~ Learning to transform questions into effective queries ~

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Established @ searchlores in February 2003

Learning to transform questions into effective queries
(The 7 questions: quis, quid, ubi, quibus auxiliis, cur, quomodo, quando?)

by ~S~ fravia+, September 2003, Version 0.31
Originally written for a London workshop of mine (28 february 2003)


Introduction   Natural Language Searching   Joe User's 7 questions
1) ubi ~ the real meaning of a query   2) cur ~ knowing how to rephrase   3) quibus auxiliis ~ keeping the seeker's balance
4) quomodo ~ regional searching   5) quando ~ evaluation lore (1)   6) quis ~ evaluation lore (2)
7) quid ~ local and specialized engines  

This series of small "searching snippets" plays with the old (rhetorical) seven simple Latin questions, which made it possible to describe any event: "quis, quid, ubi, quibus auxiliis, cur, quomodo, quando". I have chosen this approach in order to (try to) show some possibly useful paths when 'solving' common web-queries. The idea is to demonstrate at the same time some useful searching approaches, that can be used for all related queries, and highlight some frequent "web-pitfalls", that seekers should learn to identify and avoid. The material presented here is still in fieri, has been collected & prepared for my London workshop, which will be held on 28 february 2003, and is intended to be presented on a beamer with a quick web-connection. Suggestions, criticism and improvement proposals are welcome.
~
"Natural Language Searching" was all the rage a couple of years ago (nowadays "all the rage" is again "Inferring web communities from link topology" :-)

That 'natural language' has nothing to do with "your" cokney, mind you... we are anyway here too far south to be in hearing distance of the bells of St. Mary Le Bow :-) And yet, like cockney, rephrasing a question so that it can be turned into a useful web-search requires some ingenuity.

As seekers know well, all 'ask jeeves' and similar search engines, that blossomed in those years, tried to "phrase web searches in the form of questions", a target deemed worthy partly because most users were (and are) simply too dumb to be able to use a correct sintax when querying ("boolean bombs"), and partly because simplification for the end-user is indeed --most of the time-- a correct and worthy path to follow.

Ask jeeves was one of the first significant deployments of natural language technology on the Internet (note that the very good TEOMA search engines is a development of ask jeeves).
It tried to give users the ability to question their search engines in normal English.
Here follow some specific query examples that we will examine in-depth, since "Learning to transform questions into effective queries" is of the outmost importance for "real", human seekers as well, and since I believe these small, practice-oriented, examples may shed a little light on some effective searching techniques for all those, like you, that are not (yet) in the know.

As you will see, we are still FAR away from a "natural language searching" good algorithm... ask jeeves just pumps a ready-made database of responses for a couple of millions of the most commonly-asked questions.
In this specific engine, moreover, the real algos for transforming on the fly a real NEW "natural language question" into a correct set of responses are either very weak or, more probably, next to inexistent.
We'r gonna give them some pointers to develop those algos in a correct way :-)


Joe A. User's 7 questions 

I collected the following queries on the morning of 5 february 2003, taking them at random from Jeeves' peek, where you can see what people are searching for on jeeves eo ipso (many similar services are listed on the ad hoc section of my sites).
Here we go with 7 questions (by "Joe A. User", where the A stays for 'average') that will allow me to show you, to-day, some searching approaches --and caveats-- you may not be aware of.

Joe A. User's 7 questions
Where can I find the flag of the country Ireland? ubithe real meaning of a query
Why is the sun yellow? curknowing how to rephrase
Where can I find information about the chemical element chlorine? quibus auxiliiskeeping the seeker's balance
How do I find the Italian national hymn? quomodoregional searching
When was the battle of Kadesh fought? quandoevaluation lore (1)
Who is the father of modern biotechnology? quisevaluation lore (2)
What is the neurological condition acoustic neuroma? quidlocal and specialized engines

As you can see, all these questions have been presented in normal, plain English. Now let's have a look at the answers given by "ask jeeves", at the answers you should be able to find quickly, and at the possible approaches to find SIMILAR answers on the web. Let us see also wether the algorithms used by the various search engines are good enough as they are, are miserable, could be improved, should be ditched, or whatever.


Where can I find the flag of the country Ireland?
ubi ~ the real meaning of a query


Now I really do not know what this Joe User guy means with this question. And I guess no search engine's algo will be able to tell us that either.

