This edition of Netspeak discusses the ongoing changes in the information dissemination/retrieval front and explores some of the new content discovery tools available on the Net.

Like the ever-expanding Universe, we have an ever-growing space of online content. To tame this information overload and help one find the information with ease, several search services exist and new ones continue to emerge regularly. Spezify (http://www.spezify.com/), a search service that presents search results in a visual form, is yet another instance of this trend.

The advantage of spezify is that through its visual output, the service provides a bird's-eye view of the search results from a single web page interface. Like other Net related phenomena, content discovery tool mix is also in a constant flux. In the past, for this author, search engines were the main content discovery tool. Then online technology discussion sites (like Slashdot.org) occupied the centre stage of information discovery. Later, it got shifted to blogs, news aggregation sites (like Techmeme), Web feeds and the like.

Though all these sources still serve in comprehending/researching content, they are no longer the dominant source for tracking the latest information. Of late, real-time content generators like Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets have become the major source for finding/distributing content. The availability of desktop based real-time content monitoring tools (like Tweetdeck and TweetGlide) makes this process further easy.

The ongoing Twitter (http://twitter.com/jmurali) user-base explosion has resulted in an uninterrupted information flow from the length and breadth of cyberspace. As mentioned in an earlier column, the availability of this overwhelming flow of information has tempted several tech entrepreneurs to develop information processing services that slice and dice this huge database in multiple ways.

Instead of just displaying the tweets and other social media content as it happens, new search services analyse the content from them and present it under different categories (based on the topic being discussed). The online tweet aggregator, Tweetmeme (http://tweetmeme.com/), is an apt example of a product in this genre. The service aggregates Twitter messages and keep them in categories such as entertainment, science, technology and business. So, if you wish to track only tweets pertaining to, say, science, just access the category ‘Science' or subscribe to the corresponding web feed with your newsreader.

If you are a job seeker, you may find special Twitter based services like Twitjobsearch (http://www.twitjobsearch.com/) quite rewarding. JobDeck (http://www.tweetdeck.com/jobdeck/), the desktop software (created by Tweetdeck and Twitjobsearch) that displays job tweets as it happens, is another valuable tool worth a mention in this regard. Besides tracking the latest job openings and tweets from job search experts, Jobdeck serves to keep up with your favourite topics as well.

Generally, real-time search services list out relatively recent tweets only. Now, along with new tweets, if you would like to obtain historical tweets (that is, twitter messages delivered months ago) as well, check out the search service Searchtastic (http://www.searchtastic.com/). An advantage of this service is the facility to export the search output as an Excel worksheet.

Real-time content

Real-time content means the content that hits the subscriber as soon as it gets published. Content from blogs, discussion boards and other similar sources are not considered real-time as it takes some time to appear on your newsreader. This means, if by some means we can push the blog updates to its subscribers' newsreaders promptly, we can bring blogs and other similar sources also into the purview of real-time content.

It seems PubSubHubbub (http://code.google.com/p/pubsubhubbub/), the recently invented technology serves this purpose. If your blogging platform supports PubSubHubbub, your newsfeed subscribers may receive the blog updates almost instantaneously (provided they read it via PubSubHubbub enabled newsreaders like ‘Google Reader'). Blogging systems like Wordpress (http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2010/03/03/rub-a-dub-dub-in-the-pubsubhubbub/) and Blogspot (http://buzz.blogger.com /2009/08/blogger-joins-hubbub.html) support the PubSubHubbub technology. It seems more exciting days are ahead for those who use the Net as an information publishing/consuming medium.

Information retrieval is not limited to discovering text, image or video content alone. A wide variety of data stored on different databases are available on the Net. Discovering the hidden meaning/facts/information stored on such data is also an equally important information-mining task. Towards this end, certain Google features meant for mining public data (data published by the World Bank and other public data sources) assume significance. These search features help us fire queries for extracting information from such data sources. For instance, if you type the search query, ‘gdp of india', Google will immediately provide you the GDP with a time-series graph.

If you wish to compare the GDP with that of other countries, just click on this graph. Yet another development related to data analysis is the recent launch of the data visualisation tool ‘Public data explorer' (http://www.google.com/publicdata/home) by Google Labs. This tool generates different types of graphs (line, bar and bubble) that animate over time. It can be used to compare the performance of economies across the globe over time on a variety of development indicators. Data from providers such as the OECD, the World Bank, Eurostat and so on are used for this purpose (http://googleblog.blogspot.com /2010/03/statistics-for-changing-world-google.html).

He can be contacted at: jmurali@gmail.com