I always like exploring new search engines and came across Blekko, a platform founded in 2007, which is now in open beta. You do have to register to use Blekko, but it’s free.
The technology (or what are my powers?)
Blekko’s proclaimed mission is to allow you to “slash the web” to reduce the number of search results you get that you personally consider spam. It does this by allowing you to focus a search on websites that you (or others you follow) have collected and organized using slashtags.
The video below gives you an overview of how it’s done.
In addition to slashtags you create, you can use the built-in slashtags provided on the site to filter searches. For example, some useful ones include /date, /twitter, /flickr, /youtube. There are also some handy shortcut slashtags; for example, adding “/view” before a slashtag allows you to view the website list associated with that slashtag.
An interesting feature of Blekko is the ability to flag search results as spam based on your own personal criteria. This will remove Web sites you’ve identified as spam from any future search you do (no matter what the context). Blekko keeps a list of the sites you’ve flagged as spam so you can reinstate them if you change your mind later.
For more information on using Blekko, you can read their FAQ page.
The Next Web has reviewed some of the differences that you might observe when comparing Blekko to different commonly used search engines.
A shortcut to searching your favorite collections
You can use Blekko to perform focused searches of a collection of urls when you’re fairly confident of the “best of” Web sites relating to a topic. However, creating a good list of urls on which to base a slashtag is a critical feature of getting the most out of Blekko and this takes time (though you can invite co-editors to help you in this process). Additionally, to make your searches robust you should be continually updating the urls that form the basis of your slashtag. This task is aided by the “tag” feature you’ll find associated with each search result.
Of course, if you rely on slashtags completely, you may miss some of the best information on the Web simply because it’s not in your list of sites.
Culling information for inexperienced internet searchers
Blekko can be a way to help people who are not particularly good at evaluating the credibility of internet sites. For example, you can create a /health slashtag to restrict searches to urls representing Web sites you consider reliable and a good source of information. People can then follow this slashtag and adding it to their keywords will allow them to search through Web sites that you’ve already vetted for overall quality. (There’s a Blekko/health slashtag already created and it’s actually quite good at getting rid of most of the sponsored ads and junk associated with many health searches, though I’d probably want to copy the links and add my own favorite sites to create my own health slashtag.)
As an instructor though, I’d say this is a stopgap approach; doing this doesn’t teach someone how to evaluate the credibility of a health information Web site, it just temporarily eliminates their learning need.
Some final thoughts
When it’s critical to find the best search results or to get the broadest search perspective, it’s my philosophy never to rely on a single search engine. Blekko’s one more tool to add to the arsenal. In cases where I consider my own collection of urls supporting a slashtag to be pretty good (e.g., my healthliteracy slashtag), I could see using Blekko as a complimentary search engine. Right now, I’m just not that confident in its basic search capabilities to make it a primary search engine and I’m not entirely convinced it’s worth the time to develop personal slashtags. Then again, it is in beta, and I know I haven’t digested all the nuances of the tool so I may revise my opinion. I probably will continue to visit and explore Blekko.
Additional search engines
Some other posts on search engines you might be interested in:
- Keeping your eye on the search
- Expand your search with new search engines
- PLN’s for health care professionals