Book Review: Extreme Searchers' Internet Handbook
The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook: A Guide for the Serious Searcher by Randolph Hock, CyberAge Books, Information Today, Medford NJ, 2004, 272 pages, softbound, ISBN 0 910965 68 4
The Extreme Searcher's Internet Handbook has been written aiming to fill the gaps in Internet users' knowledge by providing a better understanding of what is out there, and by illustrating useful starting points, in order to help users find their way to the most useful 'nooks and crannies' in this global information resource. Randolph Hocks' years of experience as an information professional, trainer, and reference librarian have shown him that far too many people rely on a single search tool (currently Google, as research and personal experience have demonstrated ) and are unaware of the other possibilities; searchers are in need of guidance and education. This book aims to address these.
The book starts with a general overview of the chapters and an explanation of why specific sites have been chosen for inclusion. As the author is American, the selected sites have a US bias but that is probably only to be expected. The author maintains his own Web site - the Extreme Searcher's Web Page  - which also advertises his previous book, the Extreme Searcher's Guide to Web Search Engines . His Web site supplements the books with lists of links to the sites from the Internet Handbook plus a search engine comparison chart, news of updates and changes to search engines, and associated articles.
Although written for relative newcomers to Internet and/or Web searching, (the terms are used interchangeably), it assumes that searchers are familiar with the basics of Internet use - how to get connected, how to use a browser etc. - so this book is not for the complete beginner. The Basics chapter has general discussions around 'finding tools' and search strategies, in particular the differences between directories and search engines; Hock usefully provides a six-point list of basic strategies to follow when beginning a search. Another list provides check points for evaluation of the quality of an Internet resource, something which would have benefited from greater coverage, as it is an important aspect of Internet use that is often ignored. Other useful but brief inclusions in this chapter are retrospective coverage of Internet content, the invisible Web, copyright, and how to cite Internet resources.
Subsequent chapters discuss directories and portals, both general and specialised, and search engines in detail, with illustrations and further details of selected sites. It is gratifying to see that Hock does not restrict himself to US sites and mentions a number of UK favourites including BUBL, SOSIG, and EEVL, which he describes as 'undoubtedly one of the best specialized directories on the Internet'. The Search Engines chapter (Chapter 4) is a cut-down version of what is in Hocks' Guide to Web Search Engines with sections on the basic operation of search engines, typical search options, use of Boolean operators, and how results are presented. Five major search engines are profiled in detail (AllTheWeb, AltaVista, Google, HotBot, and Teoma), followed by information on more specialised search engines, including meta search engines, and hints on keeping up to date with developments.
Chapter 5 covers, rather briefly, group communication via newsgroups, mailing lists, interactive forums, and instant messaging, with a final page on netiquette. Unfortunately, there is no mention of Jiscmail here. Chapter 6 is entitled ' An Internet Reference Shelf' with pointers to encyclopaedias, dictionaries, almanacs, directories, currency converters, maps, and other such on-line reference material. It is obviously very difficult to be comprehensive here and this is a personal selection of resources but nonetheless this introduces users to the range of material available and, it is to be hoped, inspires them to look further.
Searching for multimedia information in the form of image, audio and video files is discussed in Chapter 7 and news resources and company and product information in chapters 8 and 9. The final chapter is something of an afterthought in that it covers publishing your own information on the Web. It does not go into any detail of HTML authoring but mentions the main steps required of a would-be Web publisher, with a few well-chosen URLs.
A few points could have been expanded upon, particularly the discussion on copyright, which is, to my mind, too brief even for a 'Basics' chapter, and is also focussed entirely on US copyright without making it clear that copyright laws are different in different countries. The section on citing Internet resources could also have been enlarged and illustrated with some examples - in my experience students are very uncertain how to cite Web pages, and consequently may not do so at all, thus leading to charges of plagiarism.
This is a well-written book, easy to digest, with 'handy tips' printed in the margins, and useful illustrations. It complements the author's previous book and in fact, is probably more useful as it is more up to date. This book is ideal for Internet beginners and for those with 'little to moderate' searching experience, as the information from the publisher states. However, I do not consider that experienced online searchers will 'discover a wealth of new ideas, techniques and resources' as they claim. This is a book I would recommend as core reading for any introductory Internet course. Finally, one little nit-picking point for the author: the ~ character is known as a tilde, not a cedilla!
- EDNER (Formative Evaluation of the Distributed National Electronic Resource) Project (2002). How students search: information seeking and electronic resource use. Issues Paper 8. http://www.cerlim.ac.uk/edner/ip/ip08.rtf
- The Extreme Searcher's Web Page http://www.extremesearcher.com
- Randolph E. Hock, The Extreme Searcher's Guide to Web Search Engines: a Handbook for the Serious Searcher; 2nd ed. CyberAge Books, Medford, New Jersey, 2001. ISBN 0-910965-47-1.