Anything you need to do with Web 2.0


“I want to…” or “I need to” or “How do I?” These are all questions we all ask all the time. This is a small collection of resources that will help to answer those questions using web 2.0 applications.

Share calendars online, share photos with your friends, collaborate on documents on the web, store materials found online etc. Just come up with something you want to do, you can probably find it here. It feels like like an extremely compact TechCrunch.

Now listing over 300 Web 2.0 applications. Check them out here

Taking On Google On It’s Own Turf… (Gada.be)

Update 22/7/2011: Gada.be has been discontinued.

It started out dead simple. Just one search box, and results which were far better than anything anyone ever had at the time. Armed with that, Google has established itself in a very short time as the corner stone of ‘search’, the index of the internet, and an entity some might consider to be Microsoft’s greatest rival.

So who can match the mighty Google?

Google’s search algorithms rely a lot on incoming links as a basis to determine the importance of a page, which in turns determines the listing order of results everytime you do a search. So effective is this methodology that most people just overlook every other search engine.

Over the years though, the internet has become more and more fragmented, and it has become harder to implement the “One Search To Rule Them All” policy which Google has always thrived on. Google responded by branching out into different facets of search which included specialised searching for images, news, and blogs.

The result? – While Google’s specialised searches are reasonably powerful, it is rarely considered to be the most optimal. Dedicated services like Flickr (images), Technorati (blogs) give users much better results, making Google look merely convenient rather than truly effective anymore.

Got to be Gada.be

Convenience however, is extremely important from a user standpoint. Not many people enjoy categorising what they want to search for, and then deciding which site is most relevant to their needs. They just want to type in something into a searchbox, and let everything else worry about itself.

Enter Gada.be. Brainchild of Chris Pirillo, the ex Tech-TV host of ‘Call For Help‘, and the man behind LockerGnome, and Gnomedex. This ‘little search engine that could’ is gaining a lot of fans in the tech community, and has become a firm favourite of mine, addressing key issues with Google.

Issue #1: The need to combine the effectiveness of specialised search engines like Flickr and Technorati, with the convenience of Google

As highlighted, convenience is just as important as good search results. Gada.be gets around this problem by:

  1. Scraping the front pages of different types of search engines with your search query – eg. the front page of MSN search, Flickr, Technorati etc.
  2. Consolidating results on a single page – Everything is brought together under one roof

At last count gada.be had access to 140+ search engines. (It figures out which is the most relevant to display to you), so the results are rich, and the service is fast as well.

To demonstrate the vast difference in quality, I did a quick search on ‘Nokia’.
These were the front page top 10 results for Google. They were of course not arranged in an any particular order.

  • 5 Official Nokia sites from different countries
  • 2 Pages about Nokia Mobile Phones
  • 1 Nokia mobile gaming site
  • 1 Nokia forum site
  • 1 Nokia Wikipedia entry

Now these are the front page results from Gada.be

  • 10 MSN search results which were just as useful as the Google search results delivered earlier
  • 10 news results each from Google News and Yahoo News for the latest news events surrounding Nokia
  • 10 blog search results each for the Icerocket, Google Blogs Search, Technorati so you know what the general public has been recently writing about Nokia.
  • 10 shopping search results from Amazon.com about Nokia related products
  • 10 technology focused results from Digg.com
  • 10 thumbnails pictures of Nokia phones via Flickr
  • 10 auction results (eBay and others) about Nokia related products.

All of which were neatly categorised and arranged on a single page. Power searches wihout losing any convenience.

Issue #2:
The need for a better Mobile phone search

The main problems with mobile internet is that it is usually slow and costly – Unless you’re on EVDO, Edge or 3G high speed mobile internet services. In which case, it’s fast and costly.

  • Gada.be tackles this one way by ensuring that you only need to load up one web page (see issue #1 above), and that you don’t waste time typing (which is slow and painful on a mobile) in URLs or loading up multiple sites.
  • gada.be is also very easy to type on a mobile phone – Try it!
  • Gada.be also supports user friendly search URLS. You don’t have to visit gada.be to start searching from there. You can type in your search query right into the URL bar on your mobile!

Let’s focus a bit on the last point listed above.

