Gossip - Asynchronous search tool
Gossip (PC only)
= interesting, promising
A futuristic interface that showcases agents and bots searching for us. I can search while I am not online, and later it will report back to me.
Of all the search companions this one is certainly the most innovative, and from the interface standpoint it is a complete departure from the previous set of tools.
The basic application offers a number of animated "bots" or "agents" which one can load with a cargo of queries or "topics" to research. As a user I can also specify how much time I can provide for my agent's exploration, the options being anywhere from five minutes to one week.
There is a limited number of agents one manages (6), as well as a limited number of "backpacks" (10). Backpacks are information containers you give your agents to store the information that they find. The agents can be sent off simultaneously or one at a time in search of different items.
The interface is really engaging and simple to understand. You select a backpack which will be paired with an agent, specifying what it needs to look for, while giving the agent a name and time frame for the mission. Then connect the backpack visually with an agent and the two are bonded together.
Once you have given all the necessary information, you just drag the charged agent (bonded with its backpack) on the Internet port, which you have previously clicked open. The agent gradually fades leaving a cheery greeting: "See you in five minutes", or whatever time you may have specified as its limit.
The nice advantage of this type of tool is that it will work for you even when your computer is off. Being able to provide a long time for important searches may also leverage alternative search mechanism which in the near future could become very effective like the current Gnutella/Napster type of approach. (This search and exchange technology is based on the capability of each computer to search through the files of any other one, of course assuming the owner has voluntarily opened such functionality. Such an action is called P2P searching or "peer to peer" searching. www.napster.com)
The search results of Gossip however are nothing to be proud of. They are frequently irrelevant and few positive searches are reported for popular keywords.
Again, I think this is a very useful prototype of things to come, for as the company who developed the program says, "in the near future you'll also be able to send out agents with money in their pockets to go shopping for you."
I must also say that the program is a slow mover, it runs only on PCs and it does require a Pentium II or better. It has still a few quirks, but it is definitely worth a look for those of you needing to impress others with simple enough to understand technology of where the future of search programs is going.
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