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RIP Kartoo

When I conduct training sessions on how to search I always emphasise that it’s more important to know how to find information rather than to depend on a small selection of key web-sites.

Many searchers depend on their bookmark list but what happens when a key site disappears: if you don’t know how to search you are stuck.

Searching isn’t just going to google and typing your query in the search box. Expert searching demands that you consider where the information you are looking for is likely to be held, and in what format. It requires the searcher to understand the search tools they use – how they work and their strengths and weaknesses. Such skills are crucial when key sites disappear as happened in January with the small French meta-search engine, Kartoo.

Kartoo was innovative and presented results graphically. It enabled you to see links between terms and was brilliant for concept searching where you didn’t really know where to start. Unfortunately it’s now gone to cyber-heaven, or wherever dead web-sites disappear to. It will be missed – at least until something similar appears. Already Google’s wonderwheel (found from the “options” link just above the search results”) offers some of the functionality and graphic feel, and there are other sites that offer similar capabilities (e.g. Touchgraph). Kartoo however was special – it was simple, free and showed that Europeans can still come up with good search ideas.

Example of a Kartoo Search

Of course Kartoo isn’t the first innovative site to disappear. Over the years, many great search tools have gone. Greg Notess lists some in his SearchEngineShowdown blog – and an article in Online magazine. There are more. How many people remember IIBM’s Infomarket service – an early online news aggregator from 1995, or Transium.

In fact, it was learning that sites are mortal that led to my approach to searching: don’t depend on a limited selection of sites but rather know how to find sites and databases that lead you to the information wanted. That’s a key skill for all researchers and is as valid today in the Google generation as it was in the days before Google.

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