'Find Engine' Asks: What's the Buzz?

SAN FRANCISCO (06/30/2000) - Navigating the ever-growing Web efficiently means knowing what tools--search engines, applications, and utilities--can help you get the job done. Buzz Notes, a simple Web utility now in public beta, does just that without invading your privacy.

A self-proclaimed "find engine," Buzz Notes promises to help you find, store, and retrieve information of personal interest. It evaluates Web sites to produce relevant recommendations for you without using cookies or tracking any personally identifiable information.

Although it doesn't require you to download any software, you must register for the free service. Required fields include name, zip code, gender, age range, and country. Your e-mail address is optional.

Personalized Buzz Page

The first time you log on, you'll see a personalized Buzz page listing recommended sites, based on your registration data.

For example, the top recommendations for a female between the ages of 27 and 34 living in the 94114 area code of San Francisco included two health sites, an e-commerce athletic shoes site, Swoon (an online amalgamation of GQ, Elle, and Mademoiselle magazines), and Napster, the MP3 file download site.

Additional recommendations are made in 17 subject categories, such as arts, news, world, society, shopping, and science. Each category contains several more-specific subcategories. Recommendations change as you use Buzz Notes.

To go to a site, you click a recommended link or type the URL into the Buzz Notes search field. Buzz Notes automatically shrinks down into a toolbar resting at the bottom of the screen. One toolbar feature is the rating system:

You can give a site a poor, okay, or good rating. Buzz Notes tracks your ratings and makes new recommendations, or deletes existing recommendations, based on your preferences.

The Notebook feature acts much the same way as Favorites do in Internet Explorer: When you see a site you like, you can add it to your Notebook for easy access. By placing links in the Notebook, you're letting Buzz Notes know what kinds of sites you find most useful.

Once you're logged in, you have to remember to use the Buzz Notes search field rather than your browser's; otherwise the toolbar disappears and you're effectively logged out. The same thing happens if you go to a site via your browser's Bookmarks or Favorites list.

I like the idea of a search tool that helps me find specifics without invading my privacy. However, the Buzz Notes beta still has a few glitches that need working out. For example, the Back button on the Buzz Notes toolbar indicates that you'll be able to jump directly back to your personal Buzz page. When I used it, it just took me back to the previous Web page.

There's also no apparent way to access the Notebook from the toolbar; instead, you have to go back to your personal page. The same is true if you want to access your recommendations.

Despite those drawbacks, I found Buzz Notes relatively useful. The trick is to stick with it over a period of time, because the more you use Buzz Notes, the better it can make more-precise recommendations.

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