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Book review: Getting into Google

By Arthur Goldstuck

Everyone loves Google, and it’s the first place many people turn to locate information on the Internet.Google Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools, by Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest (O’Reilly & Associates, 2003)

Paperback, 325 pages

List Price: $24.95. Amazon Price: $17.47

There’s a big gap, though, between knowing that you can use Google to get advance information on your blind date and having a handle on the considerable roster of fact-finding tools that the site makes available.

Google Hacks reveals – and documents in considerable detail – a large collection of Google capabilities that many readers won’t have even been aware of. Want to find the best price on a pair of leg warmers? Try the Froogle price-searcher that’s hidden within the Google site.

Interested in finding weblog commentary about a particular subject? Tara Calishain, a veteran of search engine strategy (including a 1997 book, “Official Netscape Guide to Internet Research”) and Rael Dornfest call your attention to the special Google syntaxes for that purpose. This book makes it clear that there’s lots more to the Google site than typing in a few keywords and trusting the search engine to yield useful results.

If you’re a programmer–or even just familiar with a HTML or a scripting language–Google opens up even further. A large part of Google Hacks concerns itself with the Google API (the collection of capabilities that Google exposes for use by software) and other programmers’ resources. For example, the authors include a simple Perl application that queries the Google engine with terms specified by the user.

They also document XooMLe, which delivers Google results in XML form. In brief, this is the best compendium of Google’s lesser-known capabilities available anywhere, including the Google site itself. –David Wall

Topics covered: How to get the most from the Google search engine by using its Web-accessible features (including product searches, image searches, news searches, and newsgroup searches) and the large collection of desktop-resident toolbars available, as well as its advanced search syntax.

Other sections have to do with programming with the Google API and simple “scrapes” of results pages, while further coverage addresses how to get your Web page to feature prominently in Google keyword searches.

Book description

The Internet puts a wealth of information at your fingertips, and all you have to know is how to find it. Google is your ultimate research tool – a search engine that indexes more than 2.4 billion web pages, in more than 30 languages, conducting more than 150 million searches a day.

The more you know about Google, the better you are at pulling data off the Web. You’ve got a cadre of techniques up your sleeve–tricks you’ve learned from practice, from exchanging ideas with others, and from plain old trial and error–but you’re always looking for better ways to search. It’s the “hacker” in you: not the troublemaking kind, but the kind who really drives innovation by trying new ways to get things done. If this is you, then you’ll find new inspiration (and valuable tools, too) in Google Hacks from O’Reilly’s new Hacks Series.

Google Hacks is a collection of industrial-strength, real-world, tested solutions to practical problems. The book offers a variety of interesting ways for power users to mine the enormous amount of information that Google has access to, and helps you have fun while doing it.

You’ll learn clever and powerful methods for using the advanced search interface and the new Google API, including how to build and modify scripts that can become custom business applications based on Google. Google Hacks contains 100 tips, tricks and scripts that you can use to become instantly more effective in your research. Each hack can be read in just a few minutes, but can save hours of searching for the right answers.

Written by experts for intelligent, advanced users, O’Reilly’s new Hacks Series have begun to reclaim the term “hacking” for the good guys. In recent years the term “hacker” has come to be associated with those nefarious black hats who break into other people’s computers to snoop, steal information, or disrupt Internet traffic. But the term originally had a much more benign meaning, and you’ll still hear it used this way whenever developers get together. The new Hacks Series is written in the spirit of true hackers – the people who drive innovation.

If you’re a Google power user, you’ll find the technical edge you’re looking for in Google Hacks.

Buy Google Hacks from Amazon.com now or Buy Google Hacks from Kalahari.net in South Africa

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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