Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Google This

by Robin Sax

As we here at WOMEN IN CRIME know, it’s not just the facts, ma’am. It’s about where to find the facts and sometimes where to find the fiction. Many of us are looking for specific information but get sidetracked by useless websites with shoddy information.

Gone are the days of going to the library, standing on a stepstool, flipping through the card catalog, and being limited to how many books you could check out based on how big your biceps were. Now, with a few simple key strokes, anybody who wants to know anything is just a few clicks away. If you don’t believe me, Just ask Jeeves.com.

We live in a brave new world of research. The World Wide Web has changed the landscape for information-gathering for everyone, from writers to lawyers to criminals.

“Googling” is now a verb. Need to know about a particular person? Google him. Need to know about an issue? Google it.Looking for an old friend? Try Myspace, Facebook, Reunion, or Classmates. Need a professional or just want to network? How about Linkedin? Want to stay connected to friends, keep track of birthdays and special events? Try Plaxo, Birthdayreminder, and don’t forget Naymz!

The Internet can augment almost anyone’s library resources by providing alternate copies of print materials, as well as information that can’t be found in print or electronic formats.

Here are some examples of the resources that are on the Internet that may be difficult to find in a library: census information, uniform and model acts; news; publishers' catalogs; worldwide library catalogs; tables of contents of journals; full texts of articles from electronic law and non-law journals; books (such as the classics); bookstores (Barrister Books [academic textbooks], Amazon, etc.); song lyrics; comic strips; tax forms; sports information (such as professional baseball and basketball players' salaries and other basketball information); travel information; legal documents (transcripts of hearings, reports, briefs, memoranda, complaints, indictments, oral arguments, etc.).

As the Internet expands and people get more creative, they need to find new ways to find information. I have outlined some of the new(er) and different places to find information online. If you haven’t seen or heard of any of these sites, you are depriving your clients, your victims, your society, your readers, and yourself of a whole new dimension of the great galaxy known as the World Wide Web.

And now for some research tidbits:

CIA: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html -- How could a crime writer ignore this site? No crime website is complete unless it has a link to the Central Intelligence Agency. We use its 2008 CIA World Factbook (updated frequently) as a source of information about the countries of the world. See also "Maps" below.

Copyscape: http://www.copyscape.com -- "Copyscape makes it easy to find copies of your content on the Web. Simply type in the address of your web page. Copyscape will find sites that have copied your content without permission, as well as those that have quoted you." Copyscape is a free service; premium services are also available.

Dogpile: http://www.dogpile.com -- "Dogpile puts the power of all the leading search engines--Google, Yahoo, MSN Live Search, and Ask.com--together in one search box to deliver the best combined results. The process is more efficient and yields specific results. Dogpile was named top consumer search engine by J.D. Power & Associates for 2007."

Fazzle: http://www.fazzle.com – Similar to Google, perhaps an up-and-comer.

Newspapers: http://www.newspapers.com -- Answers everybody’s question: "What in the world is going on?" You can literally search thousands of newspapers online, including the abroad.

Ice Rocket: http://www.icerocket.com/ - Want to search myspace, facebook, and all socializing websites at once? This site takes people and profile searching to a whole new level.

Justice Interrupted: http://www.justiceinterrupted.blogspot.com -- Your one-stop shop for victims' advocacy presented with the honest breath of fresh air. Stacy, Susan, and Robin host a weekly radio show, advocate for victims, educate the community, and help in the investigation of crime.

Perez Hilton: http://www.perezhilton. com - Advertised as “Hollywood's Most-Hated Web Site,” it’s a place to get to get scoop, gossip, and rumors. No need to buy the National Enquirer here.

Radio locator: http://www.radio-locator.com/ -- "the most comprehensive radio station search engine on the internet. We have links to over 10,000 radio station web pages and over 2,500 audio streams from radio stations in the U.S. and around the world."

Rotten Tomatoes: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/ -- Need to know what’s shakin’ in THE “industry?” Though one of the busiest homepages in the biz, it's not as negative as it sounds.

Scared Monkeys: http://www.scaredmonkeys.com/ -- No spin, no b.s., just good people reporting on the most interesting and intriguing news.

Search Engine Watch: www.searchenginewatch.com -- Search Engine Watch covers it all: news, headlines, reviews, tools, blogs, forums, listings, ratings, stats, resources, newsletters, reports.

Snopes: http://www.snopes.com — “Send this email to ten people and Bill Gates will give you a brand new computer”; “Your car will blow up if you’re pumping gas while on a cell phone”; etc. We all get these emails everyday, but are they true or just fear-making? Only Snopes has the answers to these questions and other urban legends.

TMZ: http://www.tmz.com -- I give you permission to visit this site in the name of doing “research,” but we all know the real reason is to see if Angelina is pregnant or if Britney and Kevin are getting back together.

Wikipedia: http://www.wikipedia.com -- In their words, this is “the biggest multilingual free-content encyclopedia on the Internet. Over 7 million articles in over 200 languages, and still growing.”

Zillow: http://www.zillow.com -- Are you buying, selling, or simply snooping for house values? The market is changing and zillow keeps you in the know.

The sites I’ve mentioned are by no means flawless, but they are interesting, often informative places to find information and new ideas. Regardless of what you find, you must always evaluate the information. Some of the questions you should ask in assessing the site’s credibility and integrity are:

1) What is the source of the information?

Is the author known? On what authority does the author write -- what are his or her credentials? Who sponsors the website?

2) Is there author bias?

What is the intent or purpose of the website ? Is the motivation of the website profit? accurate news? propaganda? scholarly information? Does the material appear biased in any way, or is it fairly objective?

3) How reliable does the information appear to be within the website?

How does the material compare to related sources, such as published books or journal articles?

4) How up-to-date or time-sensitive is the information?

How current does the information appear to be? How often is the website updated?

5) What type of reviewing process exists on or about the site?

Are there professional reviews available for the website?

It’s no wonder that people turn to the Internet as a source of information. And why not? It’s a cheap alternative to the use of commercial databases. It is varied and plentiful, not to mention a lot quicker than a trip to the library, unless your research turns into a shopping jaunt.

Speaking of shopping, if you’re like me and thrive on new finds, great contacts, and amazing resources, visit http://robinsax.com/saxfactsweekly.html for Robin’s latest discovery. In the legal realm, “discovery” is part of the pre-trial litigation process when each side requests relevant information and documents from the other to "discover" pertinent facts.

I have made discovery my hobby. Whether you need to know how to scout for a nanny, where to buy the best holiday gifts, when there is a great sale, how to locate an affordable web designer, or find someone who can notarize your trust at three in the morning, I am your source.


Mike said...

Great post. If you want to create a web presence on Google you can use LookupPage (It only takes 5 minutes)

LadySheila said...

Ditto, Mike.
Having the personality type that I do, which places priority on all things efficient, I feel like I just got the best-ever Christmas present, Robin. Thank you. You will have a devoted fan forever!

Robin Sax said...

Thank you for your kind comments!