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Results of User Comparison of Alta Vista and Webinator


+ "Interface more visually appealing than Webinator's. Context
information very helpful, esp.first few lines of text, URL, and
dateNumber of hits right up top where you can see them -- very useful
Help section" clear & well-written. 

- Natural language nice feature but would need to use some more to see
how well it works. Randomly appearing tips are a bit irritating. No
other major complaints; seems to work pretty well.

+ ""Show linkage"" feature was moderately useful. Same comment on
natural language as for Alta Vista. Proximity selector is nice feature.
Design of interface was fussy and visually distracting. Complex queries
look good on paper, but in practice I would not want to remember AND
type in all those extra characters--plus making the query more "comp!

- lex didn't seem to help the search all that much. View context and
similar to commands did not seem very useful. Would really like to see
URLs as withAlta Vista. Bar-graph rank indicator is too bright--
visually distracting. Did not like not being able t osee number of hits
without going to the very end. Did not understand why sometimes 50 hits
were returned and why sometimes many more.        


Neither product is perfect, but I find Alta Vista much easier to use.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


+ seemed to find what was needed without complex searches                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

- couldn't highlight and removea previous advanced search query, had to
delete characters one-by-one. Not sure if this is AltaVista or Netscape
Communicator PR3

+ liked the find links to this tool -- though wasn't helpful for
intended purpose                                                                         

- "seemed much slower than Alta Vista, didn't always display the number
of hits so I would have to go through each page to figure out the hits
for the survey, suspect speed problem was due to the numberof graphic
icons on the page (doing this from a 14.4 modem connection)

[no other comments]


+ url appears on first screen. Number of results given at top of page.

- slightly slower.  Screen of results is a little easier to read -maybe
because url not given.                                                                                                                                                                 

+ simple and advanced query on same page.  Option to show linkage.                                                                                                                                               

- I like to see URL on first screen.  It doesn't always give total
number of hits.                                                                                                                                       


May like Alta Vista better - but maybe only because it is familiar. 
Maybe I don't understand search engines - but I didn't feel the survey
helped me to form an opinion on the value of either one.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              


+ "I think I'm biased because AltaVista is the engine I use all the time
-- I'm usedto what it might return, and know a few tricks. it sure is
faster when just searching the Pennnetwork, though! :) I like that
AltaVista shows you all the possible pages at the bottom, so you can
quick-jumpto a laterpage if you should want to.       

- Because it references _all_ words in all documents, you get a ton of
returns, and sometimes have to sift through a bunch of them. I had to
use the terms you gave me to search for, so that was a little

+ "I liked that you can use such detailed search strings. but I'm not
sure that the ""normal"" user would take advantage of them, since they
are not very intuitive --ie, not very much like English. 
- I could not tell fromthe results page exactly how many hits were
returned --this is probably my ignorance of the engine. I didn't wantto
follow page by page to figure it out because AltaVista found some 2000
hits in the same searches.

"Began testing at 3:51pm, TuesdayApril 29. 
Altavista. I only said ""fair"" to results of searching for ""history""
with Altavista becausethe first 15 results pointed to PennLibrary
documents. but I may have made my"" search more specific the first time
if I was searching for a seminar. I probablywould have searched for
""Writing About History"" in quotes. I said ""no"" to the question ""Are
you closerto the information you"" need ornot?"" (number 6, ""writing
NEAR history"") because the first relevent link (which was from the
April calendar of events) was 15th in the ranking. I received only one
hit for ""writing about history, but it was a good one: the History
Course Register for 1997 --which lists the course, and links to the
Course and Room Roster and the CourseTimetable. Also, the simple query
gave me the same result (I used the simple version first by mistake). I
said ""No"" to ""Are you closerto theinformation you needor not"" in
number6 of Part II, becausethe first page of hits were all documents
from theGartner Group, about directions incomputing -- I got better
results with the natural language query and with just the "U.S.
Robotics" quoted search. 

