Techniques and Technologies

Web Search

I used web search tools to really lay the basic foundation for my knowledge of existing systems and plans for transit in Southeast Michigan. I started with a general search (detailed on this blog entry, which led me to the names of the most important transportation systems in the region. I developed search queries for each of these in order to find the appropriate websites to list on my page.

To find sites to include for current transit plans, I had to develop a starting query for Google. I leveraged some prior knowledge I had about systems that are in the works as my source for these queries. The query [Woodward "light rail" "City of Detroit" plan] led me to a city press release which then led me to the name of the actual project, DTOGS. It is really important to note how one web search can lead you to more relevant and detailed searches. For a topic you know little about, it is always best to start broad and work your way towards more specific searches.

I used a similar technique to find the page about the Detroit-Metro Airport-Ann Arbor rail line.

Directories

For my project, I found web directories to be a rather ineffective search method. First of all, there are not a ton of people out there searching for sites about Detroit and Southeast Michigan transit, so it follows suit that there have not been a ton of people indexing these sites for directories. Also, when I did yield results for what I was looking for, I found that often links were broken, led to unreliable sources, or linked to sites that I already knew about.

RSS Feeds

So the only real RSS feed I stumbled across on my searches was one that was created for the [Detroit People Mover blog. Unfortunately, this site was not updated enough to be really very useful over the course of my project, but for the transition person, if there is ever any DPM news, they will receive it right into their RSS reader.

News Search

I found that I really like news based feeds for my project, especially since Southeast Michigan transit involves so many different systems and there is so much in the works right now as far as regional transit is concerned. I added a feed that searched directly for news about each individual system that I was interested in, as well as some general feeds that searched for any news about transit in the region and in the State of Michigan. How specific I was with my searching became really important as news broke about the Big 3. For example, I had to add [-bailout -"big 3"] to my SMART search feed because the name of the system is also a word that appears in a lot of news about the ongoing issues with the Big 3 in Washington DC.

Advanced RSS Techniques

Finally, Yahoo!Pipes was a very important resource for me to use given the fact that there are so many different regional news sources in Southeast Michigan. I was able to create a customized feed that searched important Michigan news outlets like The Detroit News, WDIV Detroit, The Detroit Free Press, and WXYZ Detroit, among others, for news about transportation. Obviously there is a TON of news coming in every single day from each one of these sources, so having them set as RSS feeds themselves is not really productive for someone that is primarily concerned about transportation options and news in Southeast Michigan. Pipes allowed me to filter out general news in favor of only things that are really important to SEMCOG transit issues.

Page Monitors

I used page monitors mainly to track less frequently updated sites for press releases related to transportation systems that did not have RSS feeds set up already and were arranged in a way that made setting up an RSS feed difficult on my own. Specifically, I set monitors using WatchThatPage for the AATA News Room, the SEMCOG Public Notices page, SEMCOG's page on the Ann Arbor-Detroit Commuter Rail Project, and the [www.woodwardlightrail.com/InTheNews.html DTOGS] news page. I was not updated frequently, but I definitely see how the page monitor tool is useful for a busy searcher who does not have time to stop off at every single website that might be important every single day.

E-mail Alerts

For e mail alerts, I used Google Alerts to deliver news about Detroit and Southeast Michigan transportation to my inbox every day. I liked the service because I did not even have to log into my RSS reader to get important news and often found that what was returned to me was useful for the news section of my wiki. That being said, using a Google Alert really is not all that different than just setting up an RSS news feed for the same query using Google News. The alert is designed to be comprehensive (web, video, blog, news, etc…), but the fact of the matter remains that most of the results are simply news.

As far as other e-mail alerts are concerned, the nature of my topic does not really lend itself to e-mail user groups or anything like that. There is a rather small community of people that are truly interested in this topic.

Image and Video Search

I used image search periodically throughout the semester to add something to my blog entries. I was seriously impressed by the new tools we learned about in class, most notably CompFight, but chose to leave images out of pages on my site besides blog entries. The reason being that I felt that if I were really playing the role of a member of the SEMCOG transit panel, images like logs and pictures of different modes of transit in Southeast Michigan would dilute and take away from the seriousness of the page.

On the same note, I really found video search to be an invaluable tool to add really useful content to my site. For my page on current transit plans, I thought videos would help a user envision how the systems would actually look and fit in to the existing landscape and infrastructure of Southeast Michigan.

Deep Web and Tag-Based Sites

Notably missing from my project is the extensive use of both deep web and tag-based site resources. I did experiment with both, but again, found them to not really be useful resources for my topic. I included a bit about the deep web on my my thoughts page and noted that the person using this transition wiki might be interested in reading some of the scholarly articles about the benefits of mass transit that can be found on Google Scholar, just for the sake of being as well versed on the topic as possible.

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