New UK-focussed contributor finding search engine

So after yesterday’s experiment with search engines, here’s another:

The Public UK search Engine

Contributors are, as every good journalist knows, the lifeblood of all good journalism.

Just sit and ponder how difficult it can be to find contributors beyond your immediate pool of friends, friends of friends and so on to the nth degree.

The above search engine is intended to help journalists get in touch with people who post their opinions and experiences across the social web.

It allows you to search within discussions in the following sites:

  • Friendfeed
  • Myspace groups (and forums)
  • Facebook groups (and topics)
  • Knowhere boards
  • mumsnet talk
  • Twitter
  • digitalspy
  • Channel4 forums
  • thestudentroom
  • Yahoo messages, and
  • Google Groups.

A big problem with finding the entries people have posted in forums via the major search engines is that each entry (or page full of entries) will come second to all the commercial sites out there who have beefed up their SEO.

Message boards don’t, by their nature, require a good Google ranking in order for people to get the best out of them – in order for them to function as they should. So they will never compare favourably with commercial alternatives.

Most (if not all) require accounts – but if you’re taking this seriously, you should be halfway there to sorting this out already.

A quick note on exceptions – I’ve not included the BBC, Telegraph and Guardian opinion sections because despite each having developed pretty strong communities (and as such all are are good pulls for opinion/experience on big themes), it’s not possible to contact their contributors directly, so they’re of no use here.

Forums being forums, there is the odd newspaper article posted here and there which will distort results, but these can easily be circumvented.

Now: search tips.

Approach the engine using fragments of speech you’d expect to find on the pages you’re looking for.

Here’s a few (random) examples.

Say you want to find someone who has had problems with their bank account, try:

Say you want to find someone who has experienced cancer first hand, try:

Say you want to find someone opposed to (or in favour of) badger culling:

Say you want to find someone who worked at Lehman Brothers:

For those of you working in the regions, try throwing a place name in conjunction with your keyword.

Like romford disabled, or Norwich busses, or dundee schools.

It’s by no means a perfect engine: it will not take anything too specific in terms of phrase searching, and it’s not all specific to the UK (that’s not possible with Facebook, Friendfeed etc. sadly).

But having done a number of searches in it now, I’ve found its much better than straight-searching Google for this content, and much quicker than going through each forum one by one.

As per my advice with all sources of this nature, don’t go assuming because someone says they do or think something that they aren’t up to mischief. That remains a serious editorial consideration to bear in mind for all web 2.0 technologies.

As per the usual – if you have any suggestions…

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