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Disappeared: Google’s U.S. Government Search Sites and Other Special Search Interfaces Gone
Greetings. On our INFOdocket site we’ve posted about what appears to be either a glitch (that has gone one since at least last Thursday), the elimination of, or something else because Google’s Uncle Sam and USgov.Google.com government search tool now takes users to the Google homepage.
You can find the post here.
Two final points:
1. We have sent an email to Google a few hours ago asking for a comment. If/when we do hear back from them I’ll update this post.
2. In our INFOdocket post we point out that Google is free to do as they see fit just as users are free to go elsewhere or come up with new search tactics. However, we would hope that Google would at least let users know before or as they make changes to their web search products and services.
Much Government Information Still Not Searchable on Google, etc.
Firms Push for a More Searchable Federal Web, By Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post,December 11, 2008; D01.
Here is another article about the problem that commercial search engines have in indexing government information.
Google chief executive Eric Schmidt says that the “vast majority” of U.S. government information is still not searchable or findable. J.L. Needham, Google’s manager of public-sector content partnerships, estimates that 1,000 federal government Web sites are inaccessible to search engine crawlers.
A person using one of the search engines, for example, can’t find Environmental Protection Agency enforcement actions against a given company, can’t discover the picture of a specific ancient Egyptian artifact at the Smithsonian and can’t search by name for the details of a Vietnam War casualty.
And for many Web users, if an online item can’t be found with a Web search engine, then for all practical purposes it doesn’t exist.
What’s the problem? Often, it is simply a matter of agency budgets. “[I]nformation technology officials in the federal bureaucracy said that the transition may require significant manpower and that the costs could be large.” One official said that “With limited resources as always, it’s a little bit hard.”
Some Bits About Ask.com
When I was first asked to be a guest blogger on this site I asked if it would be possible to every now and then mention some of what we were up to at Ask.com. I was told, absolutely yes, go for it. Well, here it’s the 20th of the month and I have shared very little about Ask.com.
So, without further adieu here are some fast facts and examples. For more about my role at Ask, I was interviewed by Search Engine Watch last week.
It’s important to remember that the Ask.com of 2007 is not the same Ask Jeeves product that was around in the 1990’s. Far from it. Jeeves retired 🙂 in 2006 and Ask.com is now an algorithmic engine (like Google, Yahoo, MSN Live, others) with some human edited features. We can save the discussion about what makes are algorithm different (ExpertRank) for another time.
1) Smart RSS
If a person enters the name of a blog or feed, the editors name (in some cases) not only do they get web results back but also a near real-time feed of headlines. Three Examples:
+ Om Malik
+ FDA Recalls
2) Query Context
If the search is pics of golden gate bridge not only are web results returned but also results from the Ask.com image database. Ask was the first major engine to offer this feature.
3) If a country name is searched Ask offers several sources for info about the country (or state) at the top of the page. Sort of a virtual ready reference shelf. In some cases, if a stat is searched for, that will also be returned on the results page. Example: Market Cap Cisco (CSCO).
Direct links to NCES database, city home page, chamber of commerce, etc.
4) This search for Ben Franklin not only offers useful results at the top of the page (a Smart Answer) but also options to narrow, expand, and see related names. These results are called Zoom, related results and are similar to what once was available on Teoma. In fact, Teoma technology powers Ask.com. Here’s another example for San Francisco earthquake.* We place them on the right rail because it’s a highly visible spot (where others place sponsored links).
5) Ask.com also owns Bloglines and both sites have blog/feed engines. Same database, different features. One feature people like about the Ask.com interface are the direct links (below each title) to subscribe to the feed or share the post using a variety of services, including Ask.com and Bloglines competitors.
6) Ask Maps.
Two points here.
A) Ask offers both walking and driving directions.
B) Ask offers dynamic rerouting and route recalculation.
Here’s an example.
Now, drag the #1 or #2 “pin” to a new location. Watch the street name(s) change and the route recalculated on the fly. You can have up to 10 locations. You can also add location by simply selecting a spot on the map, right clicking and selecting “Add Location.” Aerial imagery is also available by selecting the aerial link at the top of the map.
7) Ask.com is also helpful for the typical searcher who might want a Zip Code but only enter a city name. Example:
Zip Code Springfield. We offer a pull-down that lists all cities named Springfield along with a direct link to the USPS for all Zips in the selected city. Here’s another example with disambiguation built in. This time, a search for info about man’s best friend.
* Ask.com offers a near real-time feed of Earthquake data with a simple search for earthquake. Via the USGS. Clicking the link takes you to the data, mapped.