What is the real meaning behind a given query?

There are a couple of possibilities, though:
1. He wants just to find a picture of the Irish flag, just to see what it looks like;
2. He wants to find it and know its exact colours IN ORDER TO reproduce them (on the web or elsewhere);
3. He wants to know the history of the Irish national flag, and maybe also of all possible other (minor) irish flags, the more accurate and verbose info on this stuff and topic, the better for him.


1)    In the first case: A seeker would probably already know what the Irish flag looks like, duh. If not he would just quickly use google or fast image searches and that's it.

2)    In the second case we would need to find out the irish flag pantone colours (for green 347, and for orange 151) or go for a "irish flag" pantone search, and then we would probably like to have the best approximation, for web usage purposes, with the pertinent "browser safe" RGB codes. Note that the following info can be helpful for students of an university College of "Design and Communication" as well :-)
PMS 347 RGB:0-153-102 (#009966)
PMS 151 RGB:255-102-0 (#FF6600)
let's see...
         
...not bad, but the orange is not really convincing.
Let's try a better orange with a pantone to html converter (forgetting for the time being the 'browser safe' colors on the ranges 00/33/66/99 and so on): in this case Pantone 151 gives a more accurate FF6308.
let's see...
          
...not bad either, and this orange looks (slightly) more 'Irish' to me...

In CMYK values this would be:
Green C 100 - M 0 - Y 80 - K 10
Orange C 0 - M 40 - Y 90 - K 0



3)    For the third case, now, good seekers should know, or quickly find out (which is the same), that the best places to find info on a flag would be either a specific site, found combing, like http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Sparta/1648/, (where you'll see that you could search also for "bhratach na hÉireann", the gaelic translation of "flag of Ireland", on some local, specific engine... of course being aware of the relative rarity of gaelic pages on the web :-)
More simply, we could poke inside well known 'flag' places, like the world flags database, or flags of the world. Of course in order to get the necessary angles you could use a more simple approach kinda "history of the irish flag", or, maybe better a query that is almost "the opposite" of Joe's natural language one: irish tricolour colours green orange history (note that this query also eliminates all the "com" sites URLs and all sites where the word "buy" appears somewhere in the text).

But there is no need to use a given search engine or a specific queryformat for this specific topic in fact wherever you search, however you formulate, you'll be on a roll with this flag: it's clear from the beginning that this search will give good results: the irish, being a quite nationalistic folk for obvious historical reasons, have spread info on their flag all over the web: see? More than one thousand SITES (not pages, eh) with the word ireland, and more than 1000 other sites with the word irish on the deep deep web!
And take note of this last "netcraft search approach", because it could prove quite useful for other specific searches :-)

So Joe user could have even tried to guess his target: http://www.irishflags.com/ and got some results... but that's a "com" site, brrr, we better close it right now :-)

"Ask Jeeves" own answers:

Here they are, unfortunately, as you can see, ask jeeves, like many other engines, still believes in the commercial nonsense, and will therefore deceive his unlucky users pushing up in the first positions links that are absolutely useless ("Virtually all country flags in stock", "for home and business").
This commercial spamming -as we will see- is here and elsewhere a fact, which will unfortunately prove to be globally true for ALL answers to the 7 questions listed above, so we wont need to repeat this warning too often, hopefully :-)

If the users manage to spring down to the real answers, which are buried beneath the commercial crap, "ask jeeves" will still give on its first positions crappy links like the "CIA World Factbook 2002 -- Ireland" (with flag indeed, but very poor and lacklustre information), some commercial crap stickers, a site for an anti-racism campaign, infoplease's "countries of the world", the CIA again (this time United Kingdom), "workers solidarity in Ireland" and what not.
Clearly, even if --maybe-- useful in order to find some elementary notions about the Irish flag, this ask jeeves approach would (and should) not satisfy our average "joe User".

Why is the sun yellow?
cur ~ knowing how to rephrase


You might think this is a stupid question. However, as you will see, human kind is actually still debating this point, and a Russian (or a Japanese) would counter you that the very question is bogus, since the sun is obviously red, not yellow.

Anyway this seems like one of those sound questions, that a good search engine should be able to (try to) answer automatically.
Alas, as we well know, and as we will see now, just because you ask some legitimate question it does not mean that there is gonna be only a single, simple answer for it (in general, historically, you should mistrust --the more the better-- those who claim they have a single simple answer to a given question :-)
Let's see how a seeker would proceed in order to deliver a good answer.


