ir. Patrick Van Renterghem
There is an enormous amount of information on the World-Wide Web. Because of its nature, a lot of this information is on information technology (IT). Whether you are an IT manager looking for strategic information, a programmer looking for source examples and beta versions of software, an application designer looking for new tools, ... you will probably find this kind of information on the Web. However, due to the enormous amount of information, it is not always easy to find what you are looking for. Because we have a lot of experience with it, we have written this white paper Finding IT Information on the Web.
We have structured this white paper in various chapters, depending on whether you are looking for product information, company information, background information on IT technology, stock information, book information, IT news, etc. Depending on the type of information you are looking for, we will propose and compare various search strategies for that information.
|Looking for information on ...||Please refer to ...|
|IT Company Information||Chapter 1|
|IT Product Information||Chapter 2|
|Information Technology Information||Chapter 3|
|IT News Information||Chapter 4|
|Market Studies and Competitive Information||Chapter 5|
|Hardware, Software, Books||Chapter 6|
|Bibliographies and Research Information||Chapter 7|
|Conclusions and Summary||Chapter 8|
Finally, we will propose our Bookmark our Bookmarks initiative, which is a comprehensive resource with the most interesting Web sites on IT. BoB is an ongoing effort to link the most useful IT resources you can find on the Web and structure them in different subject categories. So if you are e.g. looking for information on object technology, you can first of all look at our list of the most interesting Web sites on OO at http://www.itworks.be/bookmark/oo/.
We hope that you find this information useful. If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to contact us.
Most IT companies are present on the World-Wide Web, providing information on their products and services. Most of them have a universal resource locator (URL) that looks like http://www.companyname.com/. So if you are looking for e.g. Symantec on the Web, try http://www.symantec.com/ first. Same for Microsoft, Oracle, Sybase, PeopleSoft, SAS, ... Unfortunately, not all IT companies have been able to acquire such a URL, and you may have trouble to find e.g. OLAP tool developer Holistic Systems (http://www.holossys.com/), speech products developer Lernout & Hauspie (http://www.lhs.com/), or even Computer Associates (http://www.cai.com/).
If you can't find it immediately, you may resolve to one of the search tools. We recommend the use of Yahoo to find company information. Because of its inherent structure (categorized by humans rather than indexed by robots) and its smaller number of URLs, it gives much better results if you know exactly what you are looking for.
For instance, the search for Holistic Systems using Yahoo results in 2 links to the home page of that company, while e.g. Infoseek gives you 2.944.667 results, fortunately with the most interesting ones at the top. Neither AltaVista's advanced query option (300 results, significant ones not at the top), Infoseek's Ultraseek (same number of results as Infoseek, same order), Magellan (2.501 results, significant ones at the top), nor Lycos (14.647 results, significant ones not at the top) can do better than Yahoo. Only HotBot and Excite positioned the significant ones really the top of their 23.458, resp. 2.698.612 results. A search for e.g. Lernout and Hauspie gives similar results. Hint: if you know extra relevant words for the company you are looking for (like OLAP and speech for the companies above), do use them.
Conclusion: to find an IT company, use trial-and-error and Yahoo first. If both trial-and-error and Yahoo fail, pick one of the others. If you want to search them all in parallel, MetaCrawler is a very interesting choice. Currently, MetaCrawler sends your queries to nine different services: Open Text, Lycos, WebCrawler, InfoSeek, Excite, Inktomi, Alta Vista, Yahoo, and Galaxy. It eliminates redundant results and even has the possibility (currently beta testing) to check if the references are both accessible and contain data that is relevant to your search. Unfortunately, it takes only a limited number of results (10) from each engine, so it relies heavily on the relevance quality of the other search engines.
