How to Find People Online
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This section introduces various advanced and lesser-known search methods for finding people online. It will help you to find the people you are investigating or experts in particular fields by using a number of methods that can both improve accuracy and save time during lengthy investigations.
This includes the ‘hidden web’ and other subscription, free and non-indexed sources (including directories and archives), all of which can help in advanced online searches.
People Finder Sites
A few of the best known people-finder databases operate by subscription:
For example, 192.com lists people’s full names, addresses, cohabitees, neighbours, age guides, property prices, family records and provides aerial photographs of locations. For company searches, it provides directors’ reports (useful for finding business connections between people), annual accounts and court judgements. Through these subscription websites, you can search electoral rolls and birth, marriage and death records.
Prices vary across the people-finder websites. You are entitled to some free searches on 192.com. Thereafter, for one search you normally need three credits. Prices offered by the websites generally start in the region of £6.95 (for 10 credits) to £29.95. University libraries tend not to subscribe to any of these websites, but researchers and postgraduates may well be able to access research funds to pay for the subscription.
Otherwise, there are also some free alternatives, including:
For example, 123 People is a real-time people search service. It searches websites and locates images, videos, phone numbers, email addresses, social networking and Wikipedia profiles and more.
Yasni UK seems to be the best for locating vast amounts of useful knowledge. It can identify people and locate studies with which individuals have been involved, which may be downloaded. Search results will also bring up links to 192.com.
Information about Geographical Areas
You can also find out about the geographical area in which an individual resides by looking at: http://www.nethouseprices.com. And remember you can use http://www.maps.google.co.uk to find the services and facilities available in the area.
Finding Experts through Specialist Directories and Websites
Expert directories offer a good means of finding specialist contributors. They are mainly used by lawyers to help them find expert sources for their case work, but researchers may also find such tools useful.
See for example: http://www.expertsearch.co.uk – try searching for ‘cycling’.
You can use http://www.scholar.google.co.uk to find academics in particular fields.
There are also a number of specialist scientific sources which are especially useful for finding (mostly Western) academics and stories, articles, press releases and research in many niche fields.They include:
Finding Experts through Website Addresses
To find experts based in universities, three factors need to be inserted in the search box: · Subject term, e.g. environmental law · A term connecting the subject to his/her profession, e.g. professor · Site: ac.uk (for UK universities) For example, to find an expert in environmental law, type in the following terms in google and compare the results: Compare: environmental law expert With: oil environmental law professor site:ac.uk
Alternatively, to find an expert in detecting fraud data: Compare: expert data fraud With: fraud~data professor site:ac.uk
Finding Individuals/Experts via Social Networking Sites
Facebook is particularly popular across the UK, with many users interested in international, economic, social and political matters, some of whom are experts in their fields. The site groups people according to themes and issues from around the world. If you have a Facebook account, type ‘community engagement’ in the search box, then try ‘sustainable communities’. Both of these searches will produce links for individual and group contacts which can be followed. There are other network spaces such as http://www.myspace.com and you could do a search within groups relevant to your area of investigation.
Remember that many other countries also use different kinds of social networking sites. For example, if you are interested in finding contributors/opinion from South America, try http:// www.orkut.com. It is also very popular in India – you will need to register and create a profile to search, but, once you have a profile, you can search according to keywords in your own research area.
Likewise, http://www.badoo.com is more popular in mainland Europe than in the UK. Russia has one of the largest bases of network users – try using the Russian social network http://www.vkontakte.ru for searches (choose English translation).
Another search could be conducted through the online communities which have created their own social networks. Try searching http://www.ning.com for ‘environment UK’. If you are looking for professional communities, then, aside from Facebook networks, LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com is a good place to start.
For a short discussion on strengths and weaknesses of using LinkedIn and Facebook see: http://slewfootsnoop.wordpress.com/2008/05/07/fight-fight-fight-linkedin-vs-facebook/
This page is basedon a presentation by Murray Dick: http://www.brunel.ac.uk/about/acad/sa/artstaff/journalismstaff/mdick
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