December 17, 2006

Mousetrap - 83

Search isn’t just about the top search engines. This week, a few unusual ways to find information you need.

Say that again?
howjsay
Finding word meanings is easy. Examples of usage, ditto. But English, with its various roots and influences and inconsistent spelling can be a right pain in the posterior when it comes to figuring out how to pronounce a word you’ve never heard used. Yes, dictionaries do give you all those wîrd letters and āk'sěnt's and strěs'is, but aside from students of phonetics, most of us don’t know our schwas from our elbows. HowJSay offers you words close to whatever you typed, and when you mouse-over the one you want, a real human voice—not a synthesiser—says the word for you. Encyclopaedic in its word list it is not (it has 34273 as of this writing), but you will find most commonly used words there. And if you don’t, chances are it will be soon: “unsuccessful searches are automatically considered for inclusion.” It’s child safe; the webmaster promises that profane language and erotica are not included.

Looks like..
Like Visual Search
You know how it is; you remember what something looks like, but you’d be damned if you could actually describe it in words. At least not words that a search engine could use to give you a relevant page. This new(ish) search utility won’t help you with all search. It focuses on e-shopping, serving up—for now—handbags, jewellery, shoes, and watches, with clothing and other “aesthetically oriented product categories” on the way. My wardrobe demonstrates that I have no aesthetic sense whatsoever, so I’ll just tell you that they offer you the ability to search for stuff by category, or as worn by celebs (through a bunch of Getty Images pictures, it looks like), or via a specific feature you like (that zipper on Paris’s.. never mind), and for colour variations. Coming up: you can upload a picture of your own and look for similar stuff. Go take a (ahem) look.

This comes recommended
This One Next
Search for books, music and movies based on stuff you like. It bases its recommendations on collective taste. Which means, for instance, that if some of the books you like appear on someone else’s list, chances are that you’ll like other books on that list. Rather like the way we seek recommendations from pals whose tastes we share. To get a quick reco, simply hit the home page and type in a title. To get more out of the site, you’ll need to register, so that you can save lists and get better results. You can choose to search just for books, for DVDs or for CDs, or via the main page, for all three.


Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to http://o3.indiatimes.com/mousetrap for past columns, and to comment, or mail inthemousetrap@indiatimes.com. The writer blogs at http://zigzackly.blogspot.com.

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 17th December, 2006.

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