Here is a list of the most popular search tools. A more complete overview is available at http://www.mtm.kuleuven.ac.be/Services/search.html and http://www.search.com/.
|Yahoo||http://www.yahoo.com/||Great if you know exactly what you are looking for. Can also be used for competitive analysis.|
|InfoSeek/UltraSeek||http://www.infoseek.com/||Highly effective search engine. Infoseek Ultra filters out dead and duplicate links.|
|AltaVista||http://www.altavista.digital.com/||Very large and very fast engine.|
|HotBot/Inktomi||http://www.hotbot.com/||Very fast indexing technology. Search is multiprocessing-based.|
|Excite||http://www.excite.com/||Web pages and Usenet news.|
|Lycos||http://www.lycos.com/||The weirder the query, the more interesting this one is.|
|Magellan||http://www.mckinley.com/||Reviews and rates sites.|
|MetaCrawler||http://www.metacrawler.com/||Searches 9 engines in parallel, eliminates duplicates, and can check consistency.|
|SavvySearch||http://guaraldi.cs.colostate.edu:2000/form/||Similar to MetaCrawler, but not as good.|
Finally, here are a few tips when using search engines:
There are some other resources that may help you to locate companies both on the Web and in real life:
|Ad Valvas, Webbel, Webrider (B)||http://www.webrider.be/,||Find Belgian companies|
|BigBook||http://www.bigbook.com/||Allows you to search through 11 million businesses in the US, with full address, phone number, etc.|
|Big List||http://library.microsoft.com/compcos.htm||Microsoft's huge list of IT companies.|
|Big Yellow Pages||http://www.bigyellow.com/||Lists over 16 million US businesses|
|Dutch Yellow Pages (NL)||http://www.markt.nl/dyp/||Find companies in the Netherlands|
|Fortune 500||http://pathfinder.com/@@G3cW1gYAFkg7CxWG/fortune/1996/specials/f500/fort500.html||Fortune's list of the top industrial and service corporations in the US|
|GTE's Business Web Directory||http://wp.gte.com/||60.000 business URLs, part of GTE's SuperPages collection|
|Hoover's MasterList Plus||http://www.hoovers.com/||10.000 company profiles|
|InfoSpace||http://www.infospace.com/bizweb.html||Search companies in the US.|
|Open Market||http://www.directory.net/||Open Market's Directory of commercial services|
|Thomas Register||http://www.thomasregister.com/||Thomas Register of American Manufacturers|
|World-Wide Yellow Pages||http://www.yellow.com/||Browse companies by business name, by service or by location (mainly US).|
If you are looking for a specific product or service and you do know the vendor, you should first of all try to find that information at the company that delivers that product or service. E.g. to find more on MS Access, surf to http://www.microsoft.com/, and launch the local search tool to find the official MS Access home page at http://www.microsoft.com/access/default.htm. If you are lucky, an official page will also contain links to other pages of equally good quality (in the above case, unfortunately only to other Microsoft pages). However, official pages are normally more up-to-date than the unofficial, voluntary ones. As a general rule, the more popular a product or service, the more you will find about it on the Web, and the bigger the need for a vendor to link this information to his Web site.
However, if you do not know where to look for a particular product or service, e.g. because you don't know the provider, or because you can't guess/find the URL, or if you want to find the unofficial pages, you will have to search the Web. Using the list of search engines and the list of tips to use them should get you going.
For instance, if you are looking for a product called Jasmine, and you don't know its vendor (Computer Associates), or you couldn't guess its URL, you can try to find information via the search engines we mentioned earlier.
Unfortunately, most of the search results will lead you to the Disney story of Alladin and Princess Jasmine, which is probably not what you are looking for. Always follow the golden rule and provide more specific words like object-oriented or Computer Associates. Generally, Yahoo gives the best results, although it doesn't find CA's Jasmine, probably because it is too new for Yahoo. Most other search engines give you many more hits, but the relevant ones are not always at the top. InfoSeek is more IT-minded and generates better results than most of the other broad search tools. Again, MetaCrawler is interesting, but you should give it more than just the common word Jasmine.
Conclusion: To find product information, use the search tools, but use them with care. The more common a word is, the more results will be found, and the lower the quality of your search results.
Give extra words that further specify the search to limit the number of results.
If you are looking for hardware or software products, also take a look at Chapter 6.
