This page contains all my blogs from the whole semester. It is sorted in reverse order of the date that the blog entry was created.

blog:New Ways to Search?

by bryblumbryblum (01 Dec 2008 01:42; last edited on 01 Dec 2008 02:00)


“ ‘Other Search Sites’? You’ve got to be kidding me! There are more search sites than the hundreds we’ve already gone over? It never ends!” Those were my thoughts as I glanced at the schedule before last week’s “Other Search Sites” class. We’ve already covered news, information, pictures, videos, people, maps, and music. What is there left to search?


In my opinion, the most useful tools taken from this class are ones that supplement various search tools that we’ve already learned about. At first glance of the list of “other search tools”, my eyes were immediately drawn to the “Wikipedia search” section. Why? Well, I think I’m obsessed with Wikipedia. It’s definitely my favorite website. Every bit of important information in the world is on Wikipedia – it’s amazing. If a genie were to grant me one wish in my life, I would wish to have all the information in Wikipedia implanted in my brain. How cool would that be? I would know everything. Sorry, tangent, but it’s true.

Anyway, my one gripe with Wikipedia is it’s search function. In order for Wikipedia to pull up an article, you had better know the correct spelling. If you enter a search spelled incorrectly, Wikipedia doesn’t offer similarly spelled searches or even suggestions on other articles. Instead, most of the time you get a “no page with that title exists” message. What a pain, huh?

Well, two sites attempt to fix this problem: PowerSet and Cognition. Both websites use “semantic” or “natural language” to organize and search documents in Wikipedia. They study the meaning of entire sentences rather than the relationships between keywords, allowing users to type queries as fully-formed questions as opposed to keywords.

Let's test it out

To test the accuracy and usefulness of these tools, I thought of a simple question to test:

In what year was John F. Kennedy born?

  • PowerSet: Got it right away, and even put my answer in a special box up top. Nice! Powerset Results
  • Cognition: Did not give me the answer right away. Just gave me a few related articles which were generally unhelpful. Cognition Results
  • Google: The answer was located on the first page of results. I didn't even have to click to see the answer. Google Results

Who is the current coach of the New York Giants?


My Concluding Thoughts

Well, maybe I don’t really get the point of the websites, or maybe they just aren’t fully-functional yet, but ultimately, I don’t see them being very useful. The concept of semantic search is definitely interesting and innovative, but to overtake Google is a nearly impossible feat at this point. In both of my search examples, Google was able to give me the answer, while the other two were iffy in their success. Wikipedia is always one of the top 3 search results in Google anyway. Overall, I like Powerset more, as it is more user-friendly and seemingly more accurate. Cognition, on the other hand, needs some work. Regardless, I’ll still use Google for all of my queries. With a little more tweaking, however, the other two sites may be able to hook me.

Thoughts On the Google Visit

by bryblumbryblum (30 Nov 2008 20:21; last edited on 30 Nov 2008 20:30)

I’ll be completely honest here- as a senior student who is graduating in a few months and is in the home stretch of 16+ long years of class, it’s pretty difficult for me to pay attention and stay interested in class. Of course, I am talking about other classes, and not BIT330, which is always interesting.


That being said, last week’s “Google Class” was easily the most interested and engaged I’ve been in a class this entire semester. I was asking questions, was fully interested in the answers, and did my best to participate in class discussion. Surprised with myself while I was leaving the class, I decided to come up with a few possible explanations for my actions:

  • I have never interacted with a Google employee before
  • I love Google as a company, and am fascinated by their vision, breadth of product, and level of innovation
  • I had a large iced coffee that day, instead of my usual small iced coffee
  • I was extra motivated in BIT330 because I had received a “60” on my project progress report the night before, which was the lowest grade of my college career!