Webinator. "Number of hits": I could not tell from the results page
exactly how many were returned -- this may be my ignorance. I didn't
want to follow page by pageto figure it out because AltaVista foundsome
2000 hits for those samesearches. Part II, number 1: I went backto using
""rank"" for proximity, though it wasn't specified. Went back and did
the same searches using ""one word"" justin case; search times were 1/2
to one second longer, and with fewer results (1 versusthe 11 I received
fornumber 3, for example) -- but those results were better. Part II,
Number 4: first two pages were all lists of supported products, and old
essays from PennPrintout-- but the third page gave me alist of Vendor
support lines! Part III, number 2: the detailed context available by
button is very helpful--I especially like that you canfind othe
rdocuments that point to the one theengine found. But I would like to
have the URL listed. Part III, number 3: the results of hitting the
""<-"" button would be helpful perhaps if I was looking for info on grad
research in a specific department, but I don't see any documents in my
first page of results that match the stuff I gotwith Alta Vista.


+ "It takes advanced queries VERY also handles all of my queries
super-fast, something which I think is important.                                                                                     

- "fast and dirty"" searches (like just typing history"") return an
unmanageable number of hits.  as an advanced user, I personally know
better, but others might not and could be daunted.

+ "Its pretty fast.  After some coaxing, it returned relevent links for
my queries.
- "the different search""categories"" are completely opaque; how will a
user be able to tell them apart?  (Alta Vista's advanced screen is much
clearer.)  Also,the =, <-, and magnifying glass buttons on the side of
each hit are also confusing. they annoyed me.  I also don't like a
search engine that doesn't show you URLs for each hit. I like to
actually SEE where its searching, and for this it wasn't clear. 

I think that Webinator is better than what we currently have (almost
anything is) but AltaVista is clearly better. I think that you would do
well to customize the AltaVista interface a little bit -- maybe offer a
few search fields (the user fills in as much or as little as he/she
wants) and then the form output passes through Alta Vista's Advanced
query engine?  I canelaborate, if need be (                                                                                                                                                                                            


+ easy to use - + tagging terms and listing of # of hits useful.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

- nothing offputting 

+ "View context feature,speed. Potential for very precise searches.
Appeared more focused than Altavista, but this could an artifact of
limited hits.

- Doesn't display # of hits or URLs Search seemed to be limited to 50
hits.  Was this intentional? Search commands cumbersome, nonintuitive                                                                   

"Altavista probably better suited to the casual user, with option of
simple or advanced searches. Context search feature of Webinator
enormously helpful in interpreting hits.


+ "Few keystrokes, fast maneuvering, rarely needed to go beyond first 10
hits to determine if query was successful or not.                                                                                    

- "Wish the two search modes were combined, not so modal.  Also had to
search by hand forthe context, sometimes quite confusingly.

+ "I like the context button, though a drawback is that if the web page
had hot spots it blends the original spots and the context spots.  The
searching seems more powerful, even though I haven't masteredit" yet.  

- "Many more keystrokes to move from entry to entry (using Lynx). It
doesn't (consistently) give you thenumber of hits, and the number is
shown at the bottom of the first hit list, several screens down.

"I am more experienced on AltaVista.  That said, I like the
possibilities of searches with webinator, though the test didn't
exercise them all (set searches? more with the proximity and comparisons
of the various settings). If most Penn folks know AltaVista more, it
might be more intuitive.  On theother hand, Webinator feels more like
Franklin's search engine, with the similar power.                      


+ Detailed URL information                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
- Lack of rank-ordering or degree of confidence capability

+ Link references and similarity search; rank-ordering scales                                                                                                                                                     
- Arcane operators used to specify certain search terms; no URLs

"Alta Vista's search-refinement tools are easier to understand.  If
these were combined with Webinator's view optiions, you'd have the
perfect engine.                                                    


+ "Speed, ease of use.                                                                                                                                                                                     
- Too many hits. Interface is graphically busy.