Using the same ‘Nokia’ example I can type in gada.be/nokia or nokia.gada.be directly into the URL bar. Which saves me loading and typing time. When you’re on snail paced GPRS like me , and using a Nokia 3650 with the keypad from hell, this is incredibly useful.

You can do the same with google, by typing in the following: google.com./search?q=nokia but it’s much less intuitive, and difficult to type on a mobile device.

Issue #3: The need for ability to track search results

It’s no secret that Chris Pirillo is a big big fan of RSS ( as I am too). Naturaly everything on this site can be subscribed to. This means that you can have a list of favourite searches and track any changes to search results without even having to visit the site. Look for the OPML link at the bottom of the screen for an aggregated feed. Of course, Individual search engine results are also available, if you prefer that.

What else do I like about it?

Gada.be also drills down into very specialised searches, and you get the results based on similliar concepts described above. For example, drilling down on Nokia photos, yielded me front page thumbnail results from Yahoo images, Flickr and 7 other image services. Truly one photo search to rule them all.

My Gripe: No Google or Yahoo basic searches

If there’s one ‘problem’ with Gada.be, it’s that I am truly biased against MSN search. I don’t really have a good reason, but I would have much rather prefered results from Google/Yahoo to show up rather than MSN, which is what is happening now.

Having said that, I think it has to be noted that competing search engines have closed the gap very well. You might not feel that way but, try this Search Engine Blind Test, and you might be surprised how often you ‘prefer’ Non-Google search results.

I tried this test five times and ended up picking Yahoo twice, MSN Search (!!!) twice and Google only once… and bear in mind I’m a big big Google fan.

Gada.be vs Google

On my mobile, I exclusively use Gada.be for reasons stated above, but as a longtime Google user on the desktop I still have withdrawal symthoms, and I use Gada.be to supplement rather than replace Google results.

All in all, even in it’s early stages Gada.be seems to one up Google, and represents the closest thing to “One Search To Rule Them All”. It defintately looks to be one search engine to watch for the future especially if it ever intergrates Google.com basic search into it’s results.

Bonus Tip:

If you’re using Firefox, you can add the Gada.be search engine into Firefox Smart Search (The searchbox on the top right of the browser).

Related Links:

Chris Pirillo’s Blog post on Gada.be

Update 30th March 2006: Gada.Be has been renamed as tagjag.com

This post has been mentioned by Chris Pirillo
“Taking On Google On It’s Own Turf – One of the best, and most comprehensive reviews of Gada.be to date. Color me very impressed / thrilled…”

…and was also mentioned on his personal blog.

Democracy Works By Keeping Everyday People Rural… (Lexxe Search Engine)

One of the newer players to emerge on the search engine scene is Lexxe, billing itself as the “Natural Language Search Engine”. Ask it a question, and not only will it give you the links to relevant websites, but will attempt to understand and answer your question… ANY question.

You might have in your mind:

  • Thoughts of an almighty internet oracle.
  • An entity who would call upon the resources of billions of web-pages to solve the mysteries of the Universe.
  • Something that woudn’t just point me in the right direction, but give me the exact answers which I seek.

Well, I HAD those thoughts too, and while it’s getting there, it’s not quite up to mark yet. In any case Lexxe did have some interesting answers to some of my questions.

Before I go on, I’d like to point out that these answers are just derived from what’s out there on the web, and most likely have no bearing on Lexxe or any of it’s employees.

I started out with a few basic questions:

“What color is the sky?”
“A mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Cyan”
“Who is the prime minister of Britain?”
“Tony Blair”

Pretty accurate so far… let’s try being a little bit more philosophical…

“What is the purpose of life?”
“Entirely Non-mystical Solution To the Problem”
“What exactly is the problem which of you talk about?”
“Many”
“How does democracy work?”
“By keeping everyday people rural”

As you can see, it does have some interesting ideas.

Going further down the road, it refused to give an opinion as to what color shirt I should wear today, and did not want to give any answer for everyone’s favourite two questions.

“If a tree falls down in a middle of a forest and no one is around to hear it, does make a sound?”
“How much wood would a wood chuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood.”

