Exalead & Google
I've been experimenting with a new search engine, Exalead. (They say you're supposed to use one engine for a while to learn it well, then switch to another.) I like the way it brings up related terms and other search options next to the results list, and the preview thumbnail is a nice feature. But I'm bemused by some of its search results. I like to do the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle and when I get stuck, I use the Internet to find the answers. I'm not proud. Last Sunday, one of the clues was "Italian librettist Gaetano." It was 5 letters and started with R. A search on Exalead found links to Donizetti and Berenstadt. When I did the same search on Google, there was Gaetano Rossi, at number 1 on the hit parade.
Recently I've learned that, as long as I'm logged into one of its services such as Gmail or GoogleReader, Google keeps track of my searches and web browsing. Eventually, it will tailor its search engine results to reflect more closely the kinds of things I'm interested in, based on what I've searched for previously. I'm OK with this, really. Google doesn't know that it's me or have any identifiable information about me. By allowing them to monitor my activities in this way, I can get more relevant information delivered to me. The trick is to log out of Googleland when I'm doing a search for a patron, so my preferences don't influence what I find for them.