The presenter, whose name I completely forgot, went over a selection of Google products and ultimately explained the costs and revenue-adding aspects of the product. Prior to this class, I knew that “ad revenue” was Google’s main source of revenue. However, I had no idea that ad revenue provided Google with over 95% of their revenue! It’s pretty incredible that Google is paid over $20 billion a year just to put ads on their website. Can you imagine explaining that fact to someone 25 years ago? They would be baffled. Anyway, I figured that I would go over a couple of the products and the most interesting facts about them:

  • Google Toolbar
    • Costs: Design, development, distribution, bandwidth costs
    • Revenues: Widespread use of the toolbar strengthens the Google brand image and companies with other products pay to have their product as a download option bundled with Toolbar
  • iGoogle
    • Costs: Design, development, speed optimization, fees to developers who design widgets for iGoogle
    • Revenues: strengthens the Google brand image, increases the chances that Google is used as a home page, makes Google more marketable for advertisers


So, why does Google continue to innovate and create free products? There is really one goal. Popular and useful products lead to more site traffic, which makes Google more marketable to companies to advertise on their website. That’s it!

Since they have been successful thus far, it only makes sense Google will continue to innovate and to provide free services in place of for-pay services. For example, it makes sense that in a few years, Microsoft Office will be obsolete because of the free Google Docs service. In my opinion, this will ultimately present a huge antitrust problem in the Internet in a few years. I think that Google will eventually knock out so many businesses, that they will be hindering commerce in some way. Regulation? Not yet. But in the distant future, I wouldn’t count it out. You heard it here first.

YouTube Competes?

by bryblumbryblum (24 Nov 2008 18:32; last edited on 01 Dec 2008 15:11)

I like to think that I have pretty good top-of-mind awareness regarding web tools for certain functions, especially after completing the most part of BIT330.


Let's play a little word association.

  • Best search engine? Google.
  • Best online encyclopedia? Wikipedia.
  • Best social networking site? Facebook or MySpace.
  • Best place to search RSS feeds? Well, that's debatable, but I would say Bloglines.

Pretty accurate, I think. But when it comes to the next two questions, I may not be as good as I think.

  • Best place to search and watch videos? This one is easy, YouTube.
  • Best place to search and listen to music? Without paying? Ummm. Well, you can't really search on Pandora. YouTube again? I'm not really sure.

Like probably 99% of the world (totally guessed on that stat, but I imagine it's true), YouTube was my top-of-mind preference for performing a video search. However, after further investigation during the Videos and Music Search Class, I was shocked to discover that YouTube is not the highest performing video search site. As it turns out, a video search website called Truveo provides more relevant search results. Who knew?! I had never even heard of the site.

How was it determined that Truveo was "better"? Well, it wasn't the most scientific study, but of 11 students who rated YouTube, Truveo, and Blinkx on a scale of 1-5 based on search result relevancy, Truveo got the highest score! Here are the results:

Site Student rating Average Score
Truveo 4,5,5,4,2,4,5,4,3,4,4 4.00
YouTube 5,3,4,4,2,2,5,2,4,3,2 3.27
Blinkx 4,4,2,3,2,4,2,2,3,4,3 3.00


Why is the AOL-owned Truveo better than YouTube? Well, I rated it higher. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Better design The Truveo homepage is cleaner-cut, better-organized, and less cluttered than the YouTube site. This allows for more efficient searching.
  • Better searching Truveo is equipped to search for more for professional videos than for amateur viral videos. This is perfectly aligned with the recent trend of users searching more for professional videos.
  • Better strategy Instead of jumping into the pool of YouTube wannabes, Truveo has focused on helping users find videos, not "broadcast themselves," as YouTube promotes.

Well, this marks a first in BIT330 for me. I will officially be switching from a go-to website for the first time.

Goodbye, YouTube. Welcome, Truveo.

In A World of Customization...

by bryblumbryblum (03 Nov 2008 17:28; last edited on 04 Nov 2008 20:57)

In a world of custom everything - customized cars on "Pimp My Ride", custom t-shirts with any phrase you'd like, custom stir-frys at Mongolian BBQ, and even customized labels on bottled water - it makes sense that custom search engines would exist and be an increasingly popular tool for "search enthusiasts" and web-designers across the world wide web.


What is the point of a custom search engine?

  • So, you've got Google, which searches almost every site that exists. Well, what if you don't want to search ALL the site that are out there? What if you only want to search through a small sub-set of websites? Custom search engine to the rescue.
  • Google is a dominant force in the Custom search engine field, and offers a free service where users can create their own search engine and customize it to their needs.

