Web reviews: Web Blogs, Seat 61, Agatha Christie, Budgeting, Petnet

Editor's choice: Search engine aims for Web logs

A new crop of search engines tuned specifically to unearthing information from Weblogs and other news feeds are emerging to help simplify the process of searching and navigating Weblogs.

The Fuzzy Group recently launched Feedster (www.feedster.com), a search engine designed to monitor and index the RSS feeds that comprise Weblogs. RSS (for Really Simple Syndication) is a Web content syndication format based on XML. Other search engines focusing on RSS feeds include Feeder, RSS Search (www.rss-search.com), and Snarf.

Feedster employs a traditional decentralised crawling model for Web search, but the technology includes a spider capable of indexing RSS feeds, according to Scott Johnson, president of Fuzzy Group. The search engine employs additional technology for relevance ranking and data exploration, he said. Users can search via a URL-based query or a keyword.

“Feedster goes out and grabs RSS feeds on a very regular basis, indexes them, and makes them easily searchable and navigable,” Johnson said.

Unlike typical Web search tools such as Google that index Web content at the page level, RSS-focused search engines index RSS feeds and do so more frequently and at a finer level of granularity.

“There is a huge need for this capability in blogs. Blogs are heavily nested and interlinked. We take that data stream and go all the way with it. We are getting the whole information feed, storing it, and indexing it,” Johnson said.

One application for RSS search — other than keeping up with the number of blogs — is for businesses to accurately monitor the burgeoning number of news feeds and Weblog postings, which could be vital for competitive intelligence or product research.

A new feature currently under development in Feedster is designed to provide a personalised aggregate search capability that can build a view of information tailored to a particular theme or personal preference, according to Johnson.

The Man in Seat Sixty-One

Many of us dream of the golden age of train travel. There’s something about steaming along in a train that beats being shoehorned into an airline seat every day. This good-looking site run by Mark Smith, a career railwayman, is based on his enthusiasm for rail and sea travel and his experience as a rail agent and working in British rail. The information doesn’t just centre on the UK, however; many countries in Europe are covered, as well as the US, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Wondering about the name? It’s Smith’s favourite seat on the London-Paris Eurostar — First Class, of course!

The Official Online Home of Agatha Christie

Crime writer Agatha Christie is a true publishing phenomenon. Why is her work so popular? Take a spin by the official site (still in production when we visited) for some clues — and then venture to some of the countless fan sites. New readers should see the list of 12 essential books, with notes on reviews, characters and publishing and dramatisation history. Christie fans might also want to take a look at Hercule Poirot Central (www.geocities.com/the1sthobbster/poirot/index.html), dedicated to Christie’s famous Belgian detective.

Personal Budgeting and Money Saving Tips

Let’s face it: stretching the dollars to the next payday can sometimes be a challenge. If you want to get your finances in order, this is a good place to start. It has straightforward tips for working out your money priorities, keeping track of where the dollars go, and ways to save. Worksheets also help to figure out your expenses. The site is American so some of the content doesn’t apply, but the general advice could be helpful.


Whether you have a furry or feathered friend already or are keen to add one to your family, Petnet is the site for you. There are sections for dog-lovers, cat-lovers, bird-lovers and rabbit-lovers, as well as information for renters with pets. The Selectapet tool is great for those looking for the right pet for their lifestyle. Answer some questions about your home, your lifestyle and what time and energy you can commit to your pet, and it’ll make some suggestions for animals that would suit.

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Cathleen Moore

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