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Re: Lexis Costs Skyrocket
On the Web note, if you get a chance you should pick up the most recent
issue of Scientific American, which has a major series of articles about
the future of the Internet. Of particular interest is a piece about
progress in developing more intuitive search tools.
One of the best Lexis alternatives of the near future will probably still
be the Point Cast Network, which is a personalized Web crawler, in effect.
It pulls news articles from all over the Web with whatever keywords you
want, and automatically posts them to your screen as a screen-saver. Look
at your computer anytime during the day, and you get an update on the
latest news that interests you. Right now, the software is still, well,
rich in "features," but they're revising it. I've only played with it a
little bit, and haven't checked out the latest version, so I suspect many
of the bugs have already been fixed.
Following are some quick hints for those playing around on the Web. These
are some of the things I teach in my "Non-Lexis Electronic Research"
lesson for the IMPACT workshops:
1) Search Yahoo only when you are doing large, "trolling" research, e.g.
at the beginning of the season. After that, you will need a site with
greater breadth to cover the more specific case information you need.
Yahoo is useless for case-specific research.
2) The best search engine on the Web is currently AltaVista, despite the
fact that their search algorithm is stunningly primitive. They have more
sites cataloged than anyone else, and that's reason enough to go there
when doing case-specific research. AltaVista is useless for doing large,
comprehensive trolling work, so don't start there at the beginning of the
3) Because AltaVista does not accept logical operators in advanced
combinations, try phrasing your search as specifically as possible. You
will generally get over 5,000 hits, so don't worry about your search being
too narrow. Enclose phrases in quotes if you want to find the exact
phrase, e..g. "nuclear winter" will get pages that contain those two words
in exactly that relation, whereas nuclear winter (no quotes) will find all
pages containing either word anywhere. The first will return a much more
specific set than the second, obviously. "nuclear winter" -sagan will get
all pages about nuclear winter that do NOT mention Carl Sagan. Plan to
search with several phrases and rearrangements - your browser will
highlight sites you've already visited in a different color, so you won't
have to worry about the duplications.
4) Turn off the "Auto Load Images" feature on your browser before you do
serious research. This alone will save you large chunks of time. Also,
set AltaVista to report in "compact" form, which is quicker and easier.
Visit the sites in the order AltaVista presents them, as best matches will
be first. After the first 20-30 sites, stop and do a new search with a
different term or phrase, as sites lower than that on the list will
probably be a waste of your time.
5) If there is any chance a site might be useful, bookmark it. Collect
sites first, then go back and read them. If there is a potential card on
a site, go to the "File" menu in your browser and "Save As..." "Text." DO
NOT save the site as "HTML Source," as this will create a mess.
The FAQ I'm putting together will have some hints and tricks for dealing
with the evidence once you've saved it (how to reformat it, ways to cut
briefs quickly, ideas for filing evidence for a computer-based backfile,
etc.) This is just a quick introduction to get people started if they
aren't already using this resource. Remember, most college libraries and
computer centers now have terminals that will allow you to browse for
free, so there's hardly an excuse for not trying this.
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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