a whole. I started with CompFight, a site that searches the public image site Flickr. I used the following query:

Salamanca Spain

To be honest, I did get a lot of the historical stuff, but that really is Salamanca. What is important is that CompFight eliminated the "boring" from the "boring, historical city" I imagined before. CompFight, for lack of a better word, returned a lot of "artsy" photos. So, the material is similar in content to what I saw before, but the types of emotions the images invoke are way different. I think that I would have been much more excited about my trip had I seen these pictures.

Knowing what I know now about Salamanca, I'd say the picture to the left is about as good as a picture as I could have seen before I left. It might be a little bit non-business school student of me to say this, but what I retrieved before I left were often just pictures of the environment, and this time the images I yielded were more of people interacting with their environment.

309558-Salamanca-0.jpg

I then decided to use Exalead because it is a search engine based out of Europe. I used the same query i used on CompFight and got some really interesting results. See, Salamanca is most famous for its Plaza (pictured above) and so when I search for it, I almost always get a ton of picture results of the Plaza Mayor. However, on Exalead, if the top 12 results there was only one picture of the plaza.

I believe the result I included on this page is of the city as seen from the top of the cathedral. It really is a beautiful place!!

Conclusion

Basically, I learned that image searching can be a lot more fun than just Google Image. I have used that tool almost exclusively for years, but now I know that I was missing out on a TON of what is out there on the web. What I found particularly interesting about using other image search tools, is that I feel like they all have their own type of personality. CompFight, for instance, searches personal images that people post onto Flickr so those results are often a lot more "artsy" looking and I really enjoyed the types of results I yielded.


Automating My Search Process

by thauckthauck (17 Oct 2008 19:59; last edited on 17 Oct 2008 20:03)

How am I going to manage all of this news?…

So, for my project, one issue I am struggling with is how to present on-going events. I think that I have decided to have a running page of announcements with a sample appearing on the start page of my wiki, not unlike Professor Moore does for our BIT 330 class.

That brings me to the question, “Well, what the heck is that information going to be?” Well, thankfully for me, I can use Google News to set up custom RSS feeds that will feed me these relevant news stories. Now that I know what the transit systems in Southeast Michigan are, I can couple that knowledge with some previous knowledge I have about future plans to create a series of appropriate feeds for my topic. It will be really easy for me to log into my Bloglines account once in a while to check up on the status of the feed and add the relevant announcements to my page.

How it works

I will walk you through how I would go about doing this so you can see how well it works and how cool it is!
First, I go to Google News and think of a good search query. I just found out recently that SMART is the second biggest transit authority in the State of Michigan and affects a lot of Southeast Michigan cities so I should probably have a good feed about it. I used the following query:

“Suburban Mobility Authority for Rapid Transit”|SMART Michigan bus

This query got me a lot of good results. What I like about this news search is the fact that it tells you when the articles were posted. That way when I update my announcement list, I will know how things fit chronologically and also have a good idea of when a lot of important news is occurring. My top return was an article about how more people are taking the SMART bus because of rising fuel costs. This could be really important to my topic!

Now that you have this news search, I will click on the little link near the left corner of the page that says “RSS”. This will take me to a page where I can easily add it to my Bloglines account. Now I am all set and will be update with news about the SMART bus transit system!

Final thoughts

What I like about this tool is how much it is going to automate my Ongoing News section and make it so I have to do minimal work to keep it updated. I really recommend making RSS feeds out of news searches if you are ever working on a project when staying up-to-date with a topic is important. I might never find all of these transit articles if I was adding RSS feeds for different news sources individually, but now I know I will not miss out on anything!


Searching For a Starting Point

by thauckthauck (17 Oct 2008 16:35; last edited on 17 Oct 2008 16:42)

Introduction

detroit-smart-bus.jpg

Trying to put together a collection of information on the state of public transportation in Southeast Michigan is a pretty daunting task. For decades the region has operated under an “every man for himself” mentality, resulting in the existence of numerous transportation systems. For me, one of the greatest challenges in collecting this data is making sure I am able to uncover all of these systems and am able to compile a list in a way that makes sense for the user of my wiki.

