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Interview: Edward Vawter

June 15, 2005 —

I had the chance to meet Edward Vawter, a US-based technical consultant who offers professional information services. In the “old days”, his research on the Internet was a “long and frustrating process”. Not any longer, thanks to DEVONagent.

Edward Vawter

Edward Vawter lives in Oregon, USA, and is self-employed.

Ed, what kinds of services does your company offer to your clients?

My company, QD Information Services LLC, provides services in two basic categories: first there is technical consulting, helping my clients solve problems with chemistry in the pharmaceutical and fine chemicals industries, particularly in the areas of process development and optimization. Second, I do a lot of searching, both on the Internet as well as commercial databases to provide my clients with information to help them answer their questions, not only technical chemistry, but also marketing, competitive intelligence, regulatory information and more.

How exactly do you use DEVONagent for your research?

I use DEVONagent as my Internet search workhorse. Most of my clients want to ensure their search is complete and that requires the use of several different search engines. I always search at least two and usually three of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, and DEVONagent allows me to search all of those at once and customize which ones I want as well as how many results to get from each. I also love the ability to use more complex search queries such as NEAR and BEFORE which aren’t available on any of the major search engines. To me, this feature alone is worth the price of DEVONagent.

How did you collect all that information before you discovered DEVONagent?

Before DEVONagent it was a long and sometimes frustrating process. I would use my browser to go to each search engine and go through the results bookmarking the pages I found useful and interesting. Then, I would have to go back to those pages when writing up a report and sometimes, those pages where no longer available! So I had to try and either find the page again or use the Wayback Internet Archive and hope it was in that repository. I then switched to cutting and pasting the text into a text editor to at least search through the text. With DEVONagent and DEVONthink I can now keep not just the URL link, but the actual page itself!

Why DEVONagent and not just simply Google?

As I said before, I always use more than one search engine. Perform almost any search on Google, Yahoo and MSN and compare the top 20 results – chances are there isn’t much overlap. With DEVONagent, I can get all those results and have duplicates removed.

Also with DEVONagent I only have to type in the query once. Then if I don’t get what I need, I can always change search engines and perform it again. Also, the ability to use advanced search terms allows me to focus in on the exact results I need. I tend to use niche science search engines such as Scirus and Sciseek and with DEVONagent, I can do that.

You have also written nearly 100 search plug-ins for DEVONagent. Tell us more!

When I first became aware of DEVONagent I was fascinated by the ability to write my own search plug-ins. I had several sites that I used in my work and I wanted to be able to search them as well. I started by looking through the plug-ins that came with the application and reading the documentation you provided on writing plug-ins. Basically any search site that contains the query within the URL can be made into a DEVONagent plug-in.

Within a day, I had written eight to ten plug-ins for sites that I used regularly and then, for fun and practice, I tried to write a plug-in for every search engine I knew of. I went through all my bookmarks and found quite a few and then just started creating them.

Do you also use DEVONagent as your default browser?

Well, I really don’t have a default browser. I use Safari, Firefox and DEVONagent all three of a variety of reasons. I use Safari because that was what I first used and I still use it for the most of my routine web surfing. I like some of the toolbars and extensions that are available for Firefox. I use DEVONagent now for some RSS reading since it can parse newsfeeds. I also use it as my browser when I need to find certain items such as a webcams, Excel documents or RSS feeds. The scanners make finding whether or not a certain kind of item is on the page really effortless. I like the full-screen mode that that gives the largest viewable area without any interface clutter.

I’ll use DEVONagent as my default browser when it supports some of my special plug-ins (e.g. TIFF Viewer) and has customizable toolbars like Firefox. But then, I didn’t purchase DEVONagent to use it as a browser; that’s just a nice bonus.

What are the DEVONagent features you like the most?

I like the ability to use the advanced search terms as well as being able to create custom sets of the search engines. I have quite a few depending on the type of search I am doing. I am also excited by the ability to do scheduled searches and automatically provide those results via email or publish them to a blog or web site. I plan on offering this as a service to clients for current awareness on whatever topics they feel are important.

As said, I also love the scanners within the DEVONagent browser that make it simple to find out if a page contains certain types of items. That saved me lots of time.

What don’t you like?

There really isn’t anything I don’t like about DEVONagent.

And finally: Which feature do you miss the most?

One of the things I like about Google is it makes suggestions for terms you may have misspelled. I tend to be a poor typist, and so it would be great if DEVONagent would do some sort of spelling check before running the query.

Ed, thank you very much for your time.