Web hides as much as it reveals

Users, overwhelmed but feeling underfed by the information flow from Internet search engines still miss the weight of data on the "invisible Web", according to those in the know.

Chris Sherman, from SearchDay and www.searchenginewatch.com, said IT professionals who want high-quality information, need to be aware of and use information available on the "invisible Web".

Sherman, speaking at the Australian Information Online Conference and Exhibition in Sydney recently, said many people are not even aware that most of the information available on the Web is invisible to search engines, which is not a technical problem, but a business decision not to include certain information.

He said Internet users need to be aware that the invisible Web exists, "and that you can't just fire up google.com to find what you require. You almost have to become a detective and work out where the most logical place where information might be".

Bates Information Services principal Mary Ellen Bates said IT professionals and chief information officers (CIOs) "tend to be focused on providing and maintaining software and hardware, and are unaware of content providers". But, she said, stronger relationships with librarians could assist them to tap the deeper resources of the Web.

"One big problem is that government agencies and analysts use internal information available through the intranet within the agency to get information, but forget a lot of information is available on the outside," Bates said.

When searching the Internet, she said it is easy for users to feel overwhelmed but underfed, with a lot of information surfacing from a search engines that may not be the most appropriate information required.

"There are lots of newsletters that never make content available on the Web, and there are huge commercial databases full of information that doesn't appear on the Web or show up in searches. Databases such as Factiva.com and Dialogueweb.com are where users can conduct fee-based searches and librarians usually have access to this," Bates said.

Sherman said, "There is product information for CIOs where they can compare different systems and hardware, as well as competitive intelligence information. Anything that people are finding in search engines, multiply that by two to 10 and that's what is really available but hidden."

Sherman said the National Library of Australia is undertaking a new Internet-related initiative, and is a "great example of a gigantic good model of IT departments that have to support customers, and is well organised, with reliable information and fairly cost-effective with a fairly rapid turn around".

He said some IT managers ensure that their organisation's Web presence is up-to-date and that they are savvy about the information they use, and not giving away information to competitors.

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