I have decided the best way to go about starting my project, is by using some advanced search techniques to get a feel for what all the different Southeast Michigan transit systems and plans are and use it as a jumping off point for my project. I think that this will allow me to start a collection of things to search for as I employ the use of more information retrieval resources. For things like RSS feeds, it's probably best if I can create some feeds off of specific systems, so I should take sometime to figure out what those systems are.

A Search For Current Systems

I started off the search by running the following query on Google:

“Southeast Michigan” “public transportation” –plans

BAM! A blog entry on Model D Media ends up coming through for me! Not a site that I would have expected to be that useful, but right there at the top are some statistics about Southeast Michigan transit systems. Now I know that some major systems are the Detroit People Mover, the Suburban Mobility Authority, and the Detroit Department of Transportation. Interesting to note that the Detroit Department of Transportation and the Detroit People Mover are different systems! Good start.

Woah! An even better find! I was taken to the website for transportation for the Michigan House Fiscal Agency. Right on that page was a memo that contained the following:

There are two primary providers of public transportation services in Southeast Michigan, DDOT and SMART.

Okay, this is a good thing to know. But there’s more…

The combined ridership of DDOT and SMART, approximately 48.5 million passengers for 2006, is more than the combined ridership of all 77 other Michigan public transit agencies.

That’s a pretty important fact, and it’s from a legitimate source. I guess I should consider focusing a lot on those two systems because it seems like they have the biggest influence on public transit in Southeast Michigan. Awesome!

Okay, but… I’m still not satisfied.

Going off of what I said before about the region being decentralized, let’s take Detroit out of the equation and see if a public transit search yields any results. How about this query:

“Southeast Michigan” “public transportation” –Detroit

Not as much luck this time. One of the results was for the City of Ann Arbor and eventually got me to the website for the Ann Arbor Transit Authority, but I was surprised to not see the AATA among my top results. I was also expecting more from Detroit suburbs, but it might be that my personal perception of the region is a little off. I think that I will be see what the truth is as I explore the topic with other techniques.

Conclusion

detroit_FS2_RenCen_People-Mover.jpg

I think that using pretty specific searches yielded me some good information, however, I am just a little distressed to see that I was not more successful. However, what I found out about SMART and DDOT will likely change the direction of my project.

I definitely recommend using Google and more advanced search techniques. It has given me a great jumping off point!


Wait a second… how can the internet be invisible?

by thauckthauck (12 Oct 2008 03:39; last edited on 12 Oct 2008 03:49)

So, you're going about your daily internet life. You probably spend a lot of time just clicking around… I know I do. I might start off browsing someone’s Facebook page, see a link posted on their wall, click it, follow it to some other website, see something interesting on that site that takes me to yet another site, and the process goes on and on and on…

Well, before learning about The Deep Web in my BIT 330 class, I never considered the fact that much of the content I stumble across on the internet by myself would actually be impossible to find using a common search engine like Google web search. This “Deep Web”, or content invisible your run-of-the-mill search tool, makes up a massive portion of content on the internet. Traditional search tools are programmed to retrieve information based on text, but searching by text alone will fail to yield potentially relevant results like a flash video or a scanned image of an important document. These tools are also limited in the sense that they will never give their users access to pages that can only be retrieved by filling out a form. Finally, important academic databases are likely unsearchable using traditional tools.

Think about it: there is a whole other side of the internet just waiting for you to discover it!

Now you are probably thinking, “well, if this stuff is hidden, how am I ever going to get to it?” Well, thankfully some smart people have been working on ways to give the public access to this material. Keep in mind that this is really a field that is being developed, so the tools that are currently at our disposal are not going to be perfect, or anywhere near perfect really, but they are a good start!

Google Scholar

Who would have guessed it… Google has created a tool that is able to search this so called invisible web. It’s called Google Scholar, and it is designed to make the formally unsearchable world of scholarly articles, well, searchable. The site indexes the works of publishers and gives librarians the option of making their databases searchable. Basically, all that means is that as a student is that if you used Google Scholar, you would find a lot of material that is useable in an academic context.

The material is returned in the order of the relevancy that is determined by the text of the article, who wrote it, where it was published, and how frequently it is cited in other scholarly literature. I found the “cited by” ranking to be really cool because if there is an article that is cited a lot, it is probably a pretty legitimate source.

