From: Patrick Douglas Crispen 

TODAY'S TOURBUS STOP(S): The Tourbus Guide to the Most Useful Sites in the World (Part 1)

The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
Howdy, y'all, and greetings once again from deep behind the Orange Curtain in the beautiful city of Irvine, California, the barbeque okra capital of Madigascar. :P

Fellow TOURBUS rider Dan Berger recently asked:

How the heck do you number Tourbus? In other words, the "Volume, Number, Date" thing? There seems to be no rhyme or reason.

Dan, much like the questions "where do my socks go when they disappear in the dryer" and "if a bus station is where a bus stops and a train station is where a train stops, what happens at a workstation," there are some things we're simply not meant to understand. :P

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On with the show ...

About a squillion years ago, I created a list of my 21 favorite Internet sites. I posted that list in the classroom resources section of my personal Web site, told everyone that they were more than welcome to steal my list, and the rest is history.

Well, I figured it was high time for me to update my list of my 21 favorite/most essential Web sites. Today's post -- TOURBUS Volume 7, number 60 -- talks about the first five sites on my list. Thursday's post -- Volume 1,653, number -6e^2 -- will talk about the next five, and so on.

And, as always, you are welcome to hop on over to the classroom resources section of my personal Web site at

and download a two-page Adobe Acrobat (PDF) version of my complete Top 21 list. The file's name is "tourbus_guide.pdf" and you can find it in the middle of the page. Look for "The Internet TOURBUS Guide to the Most Useful Sites in the World."

What's the first site on my list?

1) Yahoo!

I admit I don't use Yahoo as much as I used to, but it is still one of the most useful (and popular) sites on the Internet. Unfortunately, a *LOT* of people don't know that Yahoo ISN'T a search engine. It is a directory, much like a phone book.

Yahoo is a human-compiled guide to the Internet. Think of it as a giant bookmarks list. Webmasters contact Yahoo and say "hey, can you add my site to your list?" Yahoo ignores them. So the webmasters contact Yahoo again and say "pretty please?" Yahoo ignores them again. A bazillion years later the folks at Yahoo finally add that site to Yahoo, filing it in the appropriate category.

Yahoo only archives the title and a one-paragraph description of the pages it knows about. And, because Yahoo's index of sites is human- compiled, it only knows about a couple million pages. [By way of comparison, Google knows about over two BILLION pages.]

Yahoo's small index isn't really a drawback, though. Yahoo is GREAT for what I call "telephone book" searches:

  • "What is the Web page address of entity X?"
  • "Where can I find a collection of sites that focus on generic
  • topic X?" or
  • "Who makes product X?"
  • When I want to know the answer to questions like these, I almost always turn to Yahoo first.

    2) Google Directory

    The best way to describe the Google Directory (which is DIFFERENT from the Google search engine which) is to simply say that it is "Google's Yahoo."

    Like Yahoo, the Google Directory is a human-compiled list of Web sites. In fact, it is the Open Directory Project's list of Web sites with a Google interface slapped on top of it. Unlike Yahoo, the folks who compile the list of sites in each Google Directory/Open Directory Project category are (supposedly) experts in their particular subject areas. The list of medieval sites is compiled by medievalists, the list of educational sites is compiled by educators, and the list of squirrel sites is compiled by squirrels.

    Remember, though, that Google Directory is (surprise surprise) a directory, so you should use it like a telephone book of Web sites.

    3) Yahooligans

    Yahooligans is Yahoo for kids. And, like Yahoo, Yahooligans is a directory.

    While most directories are absolutely HORRIBLE at encyclopedia searches -- imagine what would happen if you searched for the "Treaty of Westphalia" in the telephone book! -- Yahooligans is WONDERFUL for encyclopedia searches. Because that's what kids want.

    Even though Yahooligans is a kids site, don't discount it if you are an adult. I have often found wonderful resources at Yahooligans, especially if I was searching for something a kid might search for (like information about squirrels.) And, since the folks at Yahooligans only link to "family friendly" material, you can often find better, higher-quality hits at Yahooligans than at other directories.