Who could it benefit?

  • Business owners who own a website (users can use Custom search engine to search the webpage)
  • Bloggers who maintain a blog
  • Basically, anyone who maintains a website

How easy is it to create one?

  • Very easy. Google provides it for free, as long as there are ads on your results pages.
  • You can choose to search the entire web, or only the sites that you select, allowing you to fully customize your search engine.
  • The best thing that Google does, is it gives you their Featured Examples for a variety of different types of custom search users, such as:
    • Enthusiasts of a certain hobby
    • Techies
    • Educators
    • Bloggers
    • Industry experts Hold on a sec … industry experts?

Will it help with my term project?

So, Google, custom search can help industry experts, huh? That sounds familiar. Coincidentally, I need to become an industry expert for a term project of mine. Essentially, as an industry expert on the investment banking field, I'll be able to create a custom search engine that will search only the resources that I believe to be the most important and useful. As I progress through the semester and through my research of the industry, I'll continue to compile a list of solid web resources. Since Google custom search engines are able to be consistently updated, I'll continue to add to the list of searchable URLs as I go. The criteria I used for choosing my websites was pretty basic - I included the sites that I use most often to get new on the investment banking and broader financial markets industry.

Check it out, Google even gave me easy instructions to embed my custom search engine into any page I like.

Here it is:

Sorry, no match for the embedded content.

Well, the embedding isn't working for me, even after using Professor Moore's instructions.

Assuming that the websites I chose are the most relevant, I can use my custom search to weed out all of the less-relevant news stories, vastly improving search efficiency and relevancy. Pretty cool.

How useful are custom search engines in the grand scheme of things?

Overall, I think that custom search engines can be very useful to a variety of users. Google is definitely smart for offering this free customization service - it is almost their duty to do so as a leader in the search engine industry. In any blog I write or business I own in the future, I definitely plan on including a custom search engine. They will not only help me find information quicker, they will also make any website searchable and more user-friendly.

The Eternal Quest for Images

by bryblumbryblum (29 Oct 2008 18:36; last edited on 16 Dec 2008 15:02)

I'll admit it. Like most people, I am "Google Image Loyal" when it comes to searching for images. Why shouldn't I be? It's fast, it's easy, it's well laid-out, and I can always find the picture I'm looking for. So when Professor Moore suggested alternative means of picture searching today in class, I was definitely skeptical. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," I thought.


However, I was pretty impressed with some one the capabilities of some image search alternatives. Some of my favorites included:

  • TinEye, where you can search for an image within another image, by using image identification technology.
  • PicSearch, where you can search by animation
  • Pixolu, a developing German site which generates image results from popular image search engines, allows you to choose ones that are of most interest to you, and then generates a new, more specific list of results
  • PicItUp, which allows you to search for ONLY headshots

All of these capabilities are great for very specific situations, and can be used as great supplements to Google Image Search.

Surprisingly, the most useful image searching tool taught in class has always been right under my nose. I had no idea that you were able to search for images through Google news. Here, you search only for images from news sources such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc. I found that the images found through Google news image search were newer, more current events-focused, better quality, and from reputable sources.


I have recently been in the process of creating an "on-going events and news" section for my term project on the Investment Banking world. I was looking for pictures that were new, relevant to the various news topics, and were good quality. I initially began to use regular Google image search to find my photos, but found that the resulting images were repetitive, outdated, irrelevant, and of poor quality. In contrast, the images I found on Google new image search were perfect. I could sort them by date, and find images from the time period of any specified news story.

Google news image search was extremely helpful in this situation, and I will definitely continue to use it in the future. The only request I would make to Google, would be to enable immediate news image searching, as opposed to only being able to view the news image results AFTER searching for pure news results.

Can Yahoo! Directories Help Me?

by bryblumbryblum (23 Sep 2008 21:47; last edited on 01 Oct 2008 22:02)

Can Yahoo! Directories Help Me?

