Magazine article Online

Search Softbase: Software Information for the Web Searcher

Magazine article Online

Search Softbase: Software Information for the Web Searcher

Article excerpt

Softbase [www.searchsoftbase.com] is a somewhat complex, but comprehensive, fee-based site for obtaining information about software packages, the companies that produce them, and the reviews that describe them. It is the latest product of GUIDE IT LLC, a subsidiary of Information Sources, Inc., owned by Ruth Koolish, a long-time player on the information retrieval and data processing stage. The source database is identical to that active since 1982 and currently available on Dialog (File number 256), DataStar (SOFT), Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, and through NERAC. With many requests to put Softbase up on the Net from people without access to the major fee-based services, Koolish first created a partnership with Excite. When Excite expired, Koolish decided to independently put the file on the Web.

Although it doesn't tell you anywhere on the site, Softbase is optimized for Internet Explorer (like so many sites these days). I noticed this when I moved from Netscape to IE, and found some links working that I thought were dead ends. This includes internal links within records that move you to different sections within the same records. These links just do not work in Netscape. I also obtained some differing results when searching Softbase using Netscape versus IE.

UNIQUE CONTENT

Softbase is not a full text database. Rather, it has three types of records: Company Information on 14,792 companies, Product Information for over 10,000 products, and Review Information drawn from over 74,000 product reviews in professional and technical journals.

The most comprehensive Company Information records include data points for company name; address; phone; fax; toll-free number, if any; Web site URL (hotlinked); e-mail (hotlinked); abstract with company description, product, and application information; organization type; company status (such as "inactive"--very important in these days of disappearing dot-coins); equity type; date founded; list of top company executives; product listing; and related terms. However, information in these records varies greatly. Some records contain complete information, while others are quite skimpy, with only the company name and address. Here's the problem: Data is self-reported by the company, and some companies are more forthcoming than others. Softbase adds other information, when it can, through investigation.

One of the best features of this site is the interlinking among records. From the Company Information screen, you can click to descriptions of the products listed. Click on the related terms if you want to see other products and companies assigned that keyword term. It would be more consistent if the database used the same descriptions of these--keyword, related terms vs. related keyword--but that's just a quibble.

I would like to see a list of the terms available in each field. The records I pulled up had only two terms in the Organizational Type field: Corporation, Nonprofit. On Dialog, you can expand fields to see what the opportunities are. File 256 has 16 possibilities for organizational type.

PRODUCT INFORMATION VARIANCES

The Product Information records also vary in content, being self-reported. The most comprehensive contain the company name and contact information; a paragraph describing the product and its uses; hardware requirements; operating environments; training/support; documentation available; other services available; potential users; price/terms; links to product reviews records; and related terms. This was true for the Advanced Data Engineering, Inc. product called XML it, but the company link failed. Further research revealed that the company had been acquired by a Corel Inc. subsidiary, but the earlier information remained live on Softbase.

Yet another Product Information record, for the Vtag product of Connotate Technologies, Inc, contained only the company contact information and a product review link. …

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