Searching for Bushwalking Information on the Web | Search Engines and Social Bookmarking

How can I find information about bushwalking / tramping / hiking? Has anyone else already bookmarked suitable sources (social bookmarking)? How can I effectively search the web (internet)?

In my last post Bushwalking Trip Plan | Routeburn Track, New Zealand | Pt 1 , I set out some general questions which had to be first answered before beginning detailed planning and suggested that there were four good places to start  for this sort of general information. This post discusses generic skills, using search engines and social bookmarking, for finding information about bushwalking on the web, using the Routeburn Track in New Zealand as an exemplar.

Search Engines

Well, the easiest way is to search the internet and what better way is there to do this than using a search engine such as Google, Yahoo or Bing, the three most commonly used. The problem with this method is that the links found by these search engines may not necessarily be the best for you. For example Google ranks its links based on a complex algorithm which cannot directly take into account the accuracy of the information or the relevance to you personally. Its rankings are based upon keywords, recency, frequency of updates, quality and number of links to and from the site, number of visitors and other criteria which are secret.

All three of these search engines allow an option to only search pages for Australia. This might seem a sensible way to filter the number of links found  for a search of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia or Otway Ranges in Victoria, but in fact this is not a good idea. Some of my best sources of information have been blogs by overseas visitors. Obviously for a search about the Routeburn track in NZ, this would not be wise either.

Google Alerts

Rather than continuously search the Web for new information, set up a Google Alert which will send an email to you as it happens, once a day , or once a week , with links to all the articles on the web that have appeared on the topic of your choice.

To do so, you will first need a free Google account, which will also provide you with a free Google Mail account and access to the whole range of valuable free Google products eg Blogger, Docs, and Website. If you set up a Google Mail account first, you can use this new email address as the contact point for all your other Google products and therefore an added level of privacy and security.

Social Bookmarking

To make it more likely that you will find relevant bookmarks,  check one of the free social bookmarking websites such as Delicious.

Delicious is a web 2.0 social bookmaking site which allows the public to search for information, based on the tags (keywords) which have been assigned to the URLs (web addresses) by Delicious members who have bookmarked them. As the site is the work of many people with an interest in your topic, the number of people who have bookmarked a site is a good indication of the potential value of the site and provides an alternative and, I would argue, better idea of ranking than that provided by a search engine.  Those who have bookmarked a site will be bushwalkers/trampers/hikers like you, with similar needs and interests.

Although these will be public pages, you will  be able to select just the bookmarks I (username=oz.bushwalkingskills) have made or those of other bushwalkers you value, by adding us to your Delicious Network, but to do this you need first to become a free Delicious member. Fortunately you don’t need to wait for me to add my URls, as others have already added their “Routeburn” bookmarks to the public pages. By searching Delicious, you will be able to see who has contributed each bookmark on the Routeburn track and add significant  contributors to your subscribe list filter or to your network.

Searching Delicious for the tags “Routeburn Track” brings up 62 public results (as of 13/1/2011) in the Everybody’s (public) category. It also shows the other tags which have been used for a particular URL, so you can add these and filter the results if you wish. Interestingly it gives a graphical time scale showing when the bookmarks were added and for the Routeburn the most URLs added was in March 2008.

If you want, you can subscribe to all URLs with the tag “Routeburn” which will aggregate all URLs on the web with the tag “Routeburn” and bring them to your subscriptions page as they are added. Additionally you can subscribe to only the Routeburn tags by a particular user eg oz.bushwalkingskills, if you wish to narrow down the list. To do this however, you will need to join Delicious which is free.

To find out more about Delicious:

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This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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