Magellan Voyeur

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Search As You Will,
Someone May Be Watching You
by Kitty Williams
Do you ever feel as if someone were looking over your shoulder while you surf the 'Net? If you've ever used the Magellan Search Engine, you may well be right. That voyeur might even have been me.

Magellan, which provides a very useful search engine also has an amusing side line: Magellan Voyeur. Voyeur allows you to look in on real time searches, and if the search subject interests you, to proceed to the very search results being returned to the actual searcher.

Now, before you get alarmed let me calm you by saying that as far as I can tell there is no way to identify the searcher or learn anything at all about him or her.

What you see with Voyeur is a list of search topics. The list changes every 20 seconds if you have Netscape 2.0 or higher, and is a great screen saver or inspiration aid. Although sex and orgies and stuff like that reappear with depressing frequency, a recent list of search topics included Rockford Fosgate, Pacific Telesis, Bighorn River, Primordial Soup Kitchen, ergonomic keyboard, Everton Football Club, hydrology, vegetarianism health nutrition, endless tubing, Landstat Caribbean, Wisconsin weather, US banks, and makroeconomy.

If you can react before the list changes and click on a topic that interests you, you can find out what the searcher found. I click on Rockford Fosgate, for example, and discovered that it's a car audio equipment company.

Knowing me as you do, you won't be surprised to hear that I was intrigued by Primordial Soup Kitchen. Mostly, I wanted to know if there was such a thing or if the search engine came up empty-handed.

There is such a thing, the work of "a math prof at the University of Wisconsin - Madison whose research these days focuses on self-organization of random cellular automata." Professor David Griffeath produces computer graphics and animations "that illustrate the ability of local parallel update rules to generate spatial structure from disordered initial states." Whatever. They're pretty, though, and you can view them, download them, or send them as virtual postcards from the site.

I've found other interesting sites and topics while idly watching the constantly changing lists on Voyeur.

The other day, I noticed someone had done a search on the jazz musician, Django Reinhardt, and turned up lots of sites. I'm going back to look at those soon.

Another time, I looked in on a search for addresses of Australian Embassies. Because Magellan searches for sites that have one or more of the words in the initial search, the results for this one included lots of sites about Australia and lots of embassy sites.

What caught my eye first was Israeli Internet Sites, the "Hot List" of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Anyone who has an interest in the national and local government, history, culture, economics, and current events of Israel and the Jewish world should find this long list of links invaluable. It will be even more valuable to those who read Hebrew, as some of the links lead to sites in that language. If this find wasn't serendipity, I don't know what else you'd call it.

Magellan's search engine isn't much use when the searcher misspells the topic. "Makroeconomy," for example, turned up nothing, but when I corrected the spelling myself, to macroeconomy, the search returned 35 hits. The more commonly used term, "macroeconomics," turned up 1,479 hits. I have to tell you that some people who use this search engine REALLY can't spell.

While "makroeconomy" might be an innocent misspelling by someone whose native language is other than English, how do you explain some of the others I've seen, like "kaledascope" and "pitures?" People who can't spell must believe that search engines are "wuthless," since they never find what they're looking for.


Last modified 12/1/96

1996 Hope Springs Press