Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Google Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools by Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest, with a foreword by the Google Engineering Team. O'Reilly & Associates Inc., 2003.
It is unlikely to find someone who isn't already familiar with the brand Google. It may be that most people are less familiar with the names of Google Hack's authors. Tara Calishain is responsible for www.researchbuzz.com, and Rael Dornfest is a researcher at publisher O'Reilly & Associates. Their new book, on what is arguably the best search engine, is timely for those of us with patrons grown adept at self-service Internet research.
Calishain and Dornfest present "100 industrial-strength tips and tools" to unearth the gems hidden within the Google mine. The book is neatly organized into eight chapters with about a dozen or so tips in each chapter.
The Google Toolbar comes as an interesting tip listed in the first chapter. I've had trouble with various "helper" toolbars I've downloaded onto my PC -- including the Google Toolbar. Computer technicians have told me they discourage users from souping up their machines with these add-ons. As I've found out several times, they can compromise the integrity of your Internet browser, and furthermore, I've had little luck figuring out a work-around. For me, the toolbar's only real value lies in it being ever-present in my browser window.
Another chapter focuses on Google's so-called special services and collections. These include Google News, Froogle (as in frugal Google, for us Blue Light shoppers), and Google Labs. As the authors point out, "each data collection has its own unique special syntaxes." You could easily debate the advantages and disadvantages of this scenario, but I would have assumed (before reading this book) that Google applied a one-size-fits-all approach to its syntax application across all its services.
Chapter five centers on the Google Web API (application programming interface). "If you've always wanted to learn Perl, but never knew what to 'do with it,' this is your section," according to the authors. I list this chapter as a highlight, because I imagine many of us try to maintain at least a minimal level of awareness of library-related technologies.
Another noteworthy chapter focuses on Google pranks and games, which makes for lighter reading after the API sections.
Google Hacks follows in the O'Reilly tradition of being a compact book with reader-friendly design. Thermometer icons, for example, are used to indicate the relative complexity of the 100 hacks detailed in the book.
Calishain and Dornfest have done a good job, in the words of a library school professor of mine, at looking under the hood and noodling around inside the engine called Google. This book would be well worth the list price of US $24.95, but as with most publications in this field, you need to buy it soon after it's released, or you're better off looking for a revised edition to be truly on top of things.
For more information on "Google Hacks," point your browser to http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/googlehks/.