The importance of rephrasing a query

First of all, many sites will point out that the sun IS NOT 'just' yellow, actually. This compels us to rephrase correctly. The (more correct) question "What color is the Sun?" raises an interesting issue, more closely related to biology and psychology than to physics.
Physically, sunlight is just a concoction of photons on different wavelengths, a particular mixture with a result very close to the color we call "white" (don't get me into color subjectivity now, please).
Yet since the temperature of the sun varies from 1.55e7 Kelvin down to a "photosphere" value of 5800 Kelvin, scientists approximate the radiation (light) of the sun with a theoretical model called black body radiation, and a simple law (Wien's law) derived from the black body radiation, connects the wavelenght of the light, in micro-metre, to the temperature in Kelvin, /\=2900/T.
Using the Sun's surface temperature we get /\=0.5 micro-metre, which corresponds to a yellow light, hence the Sun should be yellow, quod erat demonstrandi.
Moreover its spectral type is G2V (yellow dwarf star).
Yet... yet maybe the sun is pink! "As shown in the table, the Sun's colour is in fact rather similar to that of a 5780 K blackbody. It looks peach pinkish, not yellow... It has to be emphasized that white is a relative thing, at least to a certain extent. It is relative to the daylight spectrum (white) that the Sun is peachy pink"
...as you know, dear future "designers and communicators", colors seem to be pretty relative and elusive concepts :-)

Anyway you can get more info (and, especially, useful info for your future searching activities) performing, and understanding, the following query:

what color is the sun

This FAST search deserves careful evaluation... you will notice that it must not include the terms "business" and "travel", (always "evil terms" for any search, that deserve a good killfile, together with "porn", "games", "health" and so on).
Moreover the search above should include the "edu" suffix in the retrieved URLs, for obviously valid reasons. Note also that virtually ALL the .com domains could and should be mostly eliminated from your searches, with gusto and profit :-)
Finally we have excluded, also for obvious reasons, all those crap and/or useless sites infested with "macromedia flash" frills or with those pesky realvideo/realaudio spywares. Yeah, that's (part of) what you can do with FAST, on the fly, when searching (only with fast and not if you use google): fast has an "advanced searching options" paradise for seekers.

Back to our topic. The color of a light emission depends on its temperature. As temperature goes up the color goes from dull red through orange, yellow-orange, yellow, green, blue, and then to ultraviolet and beyond. The sun's "color" is yellow-green, corresponding to a temperature of somewhere around 5000 degrees.

"Ask Jeeves" own answers:

On this query Ask jeeves will give you everything from "Sun Dried Tomatoes" to "Sun City Yellow Pages", through "Yellow Sheer Acc".
The only (poor) related link was the following, obsolete, one:
Re: Why is the sun yellow at noon and red at sunset? Area: Physics 
Posted By: Rob Jeffries, Faculty Astrophysics, Keele University
Date: Mon Jan 20 02:39:20 1997
Message ID: 851822711.Ph
even this lonely result, that looks somehow promising, explains (poorly) just why the sun is red at sunset, and not why it is yellow (or whatever) most of the time.
Hence the querying user would still be left with de facto no good answer, since MOST OF THE FOLLOWING answers are completely useless... until a kid oriented "What makes our sun yellow?" page, that appears as SECOND result in good old (and else equally mistified) google. (You would not believe me if I listed the amount of: "Golden Sun 'Yellow King'" and similar crap results offered there, so I wont do it :-)

Where can I find information about the chemical element chlorine?
quibus auxiliis ~ keeping the seeker's balance


This seems like a clever and clear question. The searcher here, apparently, wants to know where he can find information about something, he does not want to have that information stright away. As seekers know, to know where you can find something is tantamount to know something, and maybe even better, because you do not need to take care of the updates yourself.
Well... just let's assume this is true, for the sake of this query... actually Joe A. USer, probably just wants some concrete and immediate info about chlorine and just happens to have formulated his query so to allow our interpretation :-)

When a query 'smells'

Apart from an immediate 'pure chemical' quest, any seeker will soon 'smell' something... should he not know it already.
In fact "chlorine" is used in the production of safe drinking water the world over, is extensively used in the production of paper products, dye stuff, textiles, medicines, drugs, antiseptics, solvents, paints, plastics, and foodstuffs, and here lies the simple problem: it's an extensively used poisonous gas.
In fact Chlorine is a greenish yellow gas (same color as the sun we have seen before :-), that irritates the soft tissues ("mucous membranes"). As little as 3.5 ppm can be detected as an odour, and 1000 ppm is likely to be fatal after a few deep breaths. It was used as a war gas in 1915.
There are moreover some quite dangerous chlorinated chemical components: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (dioxin), to name the most (in)famous.

