Search Engines and Monitoring Tools
Working with and training our clients on a very regular basis, I often find myself discussing the difference between search engines and monitoring tools.
A question I get asked frequently concerns the comparison between Digimind (a powerful monitoring tool) and Google (a powerful search engine). It can sometimes be difficult to see clearly how they are each unique and useful in their own way. And this is because, they sometimes look very similar.
Let's Start With What's The Same
The main reason why people use either a search engine or a monitoring tool is to find information. And as the goal is to get relevant, useful, potentially new information, I'm going to be less interested in where it comes from and more focused on the quality of the information (in terms of relevance, utility, etc.). So to some extent then, it doesn't matter whether I use Google, Bing, Yahoo! or a monitoring tool such as Digimind.
In addition to that, the way I define what I am looking for is very similar. I will use keywords combined with Boolean operators (AND, OR or NOT for example) so that the search engine or the monitoring tool knows what I would like to see and read.
Finally, the way information is presented to me has certain similarities too. I will see the title of the article, post or news story, plus a short extract from the text. I will be able to click on the title of the information and then it will open up and I can read it all.
- I can use them both to satisfy my need for information.
- I use the same keyword and operator logic.
- The information I get back looks very similar.
Putting these three points together, it's no wonder that people the world over can't always clearly see the difference between search and monitor.
What Is The Big Difference?
In fact there are a number of significant differences between the two.
Firstly, a search engine like Google indexes information and stores details in a cache. This means that when you run a search in Google (or any other search engine) you are looking for information that has already been published or posted, and in some cases this might be from the very beginning of internet time, and beyond. Taking 1972 as a starting point (soley because that's the year I was born) I managed to get stacks of results from Google. A monitoring tool is going to look for new and freshly posted information, so that only new pieces of information matching my query are presented. The only way I could get Digimind to pick up information from 1972 is to go back in time (not yet actually possible and I was not born until June of that year). Monitoring tools start working from a certain point and will send alerts when new information gets posted. Search engines look back in time and bring back results from the past.
Secondly, there's the big question of where to look. If I run a search in Google, I will find information from a huge variety of sources, websites, newspapers, blogs, online shops, video sites, etc., etc. However, with Digimind, I can specify which parts of the internet I would like to track. I can of course cast my net wide, and even track Google itself to see which new information has been recently indexed here. I can also be extremely selective in the places I track, giving Digimind a single URL from say a company website or a specific blog. This degree of choice allows me to build a monitoring system that precisely answers my needs.
Difference number three is about the length of a query. Taking Google as an example, you can run searches with up to 32 individual keywords, combined with operators of course. Digimind allows for much more sophisticated queries. It is possible to build queries that contain hundreds of keywords, allowing you to very precisely define exactly what you are looking for. And, like Google, there is the possibility of placing your keywords in the title of the page. In addition, and unlike Google, we also have the begin: operator, which will look for your keywords only in the first 25% of the text. This will bring back information that is more relevant to your needs. Our other operators include the tilde, ~. This allows you to specify which keywords you would like to find relatively close to one another, which again will help you find what you need to know. Not only are our queries sophisticated and powerful, but you can also save them to reuse them again and again.
The fourth difference is that of automization. If I want to get only new information on a subject and I'm using a search engine, I will need to run the search every day (or every hour depending on my needs). Using a monitoring tool, I am able to save my queries and the sources I would like to track, meaning that I don't have to do anything to get new information, except wait for it to arrive. This will free up some time, so that I can focus on reading information rather than just looking for it.
Finally, I have different options available to me depending on whether I am using a search engine or Digimind to find information. With a search engine and its results page, I can read the information very easily. If I need to do anything else (such as save a copy of the information, mail it to another person, run an anlysis on it, etc.) I will need to open another piece of software to do so (such as Outlook, Gmail, Word, Excel, etc.). With Digimind, I don't need to leave the platform to do any of these things. I have a complete information management system at my disposal, including automatic storage of information, applying tags and various methods of publication.
- Search engines look back for already available information. Monitoring tools alert you when new information appears.
- Search engines take information from an undetermined set of sources. Monitoring tools let you decide the sources you want to track.
- Digimind queries can be very sophisticated and precise.
- Monitoring tools like Digimind allow you to automize the collection of information.
- Digimind gives a wider range of actions for the information you find than a search engine does.
Which One Is Best For Me?
As you can combine the power of Digimind with the scope and historical reach of a search engine, to some extent this question isn't really important.
There are two ways of using search engines in tandem with Digimind. It is possible to track search engines to find out what they have recently indexed on any given subject. This allows me to benefit from the automatization that's built into a monitoring tool. I may also want to collect or collate information I find while running a search because it predates my monitoring system. This is perfectly possible using a feature of Digimind called the Bookmarklet. As soon as I see something I like, I can capture it and start working with it inside Digimind.
As there is really nothing to stop you from using Digimind and Google, or any other search engine for that matter, in parallel, it's time to go full circle and say that it doesn't matter, as long as you find the information you need to answer your questions. Using Digimind will give you a huge helping hand, in the form of saved queries, personalised tracking of the sources you need, a full range of information management, and automatization. All of which will help you go that much faster.