fravia @ Paris
Ecole polytechnique, 6 February 2001

The information mass is overwhelming. To avoid drowning in the vast sea, anyone navigating the web needs to know how to use the available tools and techniques.

Searching, combing, klebing, luring, hacking... and stalking :-)

There are many techniques that you can apply in order to search effectively, some of these techniques are easy and straightforward, others require considerable 'feeling' capacities. With this word: 'feeling' I basically mean the capacity to adapt your approaches to the kind of target you're seeking, to the 'milieu' (or 'habitat' or 'surrounding') of your query and to the kind of results you're looking for.

In general, there are no rules: the only thing that counts is to grab your target: You may hop, you may leap, you may be a grasshopper or an ant... the only decisive factor is the success of your query and the time spent: you got quickly the targets you were searching for? You won.

Striving for advices, we should consider the following rules (besides the usual main and well-known principles "don't lose your track", "narrow down" and "use proximity operators"):

1) Go "local" as well! The idea is to try (some) searches on local and regional search engines, not only on the main ones. If you write your own bots you'll slowly be able to "fine-tune" your queries (you may want to have a look at a [recent essay] by Laurent in this context :-). The crucial point to remember is (as my friend RH would say): never content yourself to the 'main' search engines alone.

2) Now you can either (1) simply search. Or you may (2) prefer to spare yourself many days of hunting by tracking down somebody that has already searched for your stuff (and is willing to share, that means he has published it somewhere). This kind of approach is called 'combing' (but may require some 'luring' and 'stalking' as well). Or (3) you may try to hunt up those that have already searched for your stuff and are NOT willing to share (that means they have NOT published their findings on the web, or they are hoarding them for commercial purposes). As I explain elsewhere, this last approach is called 'klebing' (but may require some 'luring' and 'stalking' knowledges as well).

Let us quickly explain the various techniques: combing is relatively simple: Elementary lurking and searching techniques, applied to usenet, in order to find out (the sooner = the better) who are the 'authorities' in the field you are interested in. This kind of search can be performed using simple usenet perusing tools.
Actually 'combing' is a very simple technique: it resolves to 'finding those that have already searched what you are looking for'. The idea is to use the knowledge others have gathered year after year in order to 'speed up' your query.
Usenet searching is useful because:
1. Most people that use usenet (sorry for the alliteration :-) know something indeed.
2. Many usenet messages point to useful sites (a simple URL-gathering bot that you lash onto usenet can give you gorgeous results)
3. There's no point to reinvent a wheel that not only already exist, but is most of then time FAR superior to the one you woukd have eventually invented if you had had the time :-)

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