Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Inbox Report: Factiva Toolbar Upgrade vs. Web News Portals and (kind of) Personal News Pages

An email from Factiva prompted me to upgrade my toolbar and to try out their personal news page function, so I gave it a whirl for a bit. The upgrade was painless enough, though it left the selections on my "View/Toolbars" menu a bit mixed up - now when I click on the selection to remove my Google Toolbar the Factiva toolbar disappears, and vice versa. Oh, well, easily enough understood, I guess. Plugging in some of my favorite news search categories into the toolbar yields a well-targeted set of press releases and some news articles, with a couple that I had not picked up in open Web searches this morning - not hot items, but on target. Applying some of the "Associated News Topics" filters yielded mixed results - the "Computers/Electronics" filter did not have an appreciable effect, the "Arts/Entertainment" filter eliminated some current and useful stories and the combination provided interesting but oftentimes dated results. Categorization can be useful as an exploration tool, but as a filtering tool it sometimes has its limits unless it can aid further re-categorized exploration, which is done nicely via the Start Page's Community features that allow one to explore news via the Factiva taxonomy pretty intuitively. The toolbar has many powerful options which are worth exploring, but in head-to-head results versus Google News, Yahoo! News Search and MSN NewsBot it's not a notably stronger result and sometimes lacks key online sources. Well, on to setting up a personal news page via the "Advanced" tab, which offers features to allow you to craft a Web page with saved searches, document location via Celex and EU number (and this personal...how?), a quick search for stock quotes (but no watch list setup) and a "Newsstand" of user-selected stories from major publications via publication sections. One can choose which of these features and others appear on the pages, but there's no flexibility in ordering them: so, if you want to have Celex lookup, it's stuck on top and if you want saved search results to appear, they're at the bottom, stuck underneath the Newsstand results if you chose those. Newsstand will list about 30-odd stories from the business sections of The New York Times and The Times of London as an example, a few too many for me to digest effectively. Well, it was worth a try. I'll continue to try out the search features, but overall the Factiva toolbar family of features remains a work in progress.
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