by Judith Maginnis Kuster - Minnesota State University, Mankato (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Google, one of the premiere search engines on the Internet, has added three interesting new features. The first is a huge archive (over 700 million posts) of Usenet newsgroups dating back to 1981 (http://groups.google.com/). Newsgroups are unmoderated discussion forums, which means anyone with Internet access can post anything on a bulletin board or threaded discussion feature. Because there is no moderator, some newsgroups tend to have unrelated and marginal posts although at times they provide interesting discussion. There are, however, several high-level scientific newsgroups, and being able to "search" newsgroups can turn up interesting surprises. For example:
Key words "chromosome 7" + language result in interesting posts from a variety of newsgroups.
Key words genealogy + deaf uncover discussion of the history of several institutions for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Many search engines index only HTML and plain text format documents. But the Internet holds professional treasures that are online in other formats. Although other search engines have image files (and some index video and audio files as well), Google boasts of 330 million image files, and lives up to its claim of having "the most comprehensive image search on the web." Looking for a visual image to enhance a lecture on aphasia? Use the Google image site http://images.google.com/with the keywords "Wernicke's aphasia" or "Broca's aphasia."
Although this second Google goody has some potential problems to be aware of, it also provides access to some incredible materials that are not currently found by the other search engines, and until now, unless the creator told you where they were, it was unlikely that you would find them.
Google now searches for non-HTML files, such as PowerPoint programs and PDF files. This raises the concern that you, as a "searcher," may unknowingly download a virus that may be embedded in non-HTML files. Internet users have learned not to open files attached to email from someone they don't know without running them through a virus screen. But Google's new search results now link directly to such files, which means you could possibly unknowingly download an infected file.
Google provides a safe alternative, allowing you to view all the results of your search "as HTML" whenever it lists a non-HTML or text format file. To be safe, you might want to use this alternative when searching the non-HTML documents in Google. But DO search them.
When someone puts an HTML page online, the URL (web address) ends with the familiar .html or .htm. PowerPoint programs end with .ppt and PDF files end with .pdf.
The key words stuttering + pdf on www.google.com turned up the manual for the Lidcombe program for the treatment of stuttering in children and a peer-reviewed article Stuttering: An Update for Physicians by Daniel Costa and Robert Kroll (published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, June 27, 2000).
The key words "neurology lecture" + ppt uncovered four PowerPoint lectures from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. These lectures are illustrated with excellent images. - (I am informed this site no longer exists - Feb. 9, 2004)
Finally, Google is doing what I had hoped companies that have materials of interest to speech-language pathologists and audiologists would do, and suggested it several years ago. Google is developing a mega catalog -- a search site that has scanned entire commercial company catalogs where you can now key-word search items you are looking for, rather than having to search through each company's catalog individually. The beta site on Google has fully-scanned catalogs from over 600 different companies. Unfortunately, there are not yet many that are relevant to our discipline. However, it is a site to watch as it develops.
Acknowledgement - some of the information from this column was gleaned from Danny Sullivan's Search Engine Watch.
Judith Kuster is in the Department of Speech, Hearing and Rehabilitation Services at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Contact her by email at email@example.com. All of Kuster's Internet columns are on the ASHA website in html format with active links, although URLs change and there is no guarentee that links from previous articles are still functional.