We may therefore infer that this user wants to know where he can find reliable information about how dangerous chlorine really is.
Maybe in food, maybe in the air, as chlorine monoxide (see ozone levels chlorine)

Well, as you will see, valuable and objective information on these matters represents a weak signal, in a web swamped with both conspiration theories and multinationals' propaganda noise.

In this kind of searches the main problem is relying on your own evaluation skills to maintain a seeker's perfect equilibrium that will allow you to 'cut the web' avoiding the ever lurking risk of falling in the simmetric pitfalls of, on one side, those who take themselves and their causes too seriously or, on the other, of those who have some specific economic interest to defend, with teeth and claws, or have been paid in order to defend their master's very interests.

Where can we find some help and which help can and should we use?
Well, let's begin with the existing LAWS, that's always a sound approach.
this search, performed on the Europa server at europa.eu.int, will give you all possible angles to enter into the pertinent eu-law tunnels.
For instance an interesting reading would be the Commission Directive of 26 July 2002 "for the determination of levels of dioxins in feedingstuffs", in the EU-Official Journal L 209 2002

As a small digression, it could be useful in Europe, for all civil society and "grass root" organisations, actually, for anyone, to be able to check ANY EU-Official Journal, in ANY (EU) language 'on the fly' using the following (powerful) mask:

Fetch a OJ on the fly!  ("l" or "c")
(Build a string like 2002l209 --see above--
or 2002c028 :-)
 ? 
   string → 

Let's go on. Let's see what the two sides of the same coin look like. One side will be found with this search
Note the constraints: we search for chlorine danger hazard, the results should include org in the URL, should include environment and not porn in the text.

Now again, searching through those specific "chlorine" laws we have found above, (and for this you will now build your ad hoc searchstrings on your own) we will find 'from the other side' those that defend chlorine against the laws ("chlorine: life depends on it"), because this chemical product allows (huge) private gains, and hence -as usual- those that gain from something dangerous dislike and denigrate public intervention against its use (did I say tobacco?).
Yet seekers -even when convinced- should always "run with the hare and hunt with the hounds" just in case :-)   Mor egenerally there is always much to learn from the very structure of the arguments of the counterpart.
Isn't such a hard defence a little suspicious per se?

Anyway, with the help of both 'fields', we have already found a couple of entrances to parts of the web where our user could "find information about the chemical element chlorine", haven't we?

"Ask Jeeves" own answers:

A lot of periodic tables, commercial crap ("When chemistry is a Passion, anything is possible"), chemical 'data sheets', commercial chlorine defenders, chlorine industry... you'll have a hard time finding some objective info about the dangers of Chlorine with this search.

Maybe Joe User wanted only Chlorine's position on the periodic table, but I doubt it.

How do I find the Italian national hymn?
quomodo ~ regional searching


Now this is a cleverly formulated question! Joe does not ask actually where this anthem is, he asks how to find it. Well... "we are here for this" :-)
Let's imagine he wants 'la totale': text of the hymn, author, mod, mp3 and history of the hymn.
How would we proceed?

In order to get the text of a song the search is trivial any main search engine would do, let's just use hotbot for the sake of it: italian national hymn which has the added advantage of giving us immediately, the english search string notwithstanding, and as first result, an italian site that will cut the mustard.

