When Short-Term Memory Isn't Enough

By Bates, Mary Ellen | Online, July-August 2006 | Go to article overview

When Short-Term Memory Isn't Enough


Bates, Mary Ellen, Online


As I write this, there is much Sturm und Drang over the fact that several telecom companies gave out records of telephone calls to the National Security Agency. And the Transportation Security Agency has started offering its Registered Traveler program, through which frequent travelers can undergo a background check and a fingerprint and iris scan to clear airport security more quickly.

While I'm reluctant to disclose that kind of information, I'm embracing the search engine equivalent of the Registered Traveler program. Yes, I could get worked up about the fact that search engines "know" what I'm searching. But they can also help me find the sites I found 2 weeks ago and can't for the life of me remember.

Right now, I'm using Google's Search History [www. google.com/searchhistory], Ask.com's Saved Results [http:// mystuff.ask.com], and A9.com's Diary [http://a9.com]. This means that Google, Ask.com, and Amazon.com have records on their servers of what search words I typed in and to which Web pages I clicked through. If that gives you the willies, then these services are not for you. If, on the other hand, you appreciate being able to retrace your search steps, organize saved pages in a single place, and access your bookmarks and search history from any Web connection, read on.

First, note that Google, Ask.com, and A9 are not the only players in the search history game; they're just the ones that I find most useful, for different reasons, and are the search engines I use most frequently. If you are accustomed to searching with Yahoo!, try its My Web 2.0 [http://my Web2.search.yahoo.com]. If AOL is your thing, use its Saved Searches feature.

That said, here are the features I appreciate the most from each of my, er, memory-enhancement tools. Once you've signed in to your Google account, Search History automatically tracks your search queries and the sites to which you click through. One of the handy features of Search History is that you can "bookmark" (essentially, tag) individual Web sites, rename the saved site, add customized labels, and annotate your bookmarks. I use this to organize Web sites by project; simply labeling them with a project name ("top pharmacists" or "Paula's job") and then filtering the bookmarked sites by project name. (You can also sort by date or Web page title.) A recently added feature is the ability to see "Trends" in your searching.

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