Searching the Web
Remember how e-mail and the Web were going to make it easier for folks to stay in touch over time as well as distance? Well, if you're like us, time has already gotten the better part of a few good friendships, and distance has only helped you to lose track.
To help you sift through the various sites that are willing to scour the Web for your old friends (and family, for you really pathetic workaholics), three industrious fellows at the University of Washington's Computer Science Department cooked up this little research project called Ahoy! The Homepage Finder. As they describe it, Ahoy! The Homepage Finder is, "a fielded Web service that embodies Dynamic Reference Sifting for the domain of personal homepages."
What they're trying to say is they've concocted a Web site that does the following: - Employs a bunch of other Web sites (such as MetaCrawler, Yahoo, and others) to run your query. - Intelligently sifts through the results for the pages that are most likely to be an individual's homepage.
Even if it doesn't locate a homepage for you, Ahoy! can still be helpful in locating old friends. Just follow the e-mail link on the results page, and you get a list of all the e-mail addresses that match your query.
Here's a scenario that has happened to us all at one time or another: You conduct a search that displays what appears to be a promising link, but when you follow that link, you discover that it is no longer valid. What do you do next? Try shortening the URL to the next subheading (that is, delete the end of the URL to the next slash) and try again. If it still isn't valid, shorten it to the next slash and give it another go, repeating as necessary until you get to the root address. This tactic doesn't work all of the time, but it is often useful because sites frequently change how they organize their information, which means that the page you're seeking may still be available but at a new place on the site. Once you get to a part of the link that works, you can begin to dig your way back down to locate the page you were originally seeking. For example, suppose the original (dead) link looks like this: Start by truncating it to this: And then to this: At this point, you find an active page. IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED . . . When conducting a search that returns a lot of links, we recommend that if you don't find what you're looking for in the first 10 to 20 links, you change your query by adding additional keywords or by using a different search engine. You can spend a lot of time weeding through long lists of returns, time that often would be better spent refining your search. ONE WORLD--63 RELIGIONS The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance provides a very handy site called, appropriately enough, Descriptions of 63 Religions, Faith Groups & Ethical Systems. This site offers basic information on 63 different religions, faith groups, and ethical systems--all organized into groups ranging from World Religions, to Neo-Pagan Religious Faiths, to Doomsday Faith Groups. Typically, each entry contains a brief history, sacred texts, beliefs and practices, sects, and links to related sites. ONE-STOP SEARCHING The All-In-One Search Page is another one of those sites that give you access to more search engines than you'll ever want to use. Although this site provides a gateway to the searching capabilities of the major search engines, you'll probably find it more useful for conducting a specialized search. If nothing else, All-In-One Search Page is worth a visit just to see the number and variety of search engines gathered here. GETTING THERE FROM HERE As you're preparing to hit the road this summer, be sure to stop by DeLorme's CyberRouter site. This handy site shows you the fastest (or shortest) route between any two points. Just enter the starting point and destination, and CyberRouter returns text-based instructions. Then follow the Maps link to view your route. It's the best way to get there from here. INFERRING WELL-ORGANIZED RESULTS The folks at Inference Corporation have developed a very fast--and very slick--meta-search engine for searching the Web. Touted as "the Intelligent Massively Fast Parallel Web Search," Inference Find will query six search engines and give you fast, accurate and--best of all--well organized results. After simultaneously tapping into WebCrawler, Yahoo, Lycos, Alta Vista, InfoSeek, and Excite, Inference Find merges the results, removes redundancies, and organizes the results into handy groupings. (Note that use of the engines mentioned here is subject to change.) Inference Find searches each engine for the maximum number of results allowed, and it even goes so far as to query some engines multiple times. For example, because InfoSeek return only ten items at a time, Inference Find calls on it three times, for a total of 30 returned items. Of course, you can find any number of search engines that return a ton of results--when often all you need are the one or two correct ones. This is where "clustering" comes in. After retrieving the huge list of results, Inference Find clusters them by putting similar items together. This can make a big difference in producing hits that are accurate and easy to navigate. For