+ The graphical icons are great and offer significant fuctionality
additions. Simple interface. Good results the few times it worked.
- It didn't work most of the time. The query timed out after only15
seconds and I never got a result for most of the queries.                                                                                       

"I really like Webinator's *potential* functionality, but it rarely
worked.  Alta Vista always worked though its search al


+ speed, listed # hits at top, explicitly showed urls                                                                                                                                                      

- [none]


+ [none]

- instability, queries cancelled because query time exceeded, screen
with returned items had idiosyncratic icons when numbers and phrases
would have been self-explanatory, slower

1. In addition to the summaryevaluation, I would have liked to rate each
of the listed criteria for each product. 2. The comparison was
complicated because Webinator kept timing out, and it seemed more
finicky about syntax of search entries - for example "+writing+history"
returned nothing, whereas 
"+writing +history" returned a bunch.                                                                  


+ Speed on this test was good...but previous searches on Alta Vista have
sometimes been lethargic

- fewer hits ?

+ Ability to branch off to ""similar"" Speed is good with both                                                                                                                                                

-""Exceed Query Time""???? I don't understand this.

Hard call. Speed appears equal. Results similar. I do like that
""similar"" option in Webinator                                                                                                            


+ The fact that there were 2 interfaces available to beginners and
experienced users.  I also liked the 'tips' under the text box after
each search with helpful advice.
- The display was 'ordinary' compared tothe feature of Webinator                                                                                                                                                                                             

+ The variety of options to allow you tonarrow down your search.                                                                                                                                                 

- It was not a very 'user-friendly' interface.  Needs helps text maybe a
tutorial added.
[no other comments]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      


+ It was wicked fast!! It alsoseemed to return much more precise and
accurate (interms of what I expected) results than did Webinator.
- It did not include some of thefeatures I liked in Webinator,
especially the related documents features. Also, the Advanced search was
not as intuitive as the equivalent searches in Webinator.

+ There were a lot of ways to search and it was fairly intuitive to use.                                                                                                                                           

- It was a tad slow.  It didn't search outside of Penn.                                                                                                                                                              

"Overall, I'd say that Alta Vista was the best.  It combined the
easy-to-use simple interface with power, accuracy,and incredible speed.
Most importantly, I was able to quickly and easily find what I was
looking for.  Webinator required a bit more tuning to find what I was
searching for.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           


+ speed of results of search 
- nothing                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

+ nothing  
- slow speed not as intuitive as far as search criteria.  ie what is
'proximity'? what is 'word forms'?                                                                                                                 

overall I prefer AltaVista.I'll take speed any day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


+ "Choice of mandatory and forbidden terms, limiting dates                                                                                                                                                 
- Nothing negative                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

+ Viewing in Context button is very helpful                                                                                                                                                                     

- Date searching technique cumbersome                                                                                                                                                                               

Alta Vista probably more intuitive for first-timers, but Webinator seems
to have more promise for locating things precisely from the git-go.


+ Very fast                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

- Not very precise. different screen for advanced searching

+ automatic fuzzy searching when no matches found by traditional
techniques -- impressive                                                                                                                         

- noticably slower                                                                                                                                                                                                    

I definitely preferred Webinator and hadn't expected to.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              


+ Familiar interface gives me confidence                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

- zillions of listings                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

+ seemed to zero in better withless extraneous material                                                                                                                                                          

- unfamiliar interfacemakes mewonder about its dependability                                                                                                                                                          

Strangely enough, even though it appears that Webinator may actually do
a better job of zeroing in on materials, I still like Alta Vista better,
partially out of brand loyalty, but also because I like to have zillions
of things put in front of me so that I can do the work of looking for
materials -- it gives me the sense that *I* am in charge, and that the
big-brother aspects of information retrieval are lessened, even though I
get deluged with extraneous materials.  But I have been using AltaVista
for a long time and am very comfortable guiding my way through the
morass of materials it produces. My major comment would be that whatever
we choose, there should be a significant effort to teach people -- very
easily! -- howto use the variables and operating terms ( ~, +, etc) in
order to get the real power out of these systems.  Of course, a really
great interface makes that happen automatically, but I don't feel that
either of these have completely done that.  Whichever we choose should
be accompanied by a genuinely useful guide to cutting through clutter.
On your specific concerns:  no significant difference in speed, and I
did this in the middle of the day on a monday.  Overall power and
richness:  can those operating terms in Webinator get replicated in Alta
Vista?  If not, then it mightbe the more powerful system. Number of
steps:  did not seem very significant difference to me.  Default
interface:  easier on AltaVista than Webinator.  Search results:  always
come up rosy with an experienced operator; hence, the simplest most
powerful interface wins, in situations where you can not count on most
(ie, the most casual) users to invest the time to learn how to do
focussed searches.


