HotBot makes searching a snap, whether you use their simple search page or the advanced one: It’s a search engine and directory, all in one. On the simple search page, a clear, graphical interface lets you choose how HotBot searches Web sites. A simple pull-down menu in the query box offers the choices of searching by exact phrase, title, person’s name, URL or Boolean expression. Other pull down menus allow for setting a range of dates, geographical region, the number of results (up to 100!) to be returned on a single page, and whether a description of those results should be included. From this page, you can also browse through categories, just as you might do in Yahoo. The categories range from business and finance to hobbies to people and chat. (The people and chat section is worth a look because it offers leads to interest groups where you may find just who you’re looking for.) From the simple search page, you can also choose to search news groups by clicking Other Search Engines: Usenet on the left side of the page. This brings up a new search page. From here you type in the query and choose whether to look through the complete, standard, adult, or jobs archive. But, like any well-indexed search engine, a simple query produces too many results. So, use the power search page. From the Usenet power search you can limit your search to specific news groups and authors, particular dates or subject headings, and can again choose how many results you want returned. So when you’re looking for that guy in Dallas who’s proficient with SAP and Cobol, you’ve got a pretty good chance of finding him. On the advanced search page (URL above), you can further refine your search to include or exclude specific words or to cover a specific range of dates. Clearly, this helps weed out those sites who want the same people you do. HotBot is a powerful, easy-to-use search engine. Not quite as big as AltaVista, it indexes about 110 million Web pages. And while its submission page suggests that the spider crawls at least every two weeks, in fact it seems to be a bit irregular, occurring both more and less frequently. This means the results may not be as up-to-date as AltaVista, perhaps producing more “page not found” errors. But, then again, like AltaVista, it visits about 10 million pages a day, so surely some results will be quite up-to-date. And, its ease of search and advanced search features recommend it as a daily requirement in your research. Next week: we’ll take a break from our site visits for some beta news on directories and search engines.
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