Simplifying Life on the Web

Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.

The National Psychologist

September/October 2002



Have you noticed how complicated life has gotten on the web? Your web searches produce millions of hits. Your email is clogged with junk. There are solutions to these problems! Increasingly, we are making more use of the web for information gathering, shopping, and communication.


Web Searches


One of our most common activities is to use a search engine to find information. If you have followed these columns, you know my favorite search engine is Google (www.google.com). Google works well because it makes its listing order as a function of popularity of a site measured by the number of links to that website. So, the top choices in a Google search are usually the best.

Here are my top suggestions:

  1. Start with a broad search using from one to three key words. If any of the words are groups of words, put them in quotes (e.g., "Sigmund Freud").
  2. Although you will get lots of "hits," preview the first page and see if you have found anything as a place to start.
  3. Now, to reduce your search, find terms that you want to exclude. You can do so by putting a minus sign in front of the word. If you submit "Sigmund Freud" you get 148,000 hits. If you put -museum you will get less than 100,000 hits.
  4. Add words to limit your search. If you are only interested in Freud's work on hysteria, add that and you reduce your hits to less than 4,000.


Web searching can be tricky. For additional tips go to my National Psychologist archives at www.technostress.com/tnp12.htm to read an earlier article on this topic.

Junk E-Mail

I get approximately 30-50 junk e-mail messages (Spam) a day. Now, granted, it is not so difficult to simply press the Delete key, but most people find this Spam tremendously annoying. How do you get Spam? It is extremely simple for a junk e-mailer to pay about $40 for a mass e-mail program. Where do the e-mail addresses come from? Just about any time you give out your e-mail address on a web site you are running the risk of being placed on a junk e-mail list. Even using chat rooms increases your chances of getting junk e-mail.

What can you do? First, think clearly about who you provide with your e-mail address. If you need to sign up for a web service (e.g., N.Y. Times, E-Bay, etc), get a free account at HotMail or Yahoo or any of the free web-based e-mail services. Give the account a name so that you will remember it (e.g., LROSENNYTIMES). Then all the junk mail goes to that account. Note that if you do not use one of these accounts for a specified period of time they will delete it.

Second, many Internet Service Providers (the company you pay for your Internet hook-up) have their own anti-Spam efforts. For example, my service provider, Earthlink, has a free service called Spaminator. Using basic rules and knowledge of Spam domain names and subject lines, Spaminator stores any messages it believes are junk e-mails on Earthlink's server. You can access these messages for three weeks and save any that were real messages. I have been using Spaminator for quite some time and have not had any real messages identified as Spam.

Spaminator is not perfect. On a typical day, it picks up about 75% of my junk e-mail and gets rid of it before I even see it. The rest leaks through and I have to manually delete them. But now I only have to delete a few messages a day. I get about 50-100 Spam messages in a typical day, so eliminating 75% is quite nice.

There are also programs that will eliminate Spam. SpamKiller and SpamCop are both excellent products and cost about $30. SpamBuster and SpamHater are free and also work quite well. Most of these programs come with built-in definitions and then need you to add to the list of restricted domains. After a couple of weeks they are up at about 75% accuracy in removing your junk mail. None of these programs work with AOL, or any free web-based e-mail service (Hotmail, Juno, Yahoo, etc.).

AOL and Hotmail have their own Spam blockers which allow you to block mail from a limited number of e-mail addresses. Quite honestly, they do not work well at all. In my experience, they remove only about 25% of the junk e-mail.

My Top 10 Websites

Having been on the web since its inception, I have found some very reliable and useful web sites. Here is my top 10 and favorite uses:

  1. Google is by far the best site as I have already mentioned above. If you want images from the web, go to images.google.com.
  2. My Yahoo (my.yahoo.com) is a great place for your homepage. Create your own homepage to include news, weather, sports, travel, maps, stock information, and more. It is easy to use. When you design your page, here's how to make it your homepage. In Netscape go to Edit -->Navigator -->Click Use Current Page. In Internet Explorer go to Tools -->Internet Options --> Click Use Current Page.
  3. MySimon (www.mysimon.com) is an excellent resource for comparison-shopping. Enter your item and get prices from many online vendors. Vendors are even rated as to their reliability. I have bought most of my technology at the lowest possible prices using mysimon.
  4. At Download.com you can find a program to do just about anything. Many are free and others are very inexpensive. Most allow a trial period.
  5. Refdesk.com is amazing. Any information you need can be found here. In addition, it gives you daily news, links to newspapers, etc.
  6. I use ZDNet (www.zdnet.com) and Cnet (www.cnet.com) for all things technological. Product reviews are excellent. Trends are interesting. They have software to download, much of which is free.
  7. Meta Search Engines are an easy way to find information from many search engines at the same time. They are all different and search different sites so try NorthernLight, Dogpile, ProFusion, IxQuick, Mamma, and MetaCrawler and decide which one you like.
  8. Dictionary.com is simple, straightforward and has more information than you might think from its name. Try it.
  9. Bartelby.com is the best source for online books, reference books, classics, etc.
  10. Slate.com is an interesting view of the news. If you lean to the left, you might enjoy this site.


If you have any further sites that you love or ideas to cut down on web searches or e-mail clutter, e-mail me at LROSENNATIONALPSYCHOLOGIST@hotmail.com (just kidding ...). Actually, e-mail me at ROSEN@TECHNOSTRESS.COM.


Copyright, 2002, The National Psychologist. Reprinted with permission. The National Psychologist is a privately-owned bimonthly newspaper which may be purchased for $30 a year. Write or call: TNP, 6100 Channingway Blvd., Suite 303, Columbus, OH 43232; telephone: 614.861.1999 or fax with Visa or MC to 614.861.1996.