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Rockwell, 1922      
~ Combing lore ~


Version April 2009

This is a windrose

[What is combing?]
[Older combing essays]
[The "double combing" approach]
[Old (but still useful) combing resources]
[Useful combing resources]
vertical search engines     ••     social bookmarking search engines

This is a windrose

"For most given targets, topics and interests, there are ALWAYS already people interested in it, and some will have ALREADY put up, on line, a maze of web sites, internet communities, or other resources devoted to that specific target of yours, where you'll be able to find and fetch valuable information and quite relevant links.

By finding these "specialists" and their resources -instead of trying to reinvent the wheel on your own- you could bypass months, and in some cases even years, of long term searching

What is combing? 

"To find out about the web ahead, ask those coming back"

Combing is a very effective search strategy: basically, instead of simply searching, you search those that have already searched. This will give you a quick 'jumpstart' possibility.
Let's begin with the beginning: usually a good seeker does not search directly a specific target: you search people that have already searched the web for years for that target. The web is so big and deep that you'll always have some weirdo that has spent three years of his life cataloguing all possible variants of the Yak2 russian fighter plane, and putting on line all possible plans, blueprints, data and projects related to it, if you see what I mean.

Note that if the target has enough signal-power (a large "beacon"), you may even search among the noise for searchers that have searched people that have in turn searched for that specific target... :-)

That's combing, in a nutshell. But it'isn't all!

"Ah! combing! Combing the hairs of our web to find some "knots" of people that have dedicated a considerable amount of their time to a specific topic. This can be so incredibly useful to "jumpstart" a query! Think about it: readers that have found this site of mine, for instance, will discover a considerable amount of information about web searching. If you land on the site of a -say- passionated steam locomotive driver, you might discover there, on onto the related "hairknot", more valuable info than what you would have found on your own in a month time."

So let's comb the web, let's find out the nuggets inside her long galaxies of site-hairs!

You may usefully comb on usenet or on the thousand many private messageboards dealing with your target stuff or on private homepages, or on ad hoc webrings, or some useful referrals lists, or applying klebing (i.e. referral based), or luring techniques. You may have to recur to social engineering as well. Stalking maybe an important option too, and you may have to put on the web some clever "honeypots" to stalk your targets through a klebing approach.
You may comb directly or you may use combing bots or scrolls
You may also use various older net resources like the continuously updated "Top 100" or "Top 1000" URL-locations; all kind of ftp searches and the various "vigilant filters" and automated server loggings.

"Obviously combing is an important technique for whatever interest you may have, quite useful in order to spare an incredible amount of Internet searching hours"


Using others' research when delving into specialized topics is very useful, however beware obsolescence when seaching the deep web!
You might encounter link lists preopared during the last millennium, and never updated. Wade among mailing lists which are in a torpor state since the Serbian invasion, and find sites which have been plain abandoned long ago. Thi sdoes not necessarily mean that you should discard such findings!
In fact on the web the data and info you gather might -or might not- be still valid after some years.
Much depends on the kind of subject you are investigating: so while -say- cryptography treaties might be already obsolete after six months, byzantinistic or early medieval researches written two hundred years ago still easily beat black and blue most contemporary essays (yep: many sciences, especially in the hulanistic field, are -alas- in full decadence).
Anyway it is always worth paying attention to whether or not what you found has been updated recently.

Older essays about combing 
  1. [whitemea.htm]: Proxy Logs - The Other White Meat, by Finn61 part of the combing [section]
    "So now you should have some large lists of URL's you can scan for that hard-to-find document or program"
    March 2002
  2. [Web wizard searching techniques, anti-advertisement galore and software reversing tips], a draft of fravia+'s session at HAL2001 in August 2001 (see the 'how to search' part).
  3. [Combing: The art of sailing in pure water] by Loki, October 2000 (A little of "methodology" about the information)
  4. [Simple combing techniques] by Fravia+, October 2000 (part of a conference held in Milan for the Linux day)
  5. [The importance of Webrings for combing purposes], by Lorenzo Gatti

Finally, you may find useful to peruse my obsolete 'lesson' [combing and klebing techniques] (November 1997)

This is a windrose

(You might also want to visit the old & frozen [Combing resources] section)

(Note that some other, more recent, combing techniques have been described during my conferences)

Combing resources 

"Finding communities" approaches:
Note that some basic knowledge of trolling, luring and general anonymity and usenet lore will come quite handy

"Vertical" (communities') search engines
swicki     ••     rollyo
E.g: infinite regression or googling google    

Usenet, emails repositories and groups search (note that google's usenet groups now fishes also into non usenet messageboards)
yahoo groups     ••     google groups

topica ("email discussions": alas heavily commercial infested. Note that accmail retrieval techniques apply)
tile.net ("email newsletters": for instance: rhetoric site:tile.net -inurl:news. Note that accmail retrieval techniques apply)

"Social bookmarking" search engines
All these "social" web services do not make much sense for seekers (we rarely use links: it is mostly easier, and often quicker, just to search for a particular target afresh each time, in order to find it even if it has moved). Social bookmarking services allow people with below average searching capacity to store, share, and discover "interesting web bookmarks" signalled by other -equally incapable- searchers. Wading inside this kind of stuff might of course just waste our everyday seekers' time, yet if you are seriously combing, and especially if you want to really comb the web in depth, you better learn the main tools of this trade :-)

"Delicious" (here with the param &lc=3):

Of course you are not limited to english: suchmaschine or motori di ricerca or buscadores

Note that you can also search delicious by tags, for instance google or search (note, here, the parameter ?setcount=100)

This is a windrose

"Regional, local and specialised" approaches:
Apply the usual regional and local searching techniques, season generously with useful translation tools, mix well and enjoy

The "double combing" approach 

As Jeff realized and pointed out, simple combing techniques can give incredibly accurate results.
I think if a person really thinks about this and puts together some good keywords you can really find some terrific links to info thru BOOKMARKS ...and ALL THE WORK has already been done for you!......all with headings and sometimes alphabetized...:)
Just look at the following example: google... search...
bookmarks fravia...
http://www.cs.umass.edu/~lmccarth/bookmarks.html ....mostly lots of info on crypto...
Indeed this kind of very simple combing approach (a combing querystring on a local search engine) can give impressive results. Try it out (here for instance: bookmarks proxies on crosswinds' homepages) and enjoy this kind of fishing right now!

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