A dip into the invisible web

Navigating the oceans of information we now have available, there are the whales like Google or Bing but also pilot fish small, nimble and gobbling up data.

I want to focus on just one of these today. As usual if there are other contenders you think I should have a look at please let me know at apode@staffingindustry.com.

Zanran, as its website says, helps you find ‘semi-structured’ data on the web. This is the numerical data that people have presented as graphs, tables and charts. For example, the data could be a graph in a PDF report, or a table in an Excel spreadsheet, or a bar chart shown as an image in an HTML page.

A search for temporary work in Europe finds a wealth of useful data. The site has a nice touch in that hovering the cursor over results gives you the relevant data page – whether a table, a chart or a mix of text, tables or charts. On the results page you also get a useful list of related searches.

The advanced search options allows you to focus your search by geography with Australia, Canada, Ireland, India, New Zealand, South African, the United States and United Kingdom filters currently provided; by date within the last 6, 12 or 24 months; by file type pdf, excel, html and various other combinations; or using  a specific site.

The site does have limitations. It is currently an early beta English language version so its use for Europe is limited. The data found can be dated but this is not the sites fault but more a feature of contingent work data on the web (other than that provided by Staffing Industry Analyst) and the doc date feature can help with this. The main problem however is that the site does not give the full URLs for the data presented.  If you want to see what other information is available on a site you have to start with the top level domain and find the data afresh not always an easy task on data rich sites.

Despite its limitations the site is an extremely valuable, intuitive addition to the analyst tool box and a useful reminder that there is more to life than Google.

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Zanran improvements

Jon Goldhill 07/10/2011 6:22 am

Thanks for your comments.
In one of the recent rounds of improvements we added a URL button by each result. That way you can get the URL, but without it occupying much space on the screen. Other suggestions welcome!


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