example, when we searched for "electric lawnmower," we quickly got a list of sites divided into categories ranging from Geocities sites to Commercial sites to Internet Provider sites. By going straight to the links in the Commercial sites category, we narrowed our search only to those sites that might actually carry electric lawnmowers. MORE META-SEARCH TIPS Here's a tip for using the Inference Find meta-search site we described yesterday: Because Inference Find actually taps into other search engines for its results, you can use Boolean operators such as AND, OR, or NOT to narrow your search. The search engines that accept Boolean operators use them to improve your search, and those that don't accept Boolean operators simply ignore them. SEARCHING THE UNDERGROUND When you get tired of the mainstream point of view or grow weary of the "facts" according to corporate-owned media, it's time to put a little "Dis" in your Information--and that's exactly what the DisInformation search site offers. Calling itself "the subculture search engine," this site offers a searchable database of more than 30 million documents. It also collects and indexes the most subversive, "hidden" material on the Web, rates the results on a scale of 1 to 4 all-seeing pyramids, and lays it all out in a browsable format. Categories include Propaganda, Revolutionaries, Censorship, Counterculture, Counterintelligence, and Newspeak. SIDEWAYS SEARCHING The SideClick search site is designed to help you surf "sideways"--which, as near as we can tell, is another way of saying they've created a browsable index of related topics. The idea behind this site is that you can search for a particular topic by keyword or URL, and you'll get a list of related sites. What's more, for each site in the list, you can click the More button to view a list of sites related to it, or you can click the name of the site to go directly to it. For example, when I performed a search on the URL (oddly enough, that was the only URL I tried that successfully returned any results--but then again, Disney's banner ads were plastered all over the site on the day I visited), I got a list of sites for everything from media companies to kid-related topics to the White House. Being a big fan of serendipity, I clicked the More option next to the White House link, which produced a list of other governmental organizations from Congress to the United Nations. Unfortunately, I didn't see a single "Mickey Mouse for President" site, so I still have no idea why the White House showed up in my original search. Maybe that's what "sideways" searching is all about. REFERENCE SOURCE FOR GROUPS AND LISTS If you're looking for a new way to search for (or through) newsgroups and mailing lists, check out the site. In addition to getting kudos for the sharp design, we also rate it highly for the variety of ways it lets you search: - Simple Search lets you search the collection of newsgroups and mailing lists by entering a keyword or a term. This option finds all the messages that contain your search word(s). - Advanced Search lets you narrow your search parameters by using Queries, such as author names and dates. - Active Queries let you store queries on's machine and have them run automatically each day for some number of days. - Browsing lets you see all the messages in a newsgroup or mailing list in which you are interested, assuming you already know the nameof the group or list. STOP BY THE REFERENCE DESK Maintained by librarians and staff of Louisiana State University Libraries, the Webliography is a collection of annotated listings for WWW sites and resources. This guide is compact and easy to use, while still managing to be thorough--which is exactly what you'd expect from a site designed by librarians. Among other things, you can find useful links to electronic publications, governmental organizations, and a whole bunch of reference materials. THAT'S WHY IT'S THE "WORLD" WIDE WEB Yelloweb Europe is a European Web directory that lets users search in seven languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Russian. The catalog of sites is maintained by an editorial staff (in other words, people--not software--catalog the sites) and can be searched in three ways: - A Quick search by keywords - A Topic search by subject - An Advanced search, allowing the same selection as the Quick search with an additional selection by host country WORLD WIDE WOMEN The WWWomen site bills itself as the "most inclusive, up-to-date search site for women's topics." Through dedicated and constant effort, it obtains, qualifies, maintains, and organizes a very wide variety of sites dedicated to topics ranging from Arts & Entertainment to Women Throughout History. If you don't think the list of topics is encompassing, just skip the Search feature and browse the FactSheet link. You'll probably find a few things you didn't even know you were looking for. EVERYTHING BUT THE TAMAGOTCHI I certainly didn't need the Flea Index link at the Acme Pet site to tell me that we're in for six months of itching and scratching (like I'd never noticed the annual crop of little red welts before), but that's just the tip of the information iceberg at this all-pets, all-the-time site. No matter what kind of animal(s) you cohabitate