Where the search engines are your main tool to find company and product information (because you know exactly what you are looking for), they are less adequate for finding good background information on information technology. It is sometimes better to go via some specific directories that some people have built up over the years. But let's look at the usefulness of search tools first.
Suppose you would like to find interesting information on data mining, the efficient discovery of valuable, non-obvious information from large collections of data. Here are the results from a number of popular search engines:
|Engine||# of Results||Relevance / Remarks|
|InfoSeek||5.357||relevance: very good, remarks: gives also newsgroup articles, make sure you search for data mining or you get 1.6 million results|
|Yahoo||68||relevance: very good, remarks: directory structure splits them in consulting, services, research, software, and application domain (some are in more than 1 category). The category Data Collection and Analysis gives you a nice (yet incomplete) overview of tools.|
|MetaCrawler||49 in total, 26 verified||relevance: good, remarks: slower than the others, but the verification of link accuracy can save time afterwards. Quality results of some search engines disappear because it only takes the top results|
|Excite||50.769||relevance: very good, remarks: any idea how long it takes you to browse through 50.000+ results ?|
Fortunately, there are companies and individuals that have built good meta-indexes of the links to particular information. Examples are:
|Ask the Pro||http://www.inquiry.com/pages/techtips.html||Comprehensive technical resources on Visual Basic, SQL, Java, C++, networking, ...|
|BRINT||http://www.brint.com/interest.html||A Business Researcher's Interests|
|CompInfo||http://www.compinfo.co.uk/topiclst.htm||Very extensive and very broad range of IT resources|
|Object-Orientation||http://www.rhein-neckar.de/~cetus/software.html||More than 2500 links on object-orientation and related issues.|
|Windows Development||http://www.windx.com/||Articles and product information from the Windows Development Exchange|
|Windows Development||http://www.r2m.com/windev/||Information on programming tools, database development tools, operating systems, ...|
|Year 2000||http://www.year2000.com/||Everything about the Year 2000 Problem.|
All major publishers are on the Web. Many of them provide on-line versions of their publications, and most of them give you the most important IT news items so that you come back to their site regularly. If you know the target audience of the publication, you will also know whether the news that they provide, is interesting for you or not.
The best examples are:
|ComputerWorld||http://www.computerworld.com/||High-Quality news for all users.|
|InfoWorld||http://www.infoworld.com/||Quality news for corporate users|
|PC Week||http://www.pcweek.com/||Quality news for PC users|
|Information Week||http://techweb.cmp.com/iw/||Quality news for corporate users|
|Byte||http://www.byte.com/||The Virtual Press Room idea is interesting, but other dedicated PR agencies like http://www.newsdesk.co.uk/ do this better.|
|C|Net||http://www.news.com/||This extremely slow service does not give what its name promises.|
|Datamation||http://www.datamation.com/||Quality resource, search back-issues, clumsy approach to today's ClariNet news|
|Network World Fusion||http://www.nwfusion.com/||Registration required, but a very good resource on networking.|
|DBMS||http://www.dbmsmag.com/||Interesting for database and software development news, although it is only updated monthly.|
|HotLinx||http://www.hotlinx.com/||News from various sources|
|Computable (NL)||http://www.bpa.nl/computable/||VNU's IT weekly in the Netherlands.|
|Database Magazine (NL)||http://www.array.nl/DBM/default.htm||Array Publication's excellent publication on database technology|
|Data News (B)||http://www.bpa.nl/datanews/||Belgian IT weekly.|
|BI Technology (B)||http://www.interpac.be/bi/||Belgian IT monthly.|
|CMP TechSearch||http://techsearch.techweb.com/||Search through all of CMP's publications|
|Inquiry||http://www.inquiry.com/||Search IT journals, vendor literature, technical tips, forums, ...|
|NewsPage||http://www.newspage.com/||Individual's browsable news index.|
|SIGS Publications||http://www.sigs.com/||Publisher of the best publications on OO (JOOP, Object Currents, ...)|
|ENews' Monster List||http://www.enews.com/monster/||Large list of magazines known by the electronic newsstand|
|Microsoft's List||http://library.microsoft.com/compmags.htm||Microsoft's huge list of magazines.|
Most of the publishers also allow you to search through their back-issues. Some have special interest sections on popular topics like the Year 2000 Crisis, Intranets, etc. Because the numerous publications are actually published by only a handful of publishers, it is worth a visit to their corporate home page to see how they handle the variety of news fact. Take a look at http://www.techweb.com/ (CMP's global Web site), http://www.zdnet.com/ (Ziff-Davis' Web site), http://www.idg.com/ (IDG's worldwide site), http://www.idg.nl/ (IDG's Dutch site), http://www.vnu.com/ (VNU-BPA (Business Publications Amsterdam)), etc.
