Tuesday, January 31, 2006

new FirstGov search is way cool

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FirstGov, the portal to gub'ment information on the web, got its search engine a facelift. Now it looks like Google and acts like Clusty (not a bad combo). It's just a simple search box interface, but its search results are really super. (that use of a superlative, combined with "super cool" in my title have officially proven my nerdhood.)

I entered a search for "impeachment" (if only everyone in Congress was doing that search these days. Sigh.), and the results were interesting: on the left, you get clusters (ala Clusty, the metasearch engine also built by Vivismo, the folks who got the contract for this project) of topics (e.g., Representatives, House; Committee, History 109th; Impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton, etc.) which can be exploded if your topic actually matches those more closely. In the main window, you get the top results from their database of over 40 million govt web pages, and if there's one there you like (say, from the Library of Congress), you can limit your search to just that site with one click. Plus, at the top of the search results, if there's a FAQ that matches your search term, it's there. In my search, it's "Where can I find general information on the federal process of impeachment?"

Considering how difficult it can be to track down the right government document when you need it, this new search design is incredible. More functional than Google Unclesam, and much more intuitive than the overwhelming home page for FirstGov.

Plus, this is probably the sole example in the last 6 years of government information being made MORE accessible. Hopefully my search for "impeachment" didn't just get me on the no-fly list.

I first read about this at Search Engine Watch. Then I saw it mentioned by Librarian in Black. Now it's my turn.


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