Fratelli d'Italia,
l'Italia s'è desta,
dell'elmo di Scipio
s'è cinta la testa.
Dov'è la vittoria?
Le porga la chioma,
che schiava di Roma
Iddio la creò.
The hymn is longer, and --as almost all national hymns of the world-- pretty preposterous and warmongerish. But we have already enough angles as it is: "inno di mameli", "fratelli d'Italia", "desta elmo cinta testa", and, if you scroll down, more and more historical data, with even a bibliographical reference that satisfies our evaluation strainers. The same site offers a mid of the hymn as well. Two pigeons, one stone.

mp3: caveat emptor... gaudet fur :-)

In order to find any mp3 music, a seeker, even if he does not speak the local language, in this case italian, would immediately go regional. Mp3 searches are pro-actively hampered on the main search engines by the long whips of the "copyright enforcers", who -failing to be able to outlaw mp3- are swamping the web with fake 'free mp3' sites where you will never find anyhing but commercial crap (other methods are required to find copyright-sensitive mp3s :-)
A national hymn shouldn't be copyright sensitive tough, and you would be able to find this mp3 even on google or fast.
The main italian search engines are arianna, virgilio, google.it, kataweb and tin. Let's use arianna. And now let's see, there is even a specific mp3 search-tag... a national hymn should not have too many copyright petty problems as we said, so let's just input mameli, and, loo: 15 results, with useful parameters like 'dimensione' and 'ultima verifica'. Let's assume that for our purposes, the bigger is the better, and, therefore, let us choose this one.

Now, that was a quick job.

But that was only ONE way of doing it. Going back to regional searching, you can be sure that searching for mameli.htm, mameli.mp3, desta scipio cinta testa, fratelli.mp3, innonazionale.htm (you get the hang of it) on the regional search engines may give some useful results. The same approach would be even more important if we had searched for a more "copyright sensitive" target, say, Les Ketchup, aserejé on a Spanish search engine.

Let's try a couple of these approaches out:
mameli.mp3 with google.it
desta scipio cinta testa with virgilio

"Ask Jeeves" own answers:

For once the two first "real" results in "ask jeeves" (after the commercial crap) are relevant, even if they are both pretty outdated and not of top quality, and could help Joe User. The rest of the links, as well as the commercial overhead, are completely useless.

When was the battle of Kadesh fought?
quando ~ evaluation lore (1)


This time we will proceed 'tout betement', since I confess that I do not know really much about the ancient chariot battle of Kadesh, and surely do not remember the date it was fought.

Let's dive together in the history of mankind using search engines as a springboard :-)

Ok, let's simply smash When was the battle of Kadesh fought? in google, like Joe User has done above on "ask jeeves".

And in the first result (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Styx/7480/) you can already start to swim in the signal (click on the triangles) and you will also find the following snippet: "If you want to read more about the Battle of Kadesh, I recommend Perspectives on the Battle of Kadesh, by Hans Goedicke and Road to Kadesh: A Historical Interpretation of the Battle Reliefs of King SETY I at Karnak by William J. Murnane"
Woah! A loving amateur! "a senior at the University of Evansville (sic... we'll have to check if they really have a university in that godzilla-forgotten place :-), majoring in classical archaeology and history, with a minor in anthropology" That's among the best findings one can retrieve from the web, bar the real sources. He sits on google second position as well. And in third position another amateur: andré dollinger http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/ramseskadeshcampaign.htm. Both sites are quite useful to dive deeper, no wonder --you may think-- google is the main search engine "of choice".

use directories as a springboard!

But wait! Actually these two sites appear (almost) WHATEVER main search engine we use... how comes? Does everyone have algos as good as google ones?

No. The real reason we get these two results both in google and in most other sarch engines is that they are listed in dmoz (and of course copied in google's "web directory") as:
Society: History: By Time Period: Ancient: Wars and Conflicts
Which proves once more how important it is to check dmoz for authoritative "start_stations" when you begin a dive into the web :-)

Now, although these results look good and promising, we cannot just rest there. For a start Warner (our amateur in first & second google-position) says it was fought on 1275 B.C., while Dollinger, at reshafim, (in third position) says 1299 B.C.. C'mon, we'r supposed to be seekers after all.
Let's do a little more and find the real SOURCES describing the battle of Kadesh. Everytime seekers are confronted with historical (and -come to think of it, also- non historical) queries, they would be well advised to search for the authoritative sources for a given topic.

