Saturday, March 31, 2007

Search Engines on Cyndi's List

I have 4 search engine options on Cyndi's List. You can find them here:
What's the difference between each of the search engines? Why do I need more than one? Why don't I want you to use the search engines?
  1. They are each free. OK, that isn't a difference, that is a similarity. Since they are free I thought it wouldn't hurt to offer all of them for you to choose from.
  2. All search engines work differently from one another. So, having more than one option seems like a good idea. You might get different search results using the same keyword(s).
  3. Everyone's favorite tends to be Google. So, the Google search engine box is the default and can be found at the top right corner of every page on Cyndi's List.
  4. The Google index of Cyndi's List is updated frequently.
  5. The FreeFind & WebSideStory indexes of Cyndi's List are updated once a week.
  6. The PicoSearch index of Cyndi's List is updated whenever Cyndi remembers to do it.

For years I fought the idea of having a search engine on Cyndi's List. The whole purpose of a categorized index of links is to...uh...browse the links found in the categories. From the very beginning I found that people who browse the categories end up tripping across a new topic or idea they hadn't thought of before in their research. I also found that many people were learning more and more about how to do their research by discovering specific topics or record types. So, browsing the categories is preferable.

Further, most people who solely use searching by keywords in their research are most likely only surname hunting. which means they are missing all the other possibilities out there. Or they are searching for something so incredibly specific that they miss the other important things they may help them. For example, I have heard from people who are looking for, but can't find, a ship that their ancestor immigrated on. They try looking for the name of the ship using a search engine on my site. Then they complain to me when they can't find it. It doesn't seem to occur to them that the information for that ship might not actually be online. Or might not yet be indexed by me. Or that they might have the wrong name for the ship. By limiting themselves to the search engine and just searching by keyword they miss browsing more than 700 other links I have for ship passenger lists, including numerous links to helpful articles or libraries or archives that will actually LEAD them to the ship of their ancestor.

That is why I don't want you to rely solely on search engines. And that is why I still categorize links every day. Browse the categories. Please! After years of getting requests I finally gave in and put the search engines on the site. You people just wore me down. Give each of them a try, but don't forget about the categories. . .browse, browse, browse!


Anonymous said...

I totally agree! I can't even begin to count the number of sites I have fallen over on Cyndi's List because of browsing... Things that I never would have thought to look for or that would have come up using a search engine.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for understanding that there are many ways to find information--all valuable and all with strengths and weaknesses. I manage a major intranet and teach a class which discusses Google and find it amazing (and distressing) how many people think that "one size fits all" when it comes to searching for information on the web. As you mentioned in an earlier Blog, the need for instant gratification seems to drive much of society and does not leave a lot of time for browsing and the serendipity that often accompanies that browsing!

Anonymous said...

Yes! Browsing Rocks!

When I go the the public library, I usually look up 'one' book, get the catalog number and from there browse the entire shelf. You never know what surprises you'll find.

I treat Cyndi's list the same way.

"Guided by the Ancestors"

. said...

Great point. And the fact is that search engines aren't perfect--it doesn't recognize that a "family association" may be the same as "family organization" which may be the same as a "family society". Everybody has a different way to phrase things and Cyndi's List does an amazing job at categorizing links.

On another note...have you ever considered having a group of volunteer "moderators" who systematically check the links in their categories to make sure that the links aren't outdated/bad. I know users can do this but a small group of moderators might be able to help keep Cyndi's List up to date! Thanks for all you do!