with, you can find links here to all kinds of information. Search by keyword or browse by fur, feather, or fin. BACK TO NATURE The Environmental Web Directory puts the organization back into environmental organization. This site offers a handy search engine to help you track down specific environmental groups, natural places such as parks and forests, sites devoted to all kinds of animals, and much more. Additionally, they've arranged the sites into some 30 categories, making your browsing as pleasant as a stroll through the woods. If you're interested in environmental issues, from sustainable development to landscape architecture, or nature photography to natural disasters, you'll want to bookmark this site. SNAP TO IT Snap! is yet another new Web search and navigation service. Like many quality search sites these days, Snap! not only provides a convenient search engine, but it also catalogs and organizes a wide range of sites in the Snap! Directory to help you browse any given subject. The directory is "hand-built by a team of professional editors and reviewers to ensure its quality, freshness, and usefulness." You can search the directory by using keywords, or you can browse through the directory's 16 topics, from Arts & Humanities to Travel. When you use the keyword search option, Snap! first searches its own directory, but if no results are found, the query automatically rolls over to the Infoseek search engine for a full Web search. Additionally, the Snap! site gives you easy access to popular search categories such as yellow pages, white pages, maps and driving directions, e-mail addresses, weather, classifieds, movie listings, and stock quotes. To further organize the directory and to set its site apart from its many competitors, Snap! has created convenient Highlights sections for many of the directory topics, including Sports, Entertainment, News & Business, Computers and Internet, and more. Each Highlights section features links to extensive Web resources on that topic's leading stories of the day, plus more "evergreen" subjects. Snap! Highlights also feature contributions from its content partners, including CNN Interactive, E! Online, The Discovery Channel, and CBS SportsLine, as well as links to news headlines, related chat, events and more. WHAT'S COOKING? There I was, with a fresh salmon steak in the fridge and a friend already invited over for his birthday dinner. But how was I going to cook the darn thing? (The fish, that is--not my friend.) I knew I wanted to cook it on the grill . . . but not much else. Luckily for me, I have access to thousands of recipes from the likes of Gourmet magazine and Bon Appetit. But don't think for a minute I was going to waste my time thumbing through an old stack of magazines, hoping to find a recipe for grilled salmon! Not when the Epicurious recipe file is just a click away. Within just a minute or two, I'd entered my keyword (salmon) and selected the Main Course and Grill options--and viola!--I had these four recipes at my disposal: - Grilled Salmon with Thai Curry Sauce and Basmati Rice - Grilled Citrus Salmon - Grilled Salmon Steaks with Lime Butter - Grilled Salmon with Fennel Orange Salsa Heck, with four excellent options to choose from, my choice wasn't as easy as I thought it would be! ZIP 2 IT Whether you're traveling, just moved to a new city, or simply want to know what's going on in your hometown, the Zip2 City Guide offers a convenient way to search for business, people, and events in cities all across America. Not only can you quickly locate a business in your target city, but you can also find your way around with the accompanying maps and detailed door-to-door directions. Also, because Zip2 has created partnerships with local newspapers, you can search for meals, movies, exhibits, and events--and then read a local review. In some cases, you can even see menus, movie times, or links to Web sites. SEARCHING FOR THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING When I first heard of ZenSearch, I figured it would be a place to search for enlightenment or at least some interesting food for thought. Turns out this sight is Zen in name only. Still, it offers an interesting alternative to those search engines that give you 10,000 results where one good one would suffice. In fact, the ZenSearch credo is to catalog only quality sights that "add some value to the Web." Considering all the junk out there in the World Wide Wasteland, that's certainly a worthy goal! If you're not searching for anything in particular (how very Zen of you) but just want to see the type of site ZenSearch considers worthy, you can browse the categories or check out the Sight of the Week winner. Oh, one more thing: Don't bother looking for enlightenment here--that particular search turned up only two very disappointing hits. THE WEB'S POPULARITY CONTEST Although it claims to lead you to the "best" sites on the Web, actually only lists the most popular sites. Still, this site provides an interesting catalog of what Web users around the world are viewing, and its "fat free" search capabilities may prove useful if for no other reason than it filters out a lot of crap simply by not including Every Joe's homepage (unless, of course, Every Joe has a VERY popular site).


