Lilac and Lime

Contrasts in colour, contrasts in life – Mary Bruce

Dribbles and drabbles

[Published in the OSALL newsletter of May 2010]

This time around the column will include numerous links to and comments about services that attempt to improve the quality and reach of Internet searches.

On 6 June Google announced the completion of a new indexing system they have named Caffeine. The decision was driven in part by the mass of information that needs to be indexed, but also the various formats in which this information is to be found : videos, real-time updates, etc. The diagram below illustrates the difference between the previous indexing system and Caffeine. Instead of delays while various layers were indexed, information is now added directly to the new index as Google locates it, thereby offering 50% “fresher” results.


The sheer logistics are mind-boggling. As Google’s blogpost1 points out, “if this were a pile of paper, it would grow three miles taller every second”.

The intriguing part of this major development is that it is unlikely to jump up and grab us by the nose but it will almost inevitably make a huge difference to the content of the results that are now returned.

Maybe, like me, you’ve long been fascinated by the trends and whims in the search sector. Did you notice the reference above to real-time updates? As Web 2.0 has integrated itself into our lives and more and more individuals become comfortable with publishing to the web, be it as bloggers, contributors to forums, Tweeters, etc, public expectation is that this information will be available pretty close to immediately. Given that, having subtracted the guano-element referred to in an earlier column (OSALL newsletter. August 2009), much of the content of micro-blogging relies on its currency and trending topics, it makes sense that this type of resource needs to be indexed close to the speed of light and become accessible to those who need it. Another advantage over traditional online resources (wow, it’s already been long enough to think of the Internet as ‘traditional’ – hardcopy should be worried) is that the reputations of the individuals who post to them plays a large part in the choices of the reader : this generally makes the person a lot more accessible as interaction between reader and writer is encouraged. More so than ever, it is essential to be sure of the credentials of one’s source.

To date I have largely relied on in-house search facilities, such as Twitter’s. A number of reviewers still feel that these are the most effective but there has been a surge of newcomers to the field of real-time searching and I hope to look at these in more detail in the following column.

For those who don’t want to wait, services that have received favourable acclaim to date include Daypop4, Collecta5, CrowdEye6 and Icerocket7.

Google introduced its social search service on 26 October 20098 and Bing took its social search live on 9 June 20109.

Time to choose our favourites and amend our search strategies.


This started as a beta collaborative project between Google, The Washington Post and The New York Times in December 2009. Although it seems to have been archived in February 2010 it is still worth a look as the code is available to developers and we may seem more of the same in future. The project aimed to give a far more comprehensive overview of selected topics than one would normally have expected from a news search. As Google’s blogpost10 explains, the results made use of a consistent URL, information was organised according to developments in the particular story and anyone returning to an earlier search would be advised of any changes in the interim. Earlier this year Mary Ellen Bates11 referred to some of the features of this project : a review, timeline, inclusion of videos/slideshows/graphics, profiles of key players, and links to key resources.

Various time constraints in recent weeks have not left much time for exploration, but the timeline in particular seems a useful extra. The links to specialised areas of Google search (images/news/etc) are easily accessed on the left side of the screen.

The downside is that it seems a lot of human intervention is required, resulting in less immediate results – and possibly the ultimate shelving of the project.

For those of you following football/soccer, have you seen Follow your football team in South Africa, wherever you are on the Google blogspot?
( Happy winter holidays, however you are spending them.

1 Our new search index : Caffeine [Google blog]
Google releases the much discussed “Caffeine” index / Resource Shelf
Living Stories [Google]
Search engines : real-time search / Phil Bradley. Ariadne issue 61. October 2009
8 Introducing Google Social Search : I finally found my friend’s New York blog!
9 Use Bing Social to search Facebook and Twitter
10 Exploring a new, more dynamic way of reading news with Living Stories
11 An in-depth look at the News / Mary Ellen Bates. Bates InfoTip

Mary Bruce

Opinions expressed in this column are my own and not necessarily those of my employer.


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