Every respectable IT analyst has a Web site to present his products and services. Here's a list of the conventional ones, and the ones that gained their popularity via the Web:
|Cambridge Market Intelligence (CMI)||http://www.cmi.co.uk/|
|Computer Technology Research (CTR Corp.)||http://www.ctrcorp.com/|
|Killen & Associates||http://www.killen.com/|
|Object Management Group||http://www.omg.org/|
|Open Group (X/Open and OSF)||http://www.opengroup.org/|
|Patricia Seybold Group||http://www.psgroup.com/|
IT analysts are not very eager to release their studies on the Web, as they are normally sold for a lot of money. Every now and then, you will be able to find conclusions, extracts, or sponsored reports on the Web, but do take these with a large grain of salt.
Actually, you can also use the Yahoo directory-based engine to do competitive research. As soon as you know one company or product, and you can find it at its appropriate place in Yahoo, you can see which other companies, products or services are in that category. Remember how we looked for data mining information ? Yahoo's search result comes up with a whole category of Data Collection and Analysis products, showing you the ones on which there is more information available.
Also, a number of well-known IT personalities have a home page on the Web. Examples are:
|Christine Comaford||http://www.christine.com/||Columnist for PC Week and Software Development|
|Peter de Jager||http://www.hookup.net/~pdejager/||Leader in Year 2000 awareness|
|Bill Gates||http://www.nytsyn.com/live/Gates/, http://www.microsoft.com/corpinfo/bill-g.htm||Columnist for the NY Times Syndicate, chairman and CEO of Microsoft.|
|Ken Orr||http://www.kenorrinst.com/||Specializes in business perf. improvement|
|Jeff Sutherland||http://www.tiac.net/users/jsuth/||Closely follows the OO market|
|Edward Yourdon||http://www.yourdon.com/||Writes about application development, Internet, CASE, OO, etc. Good book list.|
Finally, if you are looking for stock information, you can find both free (typically with a 15-minute delay) and subscription services that give you the value of IT shares on NYSE, NASDAQ, ... Examples are the Data Broadcasting Corporation (http://www.dbc.com/), Stockmaster (formerly the MIT Experimental Stock Market Page, http://www.stockmaster.com/), Security APL's Quote Server (http://www.secapl.com/cgi-bin/qs/), and Holt's Stock Market Reports (http://wuecon.wustl.edu/holt/holt.html).
Conclusion: Although there is a lot of information on the Web, the expensive quality information of IT analysts is not. You can often find summaries of their reports, but take these with a grain of salt. The same is true for sponsored reports, for which an already large company pays to get extra attention and good points. Be careful with everything you find on the Web: anything free comes without guarantee.
With virtually every hardware and software vendor present, the Web is a good place to do Web-based window shopping, comparing products, features and prices, without anyone asking you annoying questions. If you want to know more about the products and the technology, you can use the following tools to find out more. Don't forget Yahoo and InfoSeek-like search tools to do a broad search.