The highlight of the Biography site (based on the popular program from the A&E Television Network) has got to be its Find feature, which lets you quickly search more than 20,000 biographies, straight from the Cambridge Encyclopedia Database and Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography. Search by entering a full or partial name, using either capital or lowercase letters. You can even search by well-known nicknames (Jackie for Jacqueline, for example).

THUMBS UP OR THUMBS DOWN? May 29th, 1998 If you've ever made the mistake of basing your movie-going decision on one review--only to discover that the reviewer (like, say, Roger Ebert) must have been sniffing glue to recommend what turns out to be an incredibly lame movie (like, say, Dark City), you're going to love Cinemachine: The Movie Review Search Engine. Here, you just enter the name of the movie, and you're quickly guided to a handful of reviews from sources as diverse as Mr. Cranky and USA Today. (Yes, you'll also find the glue-sniffing Mr. Ebert here, too.) The database of reviews seems pretty extensive, so you'll also want to check it out before you next trip to the video store. Search hint: Use the New Window button to view a review, since the link takes you to the original source. That way, you can close the window and come back for a second opinion.

THUS SPAKE THE BARD May 28th, 1998 Have you ever wished you could get an exact reference to the play, act, and scene containing any quotation from any of William Shakespeare's works? (If not, you might be surprised at the number of people who actually answer "yes" to this question.) Thanks to the hardworking Jeremy Hylton, you can. Just stop by his Complete Works of William Shakespeare site and use the handy search feature.

ANOTHER PUB FROM THE POLICY PEOPLE... May 29th, 1998 What do Zbigniew Brzezinski, Pete du Pont, Wendy Kaminer, and Leon Panetta have in common? They all contribute to Intellectual, "a weekly, bipartisan, public policy e-zine available only on the World Wide Web" and published by the folks at, reviewed in the previous tip: Compared to its sister publication, Intellectual has more of an op-ed flavor; intellectual heavyweights offer their thoughts on everything from the effects of working parents on children, to how severely point-shavers should be punished. Sound denser than your Aunt Bessie's pound cake? Start with the political cartoons and work your way up. It's the rare news publication that can help you understand how events in the rest of the country--and the rest of the world--can affect you at home.

GEE, MR. SCIENCE--YOU MEAN SCIENCE AFFECTS MY LIFE EVERY DAY? June 1st, 1998 Sure it does, little Billy. And one way you can learn how is to visit Science-A-GoGo at Every day, this neato-keeno Web site includes at least one science news story that might be important to you, your mom or dad, or even your pet puppy, Mr. Drips. Why, last time we visited we found all kinds of interesting things--like how a simple cup of tea can help fight staph infections, how gene therapy may someday lower your cholesterol, and how male sports fans--like your dad--feel a surge of testosterone when they watch their favorite team win a baseball game. If you don't know what testosterone is, Billy, ask your parents. And speaking of your parents, Science-A-GoGo has stuff that will interest them, too, like editorials on science and society, obscure facts about people like Albert Einstein, or an article on an ancient brothel some archaeologists dug up recently in Greece. If you don't know what a brothel is, you can ask your parents that, too.