So I currently have 3 things to do on my "BIT 330 To Do List". They are:

  • Blog Entry on "Web Directories" due Wednesday
  • Come up with a term project topic for Thursday's meeting with Professor Moore
  • Search Tool Analysis due next Monday

What am I going to do? Kill two birds with one stone. I'm going to use Yahoo! Directories to help me zero in on a term project topic. Way to think outside the box, Bryan. Oops, I apologize for that seemingly vain self-compliment. But isn't that what blogs are for? Honest, stream-of-consciousness sort of thoughts put into words? Alright, getting off-topic, my bad.


In class on Monday, we were introduced to web directories and their uses. My initial thought was that web directories are merely the predecessors of today's search engines, and that they aren't very useful these days. However, we were told that web directories are useful in exploration-type situations, where you aren't exactly sure what you are looking for. This sounds perfect for this situation, since I have no idea what topic I want to pursue for my term project.

Here is how my experience went:

  • Well, I started out at the main Yahoo! Directory Page.
  • I have no idea what topic I want to do. But, great(!), there is a list of very broad topics to choose from.
  • Let's see…
    • Health? Nah, my mom is a nutritionist, I'm sick of that.
    • Government? Eh, too much going on right now with the elections, and I'm not really into politics.
    • Education? No way, I'm almost done with education. Plus, I deal with it enough on a day-to-day basis.
    • Business & Economy? Hmm. Alright, now we're cooking. I'm in the business school. I'm an avid follower of the economy and related business news. Alright, let's go with it!
  • So I'm set on Business & Economy, but that is WAY too broad for a project topic. I need to narrow it down. After clicking on this broad topic, I'm given a more specific list: finance, marketing, trade, etc.
  • A few clicks later (Business & Economy —> Finance & Investment —> Banking), and I had an idea for my topic! Thanks Yahoo! Directories.

So, much to my dismay, a "primative" web directory helped. Or did it? Well, I'll outline a few pros and cons that I have noticed:

Pros Cons
well-organized not very useful if searching for specific information
many topics and sub-topics once zeroed in on a topic, there are very few resources available, as compared to a search engine
many levels
good for exploratory searching

Conclusion: Yahoo! Directories definitely helped me in this situation, but I can't see it being very helpful in other situations. I'm sticking with regular old search engines.

Alriiiight. I love crossing items off of a to-do list.

  • Blog Entry on "Web Directories" due Wednesday
  • Come up with a term project topic for Thursday's meeting with Professor Moore
  • Search Tool Analysis due next Monday

Google Sets - Set, Point, Match?

by bryblumbryblum (22 Sep 2008 22:19; last edited on 29 Sep 2008 16:09)

How Useful is Google Sets?

So, as a second part of the "Search Techniques and Strategies" portion of BIT 330, we took searching techniques to another level. Could I learn a technique today that could prove as helpful as last time?


Well, for starters, I learned about the existence of "Google Sets". I love learning about new Google products - I always feel like they are on the cutting edge. So, let's see. According to the webpage, Google Sets "automatically creates sets of items from a few examples." Alright, seems simple enough. For my first test, I typed in "Knicks", "Mets", and "Rangers". Obviously, I was going for the whole New York sports teams category. (Alright, alright. I know, I am from New Jersey, but I'm a New York sports fan at heart. C'mon…the Nets and the Devils? I can't do it). I then pushed "small set," and lo and behold, I was immediately given a list of all New York sports teams - Yankees, Giants, Jets, etc. Pretty cool. Nice work, Google.


It works, end of story. But is it? BIT 330's intention (I know, I just personified the course, weird) is to provide us with tools that are useful in finding information. Sure, Google Sets "works" most of the time and is quite fascinating, but in which instances can it be helpful? For the rest of the class period that day, I thought and thought about a situation in which Google sets could be helpful in my coursework, and I couldn't figure one out.