Of course we would be able to find some signal with a simple query like sources of the battle of Kadesh (note that there are NO quotes in this case). This would give us enough material to start our in-depth trip to the sources.
Yet, once more, there is a "simpler" springboard: dmoz again.
Note the answer: Open Directory Categories (1-2 of 2) Society: History: By Time Period: Ancient: Wars and Conflicts   correspond to our 2 previous matches... AND Society: History: By Time Period: Ancient: Africa: Egypt: Texts   http://www.hillsdale.edu/academics/history/War/Classical/Egypt/1294-Kadesh.htm. This latter reference is the English translation from the egyptian hieroglyphics,  taken from James Henry Brested, Ancient Records of Egypt: Historical Documents. (Chicago: 1906), III:136-147 . The time, here, is 1294 B.C. (and is part of the URL).
But, wait! The REAL date here is "Year 5, the second month of the third season tenth month, on the ninth day", plus "many days after this", not exactly 1294 B.C. in the source, isn't it? So let's use this very document to find more pointers, we will extract one phrase out of it: "When his majesty saw them, he was enraged against them, like his father, Montu" and smash it in FAST and in google.

Here we have another date: 1285 B.C.: Ramesses II's Battle of Kadesh Inscriptions

There are three main sources from which the Battle of Kadesh can be reconstructed.
1.) Egyptian reliefs from temples of Ramesses II, especially from the Ramessium.
2.) there is an epic poem, written by an unknown talented Egyptian scribe, that recorded most of the events who took place in the Battle of Kadesh .
3.) Finally, there are few Hittite records which provide accurate information, and they are not as extensive as the Egyptian records.

Seekers should keep in mind for historical researches, that many sources, were often optimally compiled (collated) a century ago or earlier, investing more time on this that it would be possible today, and with a more 'broad' knowledge and MUCH less "commercial mind" than any (eventual) more recent collections... should similar attempts have even been made recently at all... editing ancient sources is a lacklustre work from the sheer commercial point of view that now rulez, and it does not make any sense anymore, in today's "advertisement-dictatorships". Today's "professors", even when they know their ancient aramaic, greek or egyptian (and many do not and read only translations) simply do not collate sources any more, nor --probably-- would know how to do it correctly anyway: it's the abrupt decadence of all non immediately "commercially rentable" arts, knowledges and lore.

As a side note, it is interesting to see that the abzu/etana search engine does not even seem to mention this important battle.

So, what is the date of the battle of Kadash?
Frankly: I do not know. But if the authority on the sources is James Henry Breasted, then let's have a look at what HE says on these matters.
I'll leave to the reader the pleasure of finding on line his A history of the ancient egyptians, London, Murray, 1924, where he states: "About the end of April of his fifth year (1288 B.C.), when the rains of Syria had ceased, Ramses marched out of Tharu.... Hence 1288 BC may be as wrong a date as anything else proposed, yet would seem, to an evaluating seeker, more appropriate as a result.

"Ask Jeeves" own answers:

Among the first six results, all potentially relevant and useful, we find, of course, our dmoz champions http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Styx/7480/, and (http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/ramseskadeshcampaign.htm). Joe User would have got his beef quickly, in this case... only he would not have had ANY CHANCE to check if the beef was sound and if "his" date was the correct one (and, note, exactly the same would have happened if he had used google or fast instead (in fact if you do not learn how to evaluate, you are, on the web, a sitting duck :-)

Who is the father of modern biotechnology?
quis ~ evaluation lore (2)


You are in for a surprise: modern biotechnology is a little bastard  :-)

Ahi ahi... let's start: Not bad, and it looks appropriate to me to consider the last of this list, the criminal Burnet, as the real father of modern biotechnology. Serves well modern biotechnologists, who are worse than atomic bombs scientists. After a nuclear conflict, let's say couple of thousand years later, we still have a chance to see some trees on this planet again. The genetically modified concoctions of these "modern biotechnologists", will not go away until the sun dies. These de facto "mad-scientists" are all happily working for the commercial powers that be, creating pigs with 60 ribs, that cannot even move around, eggs more "squared" than oval, for easy-packaging purposes, "terminator" seeds (sterile, so that you can sell more), other "plants" that are able to withstand lethal doses of agrotoxins aimed at anything biological that could grow in their midst, and "new tomatoes" as gorgeous in looking, awful in tasting and dangerous in perspective as Sneewhite's apple.
Have a look at the Guidelines for Minimizing the Potential Social and Ecological Dangers of Biotechnology to evaluate the issues at stake and find some useful links.

