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Jim Conant

Web Search Contest

Jim Conant, CUGG

June 2002

Last month’s search contest [on May 11, 2002] held everyone's attention for 45 minutes.  When one of our pre-selected "experts" didn't show up, our new Treasurer, Eric Moore, quietly volunteered to take his place.  Eric and the other contestants, Frank Whiteley and Don Wiegel, left the room.  They came back one at a time and were each given just five minutes to see how many of the questions on a pre-prepared list they could find the answers to.  Each contestant wore a lapel microphone and commented on what he was doing and why. Several times the audience burst into spontaneous applause at the speed with which they found answers.

Don and Frank each answered the first five questions in their five minutes.  Eric alone answered six questions in his allotted 5 minutes.  We all learned something about searching the Internet from watching these experts try their hands with their favorite search engines and search techniques.

Prior to the contest, Karen Woerner gave us a very informative PowerPoint presentation on Searching the Internet. Karen used to teach this to new students at the CU Health Sciences Center in Denver.  I took notes:  some engines return sponsored links first (firms pay them to do this, and the good engines identify them as such); subject guides can help research (Yahoo! has a good subject guide); you can search Google for newsgroups, newspapers and journals & magazines, as well as for websites; other good search engines are AltaVista, HotBot, AlltheWeb, Excite, Northern Light, and  [Other sites and products] that members recommended during the discussions were Dogpile, Copernic, and Teoma.  You might find Karen’s presentation posted elsewhere on CUGG’s website by our intrepid Publisher, Don Wiegel.

For fun, go to and type in tutorial on search engines.  Lots of interesting stuff there.  They have a comparison of Google, AltaVista, HotBot, and Excite. 

Presentation on how search engines work

Here are the contest questions, and the times each contestant took to find the answer.  Times listed are Frank’s, Eric’s, and Don’s in that order.  How far can you get down the list in five minutes?  If you want to keep going after that, the Internet has answers to all the remaining questions waiting for you.

Question Frank Whiteley Eric Moore Don Wiegel
Find me a driver for my HP LaserJet II printer 1:54 0:45 1:12
What’s the best price on the Internet for the Palm M505 PDA? 0:25 ($250) 0:58 ($260) 0:23 ($249)
I've received an e-mail warning of a dangerous virus in a file “sulfnbk.exe”. I find the file on my computer. Should I delete it, as the email says? 0:59 0:17 0:16
How do I know what shutter speed to set my camera at when taking a photo? 1:53 1:01 1:26
What is the name and email address of my Representative to the US House of Reps? Gave up 0:40 1:31
Get me driving directions to Kepner Hall from 3526 W 10th Street in Greeley, CO 80634 Out of time 1:25 Out of time
What temperature will water boil at in Greeley this afternoon?
Who played R2-D2 in the movie Star Wars Episode 1?
I want a recipe for soup with kale and garlic in it
Is the moon Void of Course today?
What is one herbal remedy for bursitis?
What was the US federal income tax rate in 1950 for a head of household with an adjusted gross income of $500,000?
What’s the rest of the quotation “There is a tide in the affairs of men…”
An email says Snapple has associations with Bin Laden?  Find more info about this.

Pretty interesting, huh?

Cheers, all.


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