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Essential Skills for the Information Age Worker, Semester 2 2004

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Week 04: Pushers and Pullers on the Web

Lecturer: Gavan McCarthy
Image of Week 04: Pushers and Pullers on the Web
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Date: 18 Aug 2004 1pm
Location: Old Arts Theatre B
An introduction to the use of structure, content and technology to control the access and discovery of information and data on the Web. This will include reference to subject gateways, metadata, indexing systems and the information explosion.

Lecture Notes

Tutorial Exercises

  • Pick a search engine and find out how it indexes, how it ranks, what searching options it provides and what search results. Discuss its pros and cons. What type of searches would you use it for? What type of searches would you not use it for?
  • Pick a subject gateway and find out all you can about how it selects, documents and organises access to resources. Discuss its pros and cons. What type of search would you use it for? What type of searches would you not use it for?
  • Try and use your search engine to locate your subject gateway, without using its name or other easy identifier - i.e. assume you don't know it exists and are just looking generally in that subject area. Did you find it? Where was it ranked?
  • Here is an analysis of the state of play with search engines in July 2002 taken from data in Search Engine Watch, http://webraft.its.unimelb.edu.au/136045/prot/gifs/searchengines2002.gif. How has it changed? Are there any new players?

Lab Exercise

  • In this lab exercise we will look at the resource Technology in Australia 1788-1988 and compare methods for accessing information. The exercises are also designed to highlight issues associated with the conversion of a book to the web. You should try each exercise with each of the different access tools, i.e.

  • The 'best' technique for each exercise should be noted along with any comments and problems, e.g. usability of the interfaces, ease of understanding the results, navigation, coverage etc.

    1. In what year was the 'ute' first produced?
    2. Who was the chemist responsible for the development of Vegemite? What role did he play in the Royal Australian Chemical Institute?
    3. I'm interested in cotton technology - What's the best access point?
    4. I'm interested in the development of dairy technology in Australia - What's the best starting point?
    5. Who is G.W. Hills?
    6. What roles have women played in the technological development of Australia?
    7. Find an image of CSIRAC.
    8. What role did Traeger play in the development of the Royal Flying Doctor Service?
    9. What New Zealander played what role in the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme?

  • What conclusions can you draw about the value of traditional methods versus search engines? Comment on the usability of the resource? What does a user need to know to use it effectively? Is that information available? How would you make it available and guide the user to it?

Review Questions

  1. Define each of the following:-Search engine, Crawler based search engine, Web directory, Web portal, Meta search engine, Subject gateway, Invisible/Hidden/Deep web, Static pages, Dynamic pages, Ranking or Relevance algorithm, Dublin Core Metadata, Subject Gateway
  2. Name and describe the basic components of a crawler-based search engine.
  3. According to the author of www.lookoff.com, what are the possible downsides of using meta-search engines? Does that match with your experience?
  4. Describe three methods of ranking search results.
  5. How should search engines be evaluated?
  6. What are the advantages/disadvantages of automated indexing techniques?
  7. What are the advantages/disadvantages of human powered indexing techniques?
  8. What are the key differences between a crawler based search engine and a Web directory? What impact does it have on searching strategies?
  9. Name four steps you could take to improve your web searching skills?
    Move out of your comfort zone and try a new search engine. How does it compare with your preferred search engine? Will you convert?
  10. What are the difficulties in accessing and indexing the invisible, deep or hidden Web? What does this mean for searching and discovery of information on the Web?
  11. Compare this page with the version in Google's cache. What can you deduce about when the site was last visited by the Google web crawler?
  12. Last year, Helen loaded two resources onto our web site before heading off on four weeks holiday. When she returned one had been indexed by Google and the other had not. Can you think of reasons why this may have occured?
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See Also
Prepared by: Joanne Evans
Created: 5 June 2000
Modified: 22 July 2004

Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre on AustehcWeb, 2000 - 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: tfac@austehc.unimelb.edu.au
Updated: 22 July 2004

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