You can do similliar things with Yahoo Answers, and Google Answers, but you’ll have real people doing the answering instead, and of course takes a longer time to get the answer you want.

Bear in mind that this is a product still in Alpha testing mode, so kinks are expected to happen. Improvements are constantly being made to the answers and it will be interesting to see how they will take this to the next level.

Related Links:

Lexxe
Google Answers
Yahoo Answers

Bonus Answers to the two burning questions discussed in this post:

“How much wood would a wood chuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

“I’m not at liberty to answer that question, as the WCLU (Woodchuck Labor Union) has expressly forbidden any trade secrets such as this to be made available to the general public. Also, the amount of wood that is chucked by any single woodchuck is severely limited by the number of chuck-hours clocked by said woodchuck over a single pay period, not taking into account any overtime hours worked in areas with extreme abundances of wood to be chucked. “- via Yahoo! Answers

“If a tree falls down in a middle of a forest and no one is around to hear it, does make a sound?”

“This distinction between the sensorial and physical meaning of the sound gives a form to respond us to the old philosophical question: a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody hears it, was there sound. The answer is no, in terms of the sensorial ear and if in terms of the physical waves, the answer depends on how the sound is defined. The definition of sonorous waves covers three aspects: the origin, the means of propagation (in the longitudinal sonorous waveform), and its detector, that must be the ear).” – Via Think Quest (Translation: If no one hears it is is a vibration in the air, only when it is picked up by the ear, are those vibrations translated into sound.)

Save Time On Your Spreadsheets…. (ASAP Utilities)

“Practical efficiency is common, and lofty idealism not uncommon; it is the combination which is necessary, and the combination is rare”

– Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography

Here’s a tribute to this free little Excel utility. I cannot count how many times this plugin has rescued me during crunchtime deadlines at the office. I hope you find it as useful as I have.

ASAP Utilities is the ‘last-word-mother-of-all-packages’ for Excel which specialises in cutting down on any tedious tasks that come with working on complex spreadsheets.

Everything from creating an instant hyperlink index of all your worksheets, applying a formula to a selected range, converting all formulas to values, selecting cells based on it’s value, merging text from 2 cells, removing unused rows…etc. the list goes on and on as over 300 functions are packed into this Excel plug-in. Finding what you need quickly is easy as it comes with a ‘favourites’ folder to store your most commonly used functions.

Sure, you could do some of this with excel already, but that’s why they call it ASAP utilities, because without it you do it S-L-O-W-L-Y.

Note: PC Magazine gave it a 5 star rating and said “This is the one essential add-in for all Excel users.” in their 2005 ultimate utility guide.

Related Links:

ASAP Utilities
ASAP Utilities testimonials
ASAP Utilities reviews and awards

Become One With Your Browser… (Mouse Gestures)

Mouse gestures have always been a “love it, or hate it” proposal.

For the uninitiated, mouse gestures refer to a process where quick flicks of a mouse perform basic functions in a program. (Think of it as shortcut-keys via mouse). While this may not sound appealing to many users, it something you really have to try to appreciate.

Mouse gesture programs come in all shapes and sizes, but this post will focus on the All-In-One Gestures extension in Firefox. (I’ve tried a bunch – loved this one the most).

This extension enables you to draw on your browser by holding down your right mouse button, and based on what you draw, your browser will perform a certain task.

Want to go back a page? Just draw a line to the left. Draw one the other way to go Forward.

Want to open a bunch of links? Draw a box around them. Simple.

This is not as daunting as it sounds as you can customise all the actions based on what you feel comfortable with.

For anyone interested, these are the settings which I use:

Open Link in New Tab = Down
Close Tab = Down Left
Undo Close Tab = Down Right
Back = Left
Forward = Right
Stop Loading page = Up
Reload Page = Up Down

My personal rule of thumb is keep it simple to draw, and only focus on your most common functions so it is truly intuitive to use.

Once again, this is something you to try to appreciate. For me, it has become second nature, and essential to how I browse with Firefox. Mouse Gestures. Do you love it or hate it? Would love to know what you think.

Related Links:

All-In-One Mouse Gestures Firefox Extension
Mouse Gestures on Answers.com
StrokeIt Mouse Gestures for Windows