I'll be honest - I left class that day a little disappointed with Google Sets. It is such a great tool, but when would I be able to use it? Well, that night I was at dinner with a few friends, when the conversation shifted to (of all things!)…Jim Carrey. We were discussing how much we loved "Dumb and Dumber", "The Mask", and "Ace Ventura" when we were younger, and how much we disliked Jim Carrey's later movies, like the one that came out a few years ago where he plays God. "What the hell is the name of that movie?" everyone wondered. All of a sudden, it hit me. This is the moment. "Google Sets, work with me here, let's do it," I awkwardly encouraged the website in my head. I whipped out my Blackberry, and threw "Dumb and Dumber", "The Mask", and "Ace Ventura" in the item boxes. What do you know? "Bruce Almighty" was the 6th result. I beat my friends to the punch.

Useful for research projects? Yet to be determined. Good for remembering the name of a movie? It looks like Google Sets does the trick.

Who is Bryan and Why is He Taking BIT 330?

by bryblumbryblum (15 Sep 2008 23:55; last edited on 29 Sep 2008 16:09)

Introduction- Who Am I?

Alright, so here we go. My first ever blog. Well, actually it isn't - I kept a blog last year for BIT 300. But, being my "first ever blog" sounds so much cooler and impressive, so let's go with it.

Anyway, that would make this my first-ever blog post. I guess that means I should introduce myself. My name is Bryan Blum, and I am a senior in the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Why did I decide to take BIT 330: Web-Based Information Retrieval? Well, put it this way. When I read the title of the course for the first time, I'm pretty sure I laughed and then thought to myself, "Web-Based Information Retrieval? Sooo…basically Googling stuff? I'm the master of Google. I'm taking the class." It's true though, it's the perfect class for me. This statement was validated when I would tell people that I was taking the class. When I tell my friends that I am taking "Web-Based Information Retrieval", they all respond with "Wow, Bryan, that class is just perfect for you."


You see, I consider myself someone who loves searching for and finding information. In fact, I could totally relate to Professor Moore on the first day of class when he told us that he always watches TV with his laptop. That's me. I must average about 10 Google searches per hour. If I hear something I don't know, I NEED to learn all about it. I guess it's a good thing.

My Motivation - "The Challenge"!


I'll relay a fun and related story: One day, I was hanging with some friends, when we started to argue about a random topic - how much it costs to get a passport. Weird, I know. Laptop on lap (obviously), I instinctively began a Google search and resolved the argument in under 10 seconds - "It costs 70 bucks," I exclaimed. End of story, right? Wrong. A friend of mine thought he could do better. "I bet I can search faster than you can. I'm such a better Google-r." A challenger! Can you believe it? A web-based information retrieval rivalry amongst friends? I'll refer to this friend from this point forward as "The Challenger".

Being the competitive person that I am, we immediately began our first-ever "Search Challenge" - a third friend came up with a question, and we raced to find the answer. Well, you guessed it. I lost the challenge. He edged me by a fraction of a second. I still haven't heard the end of it. So why am I taking this class? I NEED to be the best searcher amongst my friends. I NEED to learn new tips and tricks in order to prove my information-retrieval supremacy. Every time I learn a new searching trick, I'm going to rub it in The Challenger's face.

Using What I've Learned:


Determined to show-up The Challenger, I paid close attention to the "Search Techniques & Strategies" class. The "special search syntax" techniques caught my eye. Would using these put me over the top as the ultimate searcher?

Well, the other night, a few friends and I were watching The Sopranos and we started talking about the show's producer, David Chase. "Which other shows has he produced?" one of my friends inquired. "This is my chance!" I thought in my head, already formulating a great search using tips I learned earlier that day in class.

I turned to The Challenger. "Re-match," I exclaimed. "You're on," he responded, "first one to name another show he has produced wins."

Yep, you guessed it. I won. Demolished him. When I screamed "THE ROCKFORD FILES!", he was still flipping through pages on! You see, my answer was actually ON the results page, in the 4th result. He needed to navigate through imdb and scroll down to get his answer.

My search was: "david chase" "producer of *" -sopranos

His search was: imdb david chase

Thanks, BIT330. You've already helped me gain bragging rights.

blog: My first test blog

by bryblumbryblum (10 Sep 2008 16:29; last edited on 17 Sep 2008 16:36)

This is my first blog. Let's see how it works.

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