|C|Net Product Finder||http://www.cnet.com/Product/||Custom guide to sites on the Web that are specifically for and about computer products and technology|
|Price Watch||http://www.pricewatch.com/||Interesting initiative. View prices on a category of products or on a specific product|
|Maven||http://www.maven.businessweek.com/||On-line computer buying guide of Business Week and NSTL|
|NetBuyer||http://www.netbuyer.com/||ZD's product comparison site.|
|RefDesk||http://www.refdesk.com/softsrch.html||Many software search tools.|
|Shareware Software||http://www.shareware.com/, http://www.jumbo.com/||Shareware software is often better than no software at all|
|Guide to Computer Vendors||http://guide.sbanetweb.com/||Links to thousands of hardware and software vendors.|
|TUCOWS||http://www.tucows.com/, http://tucows.wau.nl/, http://tucows.tornado.be/||The Ultimate Collection Of Winsock Software. Shareware software for PC and Mac.|
|Software dot net||http://software.net/||Thousands of software products from hundreds of vendors|
The leading publishers of IT books are of course also present on the Web. This allows you to check the availability, ISBN number and list price of a particular book. Some publishers also present you a sample chapter of their book.
|McMillan Computer Publishing||http://www.mcp.com/|
In Belgium and the Netherlands, we already have some bookstores that allow you to browse their catalog of books, and some may even allow you to order the books on-line. However, neither the price nor the functionality is as good as that of foreign bookstores:
|Aletheia (B)||http://shop.aletheia.be/||Browse, search, and order. Promotions.|
|Amazon||http://www.amazon.com/||Earth's biggest bookstore (their words)|
|De Boekhandel (B)||http://www.innet.be/deboekhandel/||References to nearly all bookstores and publishers in Belgium|
|Het Computerwinkeltje (B)||http://www.hcw.be/||Well-designed Web site|
|Bruna (NL)||http://www.bruna.nl/||One of the larger bookstores in Holland|
|Internet Bookshop On-Line||http://www.bookshop.co.uk/||Largest on-line bookshop (as they say)|
|Softpro||http://www.softproeast.com/||Retail bookstore for computer books|
|Standaard Boekhandel (B, NL)||http://www.standaard-boek.be/||68 bookstores in Belgium, 12 in the Netherlands|
|Story-Scientia (B)||http://www.story.be/||Scientific books from J. Story-Scientia|
There are so many bookstores on the Web that we advise you to take a look at Yahoo's http://www.yahoo.com/Business_and_Economy/Companies/Books/Computers/ page.
Here are a few sites that can help you to find technical papers and other research information.
|BRINT||http://www.brint.com/interest.html||A Business Researcher's Interests|
|BUBL||http://www.bubl.bath.ac.uk/BUBL/Tree.html||Subject-based service to the academic and research community|
|The Collection of Computer Science Bibliographies||http://liinwww.ira.uka.de/bibliography/index.html||Search through bibliographies on AI, compiler technology, neural networks, OOPS, parallel processing, typesetting, ...|
|Knight-Ridder||http://www.dialog.com/, http://www.lexis-nexis.com/||Well-known provider of information, now also very active on the Web|
|Microsoft Library||http://library.microsoft.com/||The public part of Microsoft's library|
|Research-It||http://www.itools.com/research-it/||Various search tools|
We hope that we have presented you a number of strategies that can be used to find IT information on the World-Wide Web. We also hope that our Bookmark our Bookmarks site will help you to be more productive, finding relevant information quicker than before.
The Internet offers more than the World-Wide Web. There are e.g. numerous newsgroups on software development, databases, networking, etc. Various Web resources allow you to search through the immense amount of newsgroup postings, and the best are: http://www.reference.com/ and http://www.dejanews.com/. Of course, one of the most useful applications on the Internet is email, allowing you to make personal cross-company contracts with other developers, or with the vendors of the products and services that you are looking for. You can find somebody's email address via Four11 (http://www.four11.com/) or the Internet Address Finder (http://www.iaf.net/). There are also many interesting mailings lists that may cover the subjects that you are interested in. Liszt (http://www.liszt.com/) and the Listserv Reference (http://www.tile.net/listserv/) can help you to find the right mailing list.
Finally, here are some tips and tricks that could make your searches more successful:
PS: Of course you may be looking for information that is not (yet) available on the Web, but you will only find that out after a time-consuming journey through cyberspace. Good luck and happy surfing.