Neat new stuff from the Internet

8 Feb

February 8, 2007

By Geoff Meeker 

This week, I bring you a smorgasbord of neat new things, gleaned from a week of spending far too much time on the Internet. The first is a search engine to end all search engines. I know what you’re thinking: If it’s not Google, it’s not any good.  Well, this one is Google… and more.

Dogpile.com

What Trillian did for instant messaging programs, dogpile.com seems to do for search engines. It uses five search engines at once – including Google – to theoretically turn up a better, more varied result than one engine alone could. Purportedly, Dogpile brings the web’s “best search engines together in one place to deliver more comprehensive and relevant results.

“The inspiration for Dogpile came when its founders noticed that different search engines often return different results for the very same term,” says a blurb on the web site. “The more engines they searched the more results they found… To capture this idea, the founders borrowed a sports term used to describe players piling on top of one another in the celebration and the Dogpile search engine was born.”

In other words, Dogpile gives you the power of Google, combined with whatever strengths the other engines bring to the search. And it works. I did a search on both Google and Dogpile and the latter actually did get more results than Google.

However, there is a catch and for me, it’s a biggie. In order to make money, the site embeds ‘sponsored links’ in the search results, which means your hits are mingled with a bunch of spam, essentially. At Google, this kind of junk is segregated to the right side of the screen, where you can choose to read or ignore at your leisure. With Dogpile, you are forced to read the spam in order to filter out your best hits. This may be a good selling point for the advertising folks, but it severely diminished my enjoyment of the site.

(And in case you didn’t get that Trillian reference, it’s a chat program that integrates all of the main instant messaging programs, including MSN, Yahoo, ICQ and others, so that you can run them at the same time, from one interface. Check it out at www.ceruleanstudios.com.)

Ms. Dewey

One search engine that apparently isn’t accessed by Dogpile is Ms. Dewey (and thanks to John Gushue of The Telegram for bringing this to my attention). Ms. Dewey is like no search engine you’ve seen, because you submit your search request to a smartly dressed, rather statuesque woman, played by actress Janina Gavankar.

And this woman has attitude. If you take too long to input your search, she becomes impatient, flicking through a magazine, placing a call on her cell phone and finally reaching out and tapping the screen. When you do a search, she often makes wry comments about the subject.

Ask Ms. Dewey, for example, about Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan and she will give you a withering look before saying, “I don’t know what is sadder, these famous chicks and their shenanigans, or that you actually care what they do…” or “Hey look, their 15 minutes are almost up…”

Click on the ‘Best of Dewey’ for a quick sampler of what to expect from this sassy search engine, which seems to work well enough. However, I fear the site – which is operated by Microsoft – is noteworthy more for its novelty than functionality. Frankly, Ms. Dewey’s impatient antics when I ignore the screen for more than a few seconds become grating on the nerves.

Midomi.com

Have you ever heard a tune on the radio that you really liked, but didn’t know the name of the song or artist? Short of calling the deejay and humming a few bars, you may never know who recorded that great number.

Now, thanks to Midomi.com, you can track down the song online. You simply click the “Search with your voice” button, and start humming or singing the song. The system scans an extensive database of recordings submitted by other Midomi users, and actually matches the soundwave patterns.

I tried it and it worked for one song (‘Satisfaction’ by the Rolling Stones) but not for another (‘The Way’ by Fastball). However, I attribute this more to my inability to even hum a tune than any weakness in the Midomi system.

I quickly grew weary of searching for songs, but was entertained by the small chorus of people who have left their aural imprint at the site. Some have amazing voices and have risen to ‘star status’ within the community of fans at Midomi. It’s a great way to waste a bit of time… as if you needed that!

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