+ Helpful, showed http addresses.  Easy to use (at least the simple

- kinda vauge.  did notcome close on the first couple of tries                                                                                                                                                                                               

+ good in that it had numerous ways to find what you wanted
- I concider myself knowledgible about computers and yet I feel that it
would take me forever to figure out how to use all of the options that
webinator had.  Also, it seems that with all of the codes you have to
put in to find what you want, it would not be user friendly except in an
advanced group of computer users.                                                                                   

"Well, if I had to chose, I would chose Alta Vista.  It was easier to
use and was overall faster.  Goodluck.                                                                                               


+ It was familiar not only because we have used it at Penn but
alsobecuase it 
"felt"" more like other search engines.                                                                                      
- I feel like it took longer to get to the pages that contained required
results and there were many more unrelated pages found. Although, did I
notice it was operating on the entire PennWeb rather than the fewer
areas indexed for Webinator.entire PennWeb?    

+ It found the required page sooner.  I like the icons to get extrainfo
about the links and related pages. I think it has more options to enter
search criteria.                                                     

- It doesn't show the title URL on the first screen.                                                                                                                                                             


Before participatingin this study, I""played"" with the search engines
at Yale and Columbia.I had much better luck finding what I was looking
for at Columbia than at Yale - perhaps it was more to do with the""
nature of their pages than with the search engines.  In both cases, I
did betterfinding what I wanted by simply picking links startingat their
homepages. I guess a well-organized website is as good as any search


Additional thought - Webinator does not display the number of hits from
a search upfront: can't tell how many hits you have until you scroll
down the display, and then, if it's > 10, you still don't know how many
are lurking.                                                               


+ feedback on the number of hits, inclusions of URLs in output, speed,
lynx view is a good approximation of the gui interface                                                                               
- search options were not at extensive as Webinator                                                                                                                                                                                                          

+ the search options were helpful and comprehensive                                                                                                                                                             
- lynx view of results,the lack of info on the number of hits                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


[no other comments]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           


+ Simple searches -- especially" " searches -- produce accurate results.                                                                                                                                  
- Too many responses.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

+ Flexibility of advanced searches.                                                                                                                                                                              

- Results of simple searches are not very accurate.                                                                                                                                                                

For the general user,I thinkAlta Vista will be most functional because
it handles simple searches more efficiently.  A non-technical person is
going to have trouble with the more advanced features of ""Webinator,
though those will help researchers more than Alta Vista.                                                                                                                                     


+ fast, no need to use complicated syntax, tips, size, date                                                                                                                                                 
- can't look at documents with hit words highlighted you don't know how
many keywords each document matches

+ fast, context available with highlighted hits                                                                                                                                                           

- you don't know how many keywords eachdocumentmatches. complicated
search language, didn't always tell you how many documents matched                                                                      

[no other comments]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      


+ the display of the URLs and the way it is possible to specify dates                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

- [none]


+ [none]

- [none]

I have a fair amountof experience with Alta Vista and am probably biased
by my familiarity with it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               


+ The speed. Also, displaying the URLs is nice.                                                                                                                                                           

- It returned too many documents.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             


+ The buttons which show you the context and related pages.                                                                                                                                                        
- It doesn't show URLs                                                                                                                                                                                              

Overall, I liked Webinator better personally. But I think the fact that
it can't search outside of Penn would make Alta Vista the better choice
for the average Penn user.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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