    4) Google

    Using some highly trained, low cost pigeon clusters (see ), the folks at Google have created the largest, most popular search engine around. [By the way, the pigeon thing is Google's April Fools Joke.]

    So what's the difference between a directory (like Yahoo!) and a search engine (like Google)? Well, you already know that a directory is a human-compiled list of Web sites categorized by subject area. You also know that most directories only know about a couple of million Web pages.

    A search engine is actually a collection of three things:

    1. A "spider" (or "bot") that automatically crawls the Web
    looking for new Web pages. When the spider finds a new Web page, it reports back to its mama server that it has found a new page ... and it then sends EVERY word and EVERY picture on that page back to the server. [Compare this with most directories which only archive the title and a one paragraph description of the pages its human editors know about.]

    2. An index of all of the stuff found by the baby spiders.

    3. A "front end," the pretty interface that we use to search
    through the index.

    What most people don't know is that when you use a search engine, you aren't really searching the Internet. You are searching through that search engine's index of pages, the stuff found by the baby spiders and shipped back to mama.

    Google has the largest index of them all, containing over 2 billion Web pages, Microsoft Word Documents, Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, and Adobe Acrobat PDF files.

    What makes Google so cool -- and what makes it my favorite search engine -- is that it is what I call a "popularity engine." When you search for something at Google, it finds all of the pages in its index that match your search terms. Then Google does something REALLY cool: it ranks the pages that match your search terms by the pagesí popularity (with the most popular pages displayed first). The assumption is that if a page is popular, if a bunch of people visit and link to it regularly, it must be good.

    And 99 times out of 100 it is. :)

    5) SearchEngineWatch

    Now that you know about my favorite directories and search engines, want to know how to USE them to actually FIND something (other than naked pictures of Ernest Borgnine)? Get thee to SearchEngineWatch!

    Created by Danny Sullivan, SearchEngineWatch contains the world's largest collection of directory and search engine tips, tricks, reviews, and guides.

    I've said this a million times, but if I owned the Internet I'd require everyone to visit SearchEngineWatch and read Sullivan's "Search Engine Math" and "Power Searching for Anyone" guides at .

    I have a tendency for hyperbole (GASP!), but I honestly believe that "Search Engine Math" and "Power Searching for Anyone" are the two most important documents that can be found on the Internet. Take 15 minutes to read these guides and I guarantee you that you will IMMEDIATELY become a better Web-searcher.

    One Last Word

    That's my top five. Next time, we'll talk about some of my favorite educational resources. :)

    Oh, before I forget, I have one bit of shameless self-promotion to share with you. On Friday, your fearless bus driver will be giving the keynote address at the Rhode Island Educational Media Association Conference in Providence. That's right, folks - I'm headed DEEP into Yankee territory. Wish me luck. :P

    In fact, here is a list of some of the conferences to which I have been invited over the next couple of weeks:

    Rhode Island Educational Media Association Conference Providence, RI April 5, 2002

    Georgia Educational Technology Association Conference Savannah, GA April 16 - 18, 2002

    Arkansas Association of Instructional Media Conference Hot Springs, AR April 21 - 23, 2002

    Alabama Educational Technology Conference Birmingham, AL July 8 - 10, 2002

    Y'all come and see us, ya' hear?

    TODAY'S TOURBUS STOP(S): The Tourbus Guide to the Most Useful Sites in the World (Part 1)


    KERNT (noun). A type of raisin (currant). Usage: "KERNT? Heck, that's nothing more an expensive RAISIN!"

    [Special thanks to CJ Stanman for today's wurd]

    .~~~. )) (\__/) .' ) )) Patrick Douglas Crispen /o o \/ .~ {o_, \ { / , , ) \ `~ '-' \ } )) AOL Instant Messenger: Squirrel2K _( ( )_.' '---..{____} Warning: squirrels.

    The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
    Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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