Now, even Google is not flawless, so there definitely are some kinks to work out of the Google Scholar programming. However, for the sake of this entry I am just going to say that if your main concern is picking a starting point for research for your next big paper, Google Scholar is a pretty good choice. You can read more in-depth about the problems that Professor Moore highlighted here.

A Real-Life Application

Something I have noticed, especially in general “I’m-only-taking-this-class-because-I’m-required-to” courses, is that students are often interested in taking the easy way out. I cannot tell you how many presentations were given in my freshman year courses that ended with a bibliography slide that listed websites like Wikipedia as sources. Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Wikipedia. I probably spend three hours a day on that site reading useless info on a myriad of topics (today’s happened to be train transportation systems in Asian and European countries…). However, I have personally never had the audacity to site Wikipedia as a legitimate source in an academic setting.

I think the reason that people resort to using it really boils down to the fact that they do not care so much about the class they are citing it in, and Wikipedia is just so dang easy to use. Well, that happens to be the good news about a search tool like Google Scholar: it bundles the simplicity of use that we have grown accustomed to with the legitimacy of academia. Really, PLEASE think twice before you city Wikipedia in your next paper or presentation. Google Scholar is just as easy to use, except using it will actually yield sources fit for college-level work.


RSS Lab Day Write-Up

by thauckthauck (01 Oct 2008 05:23; last edited on 01 Oct 2008 05:52)

Introduction

googleholic.jpg

So, I should probably start off my blog by admitting that I am a total Googleholic. Google runs almost every single part of my life. If one morning I woke up and Google was gone, I have no idea what I would do! The non-profit that I am a part of, University of Michigan Dance Marathon, uses Google Docs and Calendar to basically power our entire organization. When I need to find something on the web, I instinctively head to Google. And, when it comes to keeping in touch? Well, I am pretty much connected to Gmail 24/7.

That being said, it came as no surprise to me when I found that I preferred Google Reader over Bloglines to manage my RSS feeds.

Bloglines

I first started using RSS feeds with Bloglines. I thought it was a pretty cool tool, especially given the fact that my BIT 330 class is requiring me to create a Wiki page to track information on the internet about a topic of my choosing. Bloglines and RSS feeds in general are amazing tools for tracking news stories pertinent to your interests. You can set up Bloglines to receive feeds from everywhere and anywhere on the web that you would like and you can also add feeds that you base on searches that you set up within Bloglines itself. RSS feeds are especially useful tools for people that need to access news on the run. You do the work once, that is to say you subscribe to a feed you like, and from then on out the information comes to you!

I had a good deal of success, and actually read some pretty cool blogs that I found using Blogline's search feature, but something about Bloglines didn't feel quite right…

Finding My Way Home

house2.bmp

Then finally on the RSS lab day of my BIT 330 class I realized what was missing from my RSS experience: GOOGLE!!!

Professor Moore showed us how to export the RSS feed we had been keeping on Bloglines and import it into Google Reader - Google's answer to RSS. It seems as though Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz had it right when she said, "There's no place like home…"

I like everything about Google Reader: I like the layout, I like that I can access a Google search tool right on the top, and I love how it looks just like every other Google product. There is just something about the Google format that I just cannot get enough of. I imagine that from here on out, my go-to RSS reader is going to be Google Reader.

That being said, I am not willing to miss out on important RSS feeds for my Wiki project and still plan on using other RSS search tools to continue to add to my RSS subscriptions. My BIT 330 class did a project where we compared the effectiveness of different blog search tools. The class results revealed that Google Blog Search was not the most effective tool for everyone. One tool that I've found particularly useful is NewsIsFree. I am doing my Wiki on Southeast Michigan Economic Devolopment, and NewsIsFree led me to newspapers about a lot of local business news. Very cool!

Conclusion

I don't think I am ready to give up Google at all, but I'm learning everyday in BIT 330 about expanding my internet horizons. Hopefully by the end of the semester I will have achieved some sort of Google/rest-of-the-internet balance!


My first test blog

by thauckthauck (24 Sep 2008 00:12; last edited on 24 Sep 2008 00:13)

This is my first blog entry. I hope it works!

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License