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Search banquet's punishing portions: but get past the vast heaps of starters and the main course is a feast, says Archana Venkatraman.

Searching 2.0

Author: Michael P Sauers Publisher: Facet Publishing Price: 44.95 [pounds sterling]; 35.96 [pounds sterling] to CILIP members

For beginners: this book lays the foundation for today's internet fabric, Web 2.0, where the web is interactive, communicative and dynamic. The exercises help readers to test their understanding. Definitely recommended for professional development.

For intermediates: helps readers to improve basic search skills, evaluate search results and make the most of search engines.

For veterans: coverage of advanced and specialist search methods and hitherto ignored web tools helps professionals to organise information at reference desks. But this book is not necessarily recommended.

Flipping through the contents page of Michael Sauers' book Searching 2.0, I sighed at yet another book on the ABCs of the web that would have doubtless made an informative read five years ago. The first few chapters only reinforced my fears, covering as they did the introduction and definition of Web 2.0, popular search engines and Wikipedia.

Then again, it's never good to judge a book by its cover--or, in this case, by its size. Sprawling across 11 chapters and 300 pages, Searching 2.0 is a comprehensive guide to search that makes the most of the Web 2.0 environment.

Searching 2.0 explains the various ways to optimise and exploit Web 2.0. Those already savvy with Web 2.0's communication and organisational tools can profit from its exposition of master techniques, patterns and key pieces to improve their proficiency on the web.

For me, the book debunked some web myths. I have always hesitated to trust Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia facilitated by lay users, but Sauers refers to a study by journal Nature in 2005, which sent Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica's coverage of 50 scientific topics to experts to assess how accurate each was. The average entry in Wikipedia turned out to contain only around four inaccuracies compared with Britannica's three.

Until the middle of the book, I was just brushing up on the basics--the web, search engines, wikis, maps and using Del.icio.us--and occasionally taking note of the smart search methodology pointed out by Sauers to enhance my work. Even while most of Sauers' coverage is pretty basic, he identifies many unexplored tools to improve efficiency.

But it was the second half of the book that held real value for me, and I suspect for many information professionals. Take Chapter 8, Google Cache. Sauers explains that every time Google indexes a document, it keeps a copy of it in virtual perpetuity, but offers searchers only the most recent version. So if a web page is created that contains the word Iraq, and Google indexes the page only for the author subsequently to remove the word, then a search for "Iraq" could bring up the page even though the searched for word was absent. Sauers points out that Google Cache lets us "peer back into the past just a little bit".

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The chapter also explains the Wayback Machine--a search engine that allows you to access the content of the Internet Archive--and the History tab on the Wikipedia page, which helps users compare two versions of an article found in their search.

Subsequent chapters describe OpenSearch tools and explore the functioning of Google desktop search and Windows search, which are used to locate data held on the local disk rather than online.

While there are plenty of books on the market explaining search, Searching 2.0 earns brownie points for its tutorial-like exercises that test readers' understanding, its notes, demonstrations, graphical representations, and references and conclusions that all make reading more fun and engaging.

Searching 2.0 makes reference to blogs, RSS and wikis; file-sharing tools such as Flickr, podcasting, BitTorrent and mashups; academic tools such as Kartoo, Google Book Search, the WayBack Machine; visual search engines, folksonomies, tagging, Firefox search plug-ins, Del.icio.us; and even Twitters. As such, it is very appealing to Gen Y information professionals.

Yet the book would have benefitted from some drastic abridgement, by chopping the elementary descriptions and obvious screenshots. Devoting a whole page to a screenshot on how to open an account page or to illustrate the Google maps search vastly underestimates the extent of many people's interaction with the internet.
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Author:Venkatraman, Archana
Publication:Information World Review
Date:Jun 1, 2009
Words:714
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