Know thy enemies

www.BIO.org (do not mix it with www.bio.com) This "bio.org" Web site is paid by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the trade association that lobbies for the biotech sector in Washington, and around the world.

www.phrma.org This is the Web site for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the trade association for the big pharma companies. This group posts a lot of propaganda.

www.bioindustry.org The UK biotech industry is represented by the BioIndustry Association, which sponsors this Web site along with conferences and seminars.

www.bioventureconsultants.com BioVenture Consultants Stock Report (BVCSR) is published on the last Friday of each month and tracks the stock and earnings performances of the sector,


So, who is "the father" of modern biotechnology? I would say Gregor Mendel with his studies of the rules of trait inheritance -how progeny inherit features from their parents in a regulated way- with his pea plants... but I doubt he would be as honored as the clowns (and criminals) listed above to accept such a dubious honour.

"Ask Jeeves" own answers:

Paternity testing, questia (a pay-per-article) depot aimed at zombies incapable of finding documents on the web for free, adobe golive and "Hands off my French fries!"... ugh! I do not think that Joe User will really be impressed by these results :-)

What is the neurological condition acoustic neuroma
quid ~ specialized engines (and evaluation again)


Let's see... "acoustic neuroma" uh? Of course you could google "acoustic neuroma" site:edu (with "acoustic neuroma" limited of course to edu sites). But in these cases a seeker would use "local" (aka "specialized" or "hidden web") search engines.

Digging the hidden web

Let's start with Pub Med.

Then, let's see some more examples (you will be able to dig a lot more, on your own, with any good specialized search engine), Joe User could go to cancerlit, or visit the English omni (quality Internet resources in health and medicine), or at the University of California, or visit the University of York's Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (Promoting the use of research-based knowledge in health care), or check this NIH consensus, and this ARIF starting point to consider research evidence, from where they could reach back to the previously seen Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, our searching circle is now perfectly closed.

Of course a FAR better "local" choice would be the powerful query engine at the "Laboratoire d'Informatique Médicale" (Faculté de Médecine, Université de Rennes 1... known as ADM), where Joe User could input in Saisie d'une pathologie whatever he believes to have or whatever he has to know.
Alas! In this case he should not only translate his "acoustic neuroma" into a "névrome acoustique" (damn die-hard French)... he should also know how to enter a closed database from outside! (Woah! This would bring us immediately to the next, and final, part of today's workshop: password gathering :-)

Once more we encounter a problem of evaluation again, especially acute in the case of medical information.
Some medical information on the web is -simply put- false, and many sites are not updating their pages. Moreover on the web even correct information may be consumed "out of context": even accurate data needs to be placed within their proper framework to be interpreted correctly. You know how it often happens -when reading a medical book- that you just feel to have yourself all the symptoms described for every kind of illness? Well, imagine what people can find out on the web when looking for their own symptoms :-)

Recognizing and evaluating authors' bias and rhetoric (being aware of fallacious arguments or manipulative reasoning), differentiating between fact and opinion, examining assumptions (exploring reasons and warrants), and knowing how to individuate reputable sources are skills many web users have not developed. These skills are especially crucial for health information, and especially when you are looking for answers.

You may use "the five evaluation vowels", when checking a site: Accuracy (of the info, checking versus other sites), Ethics (commercial oriented sites would kill your mama for money), Identity (of the Author, and his credentials), Objectivity (some text -exegesis skills would help), Update (stale sites are not good).

"Ask Jeeves" own answers:

Here they are.
Should our Joe A. User be able to ignore the commercial noise in the first positions: e.g. "The Foot Health Network Help for Foot Care" (and such an attitude would demand an "attention span" of more than a few seconds, which is, I fear, something pretty rare nowadays among TV-zombies and MMS-slaves :-(
then "ask jeeves" will indeed give him some signal, on the lower positions.

Alas, most of these sites are in turn commercial perverted, praying on hypocondiac webusers.
Yet there is at least one exception: Joe will find in prominent position the "General Practice Notebook Acoustic neuroma"). that seems quite promising. It will tell Joe at once that an acoustic neuroma is "a benign neoplasm of the Schwann cells of the eighth cranial nerve", but the very moment Joe should want to check "clinical features", or "associated conditions", or investigations, or treatment, the site will ask Joe for some personal data.

Joe could give him bogus data, of course, and slowly use the resources provided there to re-build a more correct answer, starting a dive that would bring him to some of the results we have listed above, yet such an approach cannot be considered satisfactory from a searcher point of view. In fact, come to think of it, I do not suggest you should use "ask jeeves" at all.

And now let's move to the next, and final, part of today's workshop: password gathering :-)

In fact we will begin with this very acoustic neuroma stuff... lea2traciffersubstitution.htm




       


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