The Using the Internet for Research FAQ for this month is now out in the
misc.writing, alt.movies.independent, alt.union.natl-writers,
misc.writing.screenplays, alt.answers, misc.answers and news.answers
The FAQ is available on the web at <www.purefiction.com/pages/res1.htm>
Last-modified: 26 Sep 1999.
Expires: Sun, 31 Oct 1999 00:00:00 GMT
Latest update to the Using the Internet for Research FAQ
(c) Charles Harris 1999
We're back. The film has been filmed and is being editing and I finally
have time to get back to a bulging in-box of suggested additions to this
FAQ. Thank you everyone for being so patient.
1. I've added a new section on finding people. It's still very embryonic,
so any comments, suggestions, criticisms, etc would be gratefully accepted.
(Usual house rules: only recommend sites which you know from experience
are of general use to a fair number of people. If recommending your own
site, try to back up the suggestion with some evidence from an unbiased
satisfied customer or two).
4.1.4 How can I find specific people?
There are many resources on the Net that can help you locate and even make
contact with specific people - famous or not, individuals or companies.
Whether they'll be of any use to you will depend on a number of factors,
not least geographical.
As with so much on the Internet, the vast majority of resources are devoted
to the USA. So there's little difficulty in finding directories and
databases with look-up or even reverse look-up facilities covering just
about every member of the US population, alive or dead.
(Particularly intriguing, in passing, is Ancestry.com
<http://ssdi.ancestry.com/> which among its useful resources for
genealogical research allows you to find the social security number and
other details of any dead American.... and then offers a facility to write
a letter! Do they know of some postal service that we don't?)
More wide-ranging are the directories of email addresses. However these
are far from all-inclusive, even assuming your target has an email address.
Some Internet Service Providers - such as CompuServe and AOL used to
provide a look-up service which included all subscribers (and probably
still do) but only for other subscribers, as I understand.
For the rest, directories such as BigFoot <http://www.bigfoot.com> rely on
finding email addresses of those who have web-pages or post regularly to
newsgroups. By no means does this include everybody. Expect to have to
try a number of sites before you find a lead.
In Urls For A Rainy Day - Section 9 - there are numerous search facilities.
9.3.4, 9.3.5 and 9.11.2 give a number of meta-search engines, people
searchers and reference sites which offer specific people-finding
databases. Particularly useful are those such as All-In-One
<http://www.allonesearch.com/> or Langenberg <http://www.langenberg.com/>
which have links to many different "people" sites on one page.
There are also databases devoted to certain types, eg: politicians (9.13.2).
Organisations are generally easier to find through a search engine. But
even then it is not always easy - especially if the organisation doesn't
have a web page of its own. However, David Brager tells of one very useful
site. If you know an organisation or individual's domain name (ie: the bit
of the web address before .com, .co.it or whatever) you can use it to find
all kinds of details, from contact e-mail and snail-mail addresses to phone
numbers at <http://www.vservers.com/before/dnscheck/>.
Whether looking for people or organisations, in difficult cases you may
need to try the more refined methods for finding information by using
Search Engines, or posting questions on Newsgroups or Mailing Lists (as
described in the FAQ section 4.2).
2. I must say I'm fairly jaundiced when it comes to metasearch engines, as
I seem to get notice of a new site almost every month, and most seem fairly
similar, so I didn't hold out much hope when I heard from the makers of
More fool me. Theinfo.com is not actually a metasearch engine at all, but
I suppose you'd call it a "multi-search" engine. When you enter your
search terms, it opens a window for each of the search sites individually.
Beware, this can be a bit overwhelming if you've selected all possible
Theinfo.com makes no attempt to combine search results, so you have to be
prepared for a fair bit of sifting, but that can be an advantage in some
cases, as different search engines rate sites in very different ways. So
this approach is useful for those more difficult searches, where your
search terms may be less easy to narrow down.
For example, I tried to find a site relating to the feature film "Go". Now
being both a verb and a game the word "Go" is likely to appear on a million
pages, even capitalised, so I wasn't surprised to find zilch on the first
attempt. I closed the myriad new search windows that theinfo.com had
opened (and selected a few less sites!) and tried "Go AND cinema". Some
metasearch engines have difficulties with search terms that use expressions
such as AND, OR, +, - etc. In this case, some of the sites used by
theinfo.com still came up with nothing useful, but others put the film "Go"
at the very top.
(Additional Note: If I'd looked carefully enough I'd also have noticed they
have a set of specialist search sites, including a category for "Movies".
There are ten specialist categories - good, but not as wide-ranging as the
23 in Search Spaniel <http://www.searchspaniel.com>.)
Theinfo.com doesn't pretend to be the only search engine you'll ever use.
Like any search source, you need to have the right kind of query. But most
of us tend to be lazy and stick with just a couple of search engines that
we are used to. One bonus that comes with using a multi-search engine like
theinfo.com or Search Spaniel is that you get a chance to discover new
engines you may never have seen before, and to catch up on the latest
advances of those you may not have touched for months (or even years!)
Thus it can be a quick way to test the strengths and weaknesses of
different search engines against each other.
There is even a page on the site that explains when it's useful to use
theinfo.com as opposed to other sites, an excellent feature I wish more
search engines would adopt: <http://www.theinfo.com/about/whyuse.html>
3. Liszt <http://www.liszt.com/> the directory of mailing lists have been
bought by Topica <http://www.topica.com> an even larger list of mailing
lists - and one which also helps people put mailing lists together,
subscribe, unsubscribe, read on-line and of course search for topics.
Both directory and search engine, it will not only locate useful mailing
lists for you, but allow you to search them for relevant messages and
It's attractively laid-out, easy to use and covers a myriad subjects, with
a list of links to other directories of lists, in case you can't find what
you want on-site. They'll even help you start a mailing list of your own
to cover your favourite search subject if you so wish!
4. If you're looking for specific pictures or sound, I hear more good
things about the search engine HotBot <http://www.hotbot.com> which
provides tick boxes to allow your search to include still images, video or
audio sound clips, or even shockwave animations. Said to be one of the
best MP3 search engines at the moment.
5. Finally: Want to find out more about urban legends and/or computer
viruses? Here's a couple more sites to debunk those myths and leave you
sleeping easier at night - with thanks to Khem who supplied them.
- DATAFELLOWS: one of the best sites for the latest on virus myths:
- MININGCO URBAN LEGENDS AND FOLKLORE: <http://urbanlegends.miningco.com/>
MORE NEW AND UP-DATED URLS
- ACRONYM FINDER - more than 89,000 general and specialised acronyms and
abbreviations in many languages, new web-address:
- ALL-IN-ONE - with a research link for dictionaries,thesaurus, maps,
telephone directories, etc.: <http://www.allonesearch.com/> new web-address
- ALTERNATIVE SCIENCE - a non-hysterical resource for starting research
into some of the less conventional reaches of science. Intelligent and
- CINEMEDIA - still growing, with over 5,000 sites devoted to actors as
well as links to over 700 magazines and journals, 800 film and video
festivals, and 400 TV networks and channels, new web-address:
- ROYAL MAIL - UK Postcode lookup: <http://www.royalmail.co.uk/>
Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite