Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fixing Google With Google

This morning, after voting it occurred to me that I really would have liked to know more about the issues at hand. I didn't have much luck finding good information about really local data - such as the bond issues, or the school board candidates.

I started to ponder how everyone else got prepared for the election. And then it hit me - I don't read the local newspaper, listen to much local radio, and I almost never watch the nightly news. All the places that this kind of information would be discussed, I simply don't consume.

Then I had my second big realization - the reason I was having so much trouble finding relevant info was that I was using Google. Finding local Arlington information felt like finding a needle in a haystack.

And then it hit me: Google just announced Google Co-op, maybe that was the answer. Google Co-op is a facility by which you define your own search engine. Naturally, it's built on top of Google. Essentially, you tell Google what sites you want to put in your custom search engine, and it will either limit itself to those sites, or simply place a higher emphasis on them.

When I first heard about Co-op (and the granddaddy of this type of site, RollyO) I just couldn't, for the life of me figure out a good use for it. Well, today I have.

In just a few minutes, I setup my own search engine: Just Arlington, which searches just sites relevant to Arlington, VA. It has the county's government site, a bunch of radio stations, a TV station and a the local newspaper. It even searches my local synagogue's website.

Now, when I search for Bonds 2006, the first hit that comes up is that for 2006 Bond Referenda Questions in Arlington.

I have to say, Google did a terrific job with Co-op. It takes just minutes to setup a useful site, and is ready to use instantly.

I'm especially impressed that the solution to my problem of Google being too generic a search provider, was solved by another Google service. Nice move G.

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