GET INVOLVED--OR SOUND INVOLVED, EVEN IF YOU AREN'T May 28th, 1998 Unless you live in a vacuum, you're probably stuck listening to people spout their unsolicited views on everything from Social Security to Internet data security. You know just by listening to them that they aren't right--but because YOU don't know all the facts, you can't put them in their place. Well, hold your tongue no more. At, at "the Web's most comprehensive public policy resource and community," you can hook up to information on just about every ongoing policy debate in the country and in the world. Read the daily policy news, join policy debate chats, follow any of scores of links to policy think tanks, and much more. And in the event that you DO decide to turn your thoughts and opinions to action, can jump you directly to the home pages and e-mail addresses of your senators, congresspeople, governor, and local representatives. After all, nothing calms the soul like dashing off a quick, vituperative letter to an elected official.

MORE SURGERY WITH THE STARS May 28th, 1998 A few weeks ago we sent you to a Web site that lets you combine elements of various famous peoples' faces to create A NEW PERSON! Well, we'd be remiss if we didn't follow up with a pointer to the Mr. Showbiz Plastic Surgery Labs at a faster, easier-to-use variation on the same thing, but with much better results. Here you can combine the facial features of Seinfeld and friends cast members, Best Actor and Best Actress winners and, for some reason, Goldie Hawn, Danny DeVito, Ellen Barkin, and Keanu Reeves. This is part of a larger site called Mr. ShowBiz that lets you track various celebrities in the news and links you to various celebrity worship sites. Now that our conscience is clear, we promise nothing further on the subject of celebrity facial manipulation.

NOT TO BEAT A DEAD HORSE, BUT June 1st, 1998 Last time, we directed you to origami genius Joseph Wu's home page; today, in what we promise will be the last origami link for quite some time, we send you off to Money Origami, at Don't be thrown off by the Webmaster's (his name is Clay) initial and somewhat pitiable claim that "Folding paper money (or 'money origami') is my one true creative output." Just run down to the nearest bank, get a fistful of crisp new bills (you'll need at least two or three for most of the projects), and start folding. Clay's photo-illustrated, step-by-step instructions are easy to follow, if not lightning-fast to load. And don't miss his links to OTHER money origami pages--including Dollar Bill Origami by Bob Nienhuis at which actually includes streaming video of folding instructions. Where would the world be without VivoActive? It wouldn't be producing dollar-bill catapults--that's for sure.

SOME PEOPLE HAVE ALL THE TALENT . . . May 29th, 1998 Joseph Wu, creator of Joseph Wu's Origami Page at is certainly one of those people. By day, Wu is a multimedia producer; by night, he does things like, say, fold a single sheet of paper into an incredibly lifelike lobster, complete with big claws, little claws, antennae, and all. On this site, you can see the lobster and much of the other origami work he's done: complex stars, everyday objects (that are not so everyday when folded out of paper), and even some origami animals that were featured in advertisements for a German manufacturer of--you guessed it--paper-folding machines. Wu has also been kind enough to provide instructions for the would-be origamists among you, as well as links to all kinds of other origami sites.

AUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE We all know that the best way to relieve stress and frustration is to laugh, right? Laughter really IS the best medicine, and at, you can overdose if you want. This Web site allows you to search for jokes by keywords or phrases. It's like having a joke thesaurus at your fingertips. A small sampling: * A sure sign that technology has overtaken your life: You can't sit through an entire movie without having at least one device on your body beep or buzz. * What computer acronyms REALLY mean: SCSI: System Can't See It IBM: I Blame Microsoft COBOL: Completely Obsolete Business-Oriented Language


There are many Web sites out there that will generate a map from any point A to point B that you specify. MapQuest will do this and much more. If your plans include traveling abroad, you can get maps of many popular vacation destinations such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Dublin, and Paris. What's even cooler about this Web site is that you can even get maps of domestic and international airports. You can also find a map of a given area simply by entering a telephone area code, and you can get real-time traffic reports! Whether you're traveling across the world or just across town, you need to check out MapQuest! Last time, we asked you what non-Star Wars alien race can be seen in the background of the big Senate scene in The Phantom Menace. There's a pod of E.T.s in a couple of shots, included as a joke between George Lucas and his buddy Steven Spielberg. There's also a pod of Ewoks, which just isn't funny in any context.
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