As many of you know, I'm fairly jaded when it comes to reviewing stuff - looking at hundreds of sites a week, and seeing basically the same concept repeated over and over does result in a jaundiced approach. However, now and then, I come across something which actually rates highly on the "wow OMG" stakes. One such is a thing called Boounce. Yes, I think it's a stupid name too, but let's move on past that. As one of its major goals Boounce wants to reclaim forgotten search engines, and just for that alone it's worth mentioning. However, this is one of those times when I think someone might just be able to do it.
And there's more! Boounce is intelligent enough to realise that you don't want to see the same results over and over, so it can hide duplicate results as you Boounce between Google and Bing.
We're all familiar (or at least I hope that we are) with multi search engines such as Browsys, Trovando, TurboScout and the rest. That is to say - a search engine that gives you plenty of other options when you get there. The trouble is of course in remembering to go there in the first place. This is where Boounce comes into play, because it's not a search engine as such, it's a Firefox/Chrome addon. Don't be put off in their homepage documentation which talks about downloading stuff - it's just a straightforward browser addition, nothing else. I think they should change it however, because my general response these days is that I'm not interested in something if I actually have to download it! When you add the app you get a search box that looks rather like this:
All fairly straightforward really - you whack in your search term and then choose one of the options that are available for you - Google and Bing are the default options that you can't do anything about, but then you have a host of other options, add the icons/search engine options above are (left to right) Blekko, Duckduckgo, WolframAlpha, Wikipedia, Ask (note to UK users, this goes to .com not the .co.uk version, which I regard as a plus), Lycos, Snap, Answers and Exalead. Simply choose the one that you want to run your search, and off you go. If you get fed up seeing it on the screen it's a mouseclick toggle to get it gone and then back again.
You'll get taken to the search engine results page (SERPs) and you can browse through as you need to. At the bottom of some search engine pages (mainly Google, Bing, Ask although there may be others) you'll see a new bunch of options:
You can click on any of the icons and jump straight off to their search engines as well. I've not been able to make it work with my setup at the moment, but their tech folk - who were *very* quick off the mark today (sunday!) got back to me immediately and are looking at it.
So - why exactly is this a big deal? The main point is that you have a range of search engines staring you straight in the face - you don't have to remember to go to Browsys et al. Second big deal - it's fast. You don't find what you want, click on another icon and redo the search in no time. Third big deal - you get to the bottom of the Google/Bing first SERP and instead of going straight onto their second best guesses, you're reminded that if they can't do the job for you, someone else may just be able to.
Quite nifty so far, but we haven't even started. If you click on the Search option, you get a nice pulldown menu, thus:
Now, each of those options takes you into more options. Don't worry, we're going straight to clickhell in a handbasket - it's really simple to use. Let's try the next option down, Images. This is what we get:
Clicking on the first option of image search engines gives us this:
Google and Bing options as per usual, but then Google and Bing images (the same icons is a tad confusing, but if they're working off Favicons, not much they can do about it), Icerocket, Picsearch, Exalead images, Yahoo images, Yippy, Pixsy and Kalooga. Again it's a simple job to flick from one set of results to another. But to stress the point those 9 image engines were just those for image search. There was also live photo sharing, clip art, stock images, icons and vector graphics. In total that's access to 38 different engines. You can click on each of the search engines individually, or you can do what they call a 'double boounce', which is a double click, loading tabs from all search engines, and you can visit the faster search engines first, and slowly make your way to those which take longer - a neat way of saving time. You can also then close the extra tabs that you don't need.
We therefore have access to 22 different subject areas from general search to images, to shopping, health, programming, travel, weather and so on. And within each of those we have subdivisions, and then within each of those, different search engines. If you want to see a collection of the search engines that Boounce is currently using, you see it in a tag cloud and also a list of their 'most Boounced sites' (on the same page as previous link). This is where we can really start to play with this resource. You may well say 'that's great, but I'm not interested in the 'Food' category. Simple, click on it, the 'Delete' option becomes valid and you can just click and drag the unwanted category to the bin and have done with it:
For those of you who are sharp eyed you'll also see that there's a 'New Group' option over to the left, so if you've dumped the Food option, but want to add something else, it's very easy. Simply click on the option, add in the new name for your group such as 'Librarianship' and you're done. A new group, and if you don't like the positioning, simply click and drag it to the place you want it to go.
So there's our new group! Now, that's all well and good, but to be honest, there's not that many librarianship search engines around out there, but this is the point where I really do hope that you'll go 'wow' because it doesn't matter. Go to a site that has a search engine - CILIP obviously, or the ALA, or anything else you like and right mouseclick in the search box. In the list of options that comes up (and yours will differ from mine obviously) there's an option to 'Add to Boounce'.
It's a little bit dull, because Boounce doesn't always seem to pick up on favicons, and if a site doesn't have one, it goes with a default. So, if you want a quick and really easy way to search a favourite website, directly from the browser bar, you've got one. This doesn't always work - I've been talking to one of the developers and there are a few ifs and buts, partly due to some engines only working if you're signed in and so on.
OK, now let's go for a bit more jaw dropping. Let's say that you're really into search engines and such like, and you've created your own using something like Google custom search. You'll already know how valuable those things can be, but you can also include those in your Boounce options. It's not quite as straightforward as I'd hoped, since the base URL for Google and Google custom search engines is the same, and Boounce doesn't see a difference. Consequently what you have to do is to create your Google custom search engine, save it, and then import the HTML script onto a webpage that you have access to. Then you simply create your new group (or add the custom search engine to an existing one) and add the engine in the manner previously described. If you have a favicon, so much the better. I wanted to include my own Web 2.0 custom search engine into the Boounce family and it was a doddle. Here's the result, and for good measure I moved the position from extreme right to a more 'important' placing.
So what Boounce gives you is the opportunity to create a whole host of search engines yourself. Furthermore, if you work in conjunction with Google CSE you're giving yourself a huge amount of functionality, directly from the browser.
It is possible to log into Boounce and register. There is a community option, with members uploading collections of engines that they have created. This would in my opinion be a really good opportunity for specialist librarians and libraries to create collections, upload them and make the available for other people to use. These could then be included on browsers across the world, and what a fine thing that would be. You can also create your own Themes, and as you organise Boounce by adding sites and groups you can save your changes to another theme. Again, can see a lot of value here, by creating search engines and sites for different groups of users , by interest or age range for example, and customising the offering. There's also a Groups option which is similar, but due to an error message I've not explored that yet.
There are lots of things that I'd like to see it do - some basic engines are missing (Silobreaker wasn't in the news section for example) but that's the whole point of being able to add your own quickly and easily - and also why information professionals should get down and dirty with the service. I also find that the default set of search engines changes depending on the site that you're on (if I go to the CILIP site for example, the default suddenly becomes my Librarians group) and I can see exactly what that happens and why it's useful. However - it's irritating for a beginner, and especially when you want to add a search engine to different groups. I'm told that there will be an option in a future update however. I've also noticed a few bugs, but that's to be expected, but the point to make here is that they really seem on top of this - I spend quite a lot of Sunday evening talking to one of their staff, who was keen to do as much as possible to help. I really want/hope to be able to see full implementation of the application so that I can see it on any machine that I use and across all browsers. I'm trusting that isn't far off!
I'm really quite buzzed about this particular product - I've already used it a lot this evening just in general work, and I think it could save you huge amounts of time, and even 'straight out of the tin' you're going to be more effective and efficient using it. Harness that to the social element and we can all help each other. Just pray that Google doesn't buy them or we'll never see it again. Please do take a look at it, if nothing else, take a quick look through the videos.