using customizable web sites and search tools
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CRAYON, ALEXA, & Northern Light Search Alert Service ... Alexa is companion to your browser that improves searching ... Alexa ...

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why use personalized web news and search sites
Why Use Personalized Web News and Search Sites?
  • It is said that “a weekday edition of the New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come across in a lifetime in seventeenth-century England” ...
    • (Richard Saul Wurman, Information Anxiety (Doubleday, 1989) pg. 32)
  • … and that the total amount of information doubles every 4 to 5 years
why use personalized web news and search sites3
Why Use Personalized Web News and Search Sites?
  • Most people today feel overwhelmed by information ...
  • especially when they are on the Web.
  • Customizable Web sites and search tools help you manage the information you receive by only giving information on certain, pre-selected topics, or by simplifying searches.
crayon alexa northern light search alert service
CRAYON, ALEXA, & Northern Light Search Alert Service
  • CRAYON is an example of a Web site that can be customized
    • to limit the amount of information that you have to look at
    • to get you information more relevant to your needs by screening out irrelevant information
      • Remember the example of “banking” - which has one application in a financial context, and another in aerospace.
  • Alexa is companion to your browser that improves searching
  • Northern Light Search Alert Service allows you to get new results/information on your topic without repeating your search(es)
  • All are completely free
  • Stands for Create Your Own Newspaper
  • Bills itself as “Your Personalized Internet News Service”
  • Can be accessed at

The main CRAYON page. Click here to create your own CRAYON news site.


You’ll be asked to input your email address and create a password. (You don’t have to give any other personal information!)


Your first choices will concern the “title” of your personal newspaper, the look of the page, and the level of security.


The Advanced Settings button at the bottom of the initial screen allows you to set the number of headlines displayed for each source, the index window size, and the highlight color.


The next thing to do is set the topic and source preferences that you want displayed in your personal paper. Each of the little crayon icons at the bottom of the screen corresponds to a set of options.

Thus, if all you want is news related to Science, you can go only and straight to the “crayon” labeled “Science.”


Within a category, you can select the sources from which you want to receive news by clicking on the box before the source’s name …


… and at the bottom of each set of sources, there’s also the option to get updating from a Web source not in the list by adding its title and URL.


Many of the categories of information have subcategories that allow you to specify information needs even more precisely. For example, the technology category allows you to distinguish Internet, Macintosh, PC, and games news.


The World News section similarly allows you to focus on particular regions of the world.


Once you’ve selected all your categories and news sources, click on the Create My Newspaper Now button.


Clicking on Publish My Newspaper after setting the order of news stories generates your “own” newspaper - with all, and only, the topics you want to see.


Your newspaper now exists on the Web and you can log-in as a CRAYON subscriber to view it at any time, from anywhere.

  • Is a companion to your Web browser
  • Is best used when you access the Web through a particular Web browser on a particular computer on a regular basis
    • Is a local installation
  • Can be accessed at

Click on the link that says Install Alexa 6 Now!


Click on the link that says Install Alexa 6 Now!


Installation will be automatic. The only thing you’ll be asked for is some basic demographic information that is NOT mapped to your identity.


The Alexa toolbar will appear under the location (address/URL) bar on your browser.

  • Is especially helpful in evaluating sites
  • From the Site Information button, you can see who is responsible for the site and how highly it ranks in standard rankings of web pages
  • From Related Links, you can find other pages like the one you are on – for additional information, or for comparison
  • From Way Back, you can track changes in the page over time

For a page, you can see who is responsible for it, how much Web traffic it gets, and how many pages link to it.

Here, we can see that this page is created by Stormfront, a White supremacist organization, and that it gets relatively little traffic or links. Not a good sign!


Using the Way Back option with the King Center page, we can see what the page looked like in Fall 2001 …


… back when Stormfront used the King Center’s page as the model for its own revisionist historical page.

northern light search alert
Northern Light Search Alert
  • Allows you to get new Web results/information on your topic without having to repeat the same search(es)
  • Can be accessed at
northern light search alert30
Northern Light Search Alert

Click here to Set Up a new account.

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Northern Light Search Alert

Once your account is created, click on Create New Alert.

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Northern Light Search Alert

Each alert should have its own name.

The default search for alerting is a “simple” keyword search, but there’s also a Power Search option.

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Northern Light Search Alert

The Power Search option gives you more search capabilities than the Simple Search – but still not as many as you have when searching Northern Library regularly.

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Northern Light Search Alert

Once you’ve created an account and an alert, you’ll be asked to agree to the Terms of Service. You’re NOT giving anyway any private information by using the service, so click to indicate that you agree to the terms.

northern light search alert36
Northern Light Search Alert

Then you’ll be given a page with your alert(s), the overall results to this search, and periodic updates to this search.

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CRAYON, Alexa, & Northern Light Search Alert Service
  • Using these options will help you begin to establish control over the types of information you receive, especially in the Web environment, and evaluate it more easily.