Using PeARS

The following is the FAQ as you will find it in your PeARS install. We hope it helps you understand what PeARS is about, and how to use it.

So I'm here now and I don't have any pages to search. What do I do?

First, welcome! Really nice to see you here!

Now, head over to your Pod management page and click on 'Find a pod' (you don't need to enter anything in the keywords text box). A new page will open, which will let you start subscribing to pods which might be of interest to you... Carry on reading the question below: What is a pod? And how do I find new pods?...



What is a pod? And how do I find new pods?

A PeARS pod is a web page index (like a mini-Google, Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo) that some nice people have made available online for you to use. A pod is usually on a particular topic: for instance, a Star Wars pod might record Web pages on Star Wars. Any pod can be subscribed to from your Pod management page. You should learn about the different kinds of pods available to manage your pods as best as you can. We provide some definitions below.

CSV Pods CSV pods are CSV files produced by your PeARS installation. They are very easy to create and share with your friends, and we always have some in store on the PeARS website. If you're not sure which pod you might be interested in, you can enter some keywords in the 'find a pod' search box of your Pod management page, and be suggested some pods. Just select the pods you think you might like and click on 'subscribe'. If a friend sends you their CSV Pod, you also can simply save the file locally and add it to your pear by feeding it to the 'Record from file' option in your Pod management page.

Snow Pods Those are the mini-weapons of the indexing revolution! They are tiny pods containing a maximum of 100 URLs each and are created at the same time as a CSV Pod (typically, you will get several Snow Pods for one CSV file). Their main feature is that they come in an image format and are therefore easily shareable on social media without cluttering your timeline with ugly text and numbers. And they look like they're hardly there, a simple and mysterious background of white and grey... If someone has sent you a Snow Pod, or you've found one on social media, you can index it using the same procedure as for the CSV Pod (upload the file under 'Record from file', in your Pod management page). Please note that PeARS cannot be held responsible for the content of Snow Pods posted on social media. Don't accept sweets and don't index pods from people you don't trust.

Once you've subscribed to one or several pods, you're good to go! Go back to the PeARS home page, and search!



Can I create my own pod?

Yes! The revolution needs you, and your appetite for Web pages on bungee-jumping, creepy-crawlies, the perfect cup of tea, and extinct languages. Whatever you're into, be your own search engine and start indexing pages like the pros. Your pear includes an indexing page which helps you with the hard work of converting Web pages into searchable representations. You can index in three ways. The simplest one is to type a single URL in the 'Index a single URL' box -- this will index just that page. If you have a favourite website (or part of a website), you can also type in its address in 'Crawl a website' to get all indexable pages from that site (but first check our advice on indexing websites). Finally, you can prepare a file of different URLs you would like to record and feed that in to your pear (see How do I use 'index from file?'). When you index things, it is very important to also provide a keyword describing the page(s) you're indexing. You can choose whatever you like, but make sure it's descriptive for you, and that you will keep using the same keyword when you index more pages on the topic.

Once in a while, you can go and check how many pages you've indexed on a particular topic. Head over to My orchard. There, you will find a beautiful orchard growing a pod for each keyword you have used in the indexer. Each pod in the making shows you its current size. Once a pod has grown enough, you may want to share it on the Internet. To do this, click on the pod of your choice. After a moment, a new page will be displayed, giving you instructions about where to find your pod's information. By default, PeARS produces two types of representation: a text-based one (the 'CSV Pod') and an image-based one (the 'Snow Pods'). The CSV file produced by your pear can be used when setting up an official pod. It can also simply be sent to a friend, who will index it on their own pear upon receipt. The Snow Pods can also be sent to your friends in a regular way, or shared on social media as images.

Remember, the more you share, the more rich and robust the PeARS network will become! So dispatch those pods!



How do I share my Snow Pod on social media?

Snow Pods are .png files, which look like this:

Precious indexing information is encoded in the image, and so it is important to keep it in the right format. The most important thing to bear in mind is that you should not modify the file in any way (change its format, apply lossy compression to it, draw on it, let your dog chew it...) This is not as easy as it seems because some social media sites automatically convert the pictures you post to reduce disk usage. We've made the current version of Snow Pods Twitter-ready, but please let us know if you experience any problems with other social media platforms.

These preliminaries out of the way... you should share your Snow Pod like you would share any other image. It will be helpful for your followers to know what the pod is about, so tell them. For instance: Hey people, here is a Snow Pod on lightsabers / repetitive strain injury induced by lightsabers / keeping sheep...



How do I use 'crawl a website'?

Enter a URL. PeARS will index everything it finds under that URL. For instance, if you entered http://www.openmeaning.org/, every URL starting with http://openmeaning.org/ will be indexed. If you entered http://www.openmeaning.org/pod0/, every URL under http://www.openmeaning.org/pod0/ will be indexed, but not the ones one level up, under http://www.openmeaning.org/!

Please bear in mind that a) indexing is a rather slow process on your home machine, so don't think it's a good idea to start indexing the whole of Reddit; b) some websites impose restrictions on crawling and might block you if you don't respect their rules. So please don't index entire sections of Wikipedia, for example; you will be using up too much of their bandwidth. Consider alternative solutions like indexing from a Wikipedia dump.



How do I use 'index from file'?

'Index from file' lets you index a list of URLs from a plain text file. For the sake of example, let's say we want to index two URLs, https://en.wikipedia.org/ and http://flask.pocoo.org/. We'll assign them the keywords 'general knowledge' and 'programming'. We first open a new file in a text editor, and enter each URL and its respective keyword on one line, separated by a semi-colon, like so:

https://en.wikipedia.org/;general knowledge
http://flask.pocoo.org/;programming

We then ensure that the file is save in plain text format. This is important! Now, all we need to do is go to our indexer page, and search for that file under 'index from file'. PeARS will do the rest.



How do I use 'index from bookmarks'?

If you use Firefox, you can export your bookmarks as a bookmarks.html file. This function is particularly handy if you want to make a pod out of your favourites.

We'll assume that you have been using tags while bookmarking (if not, start!) Say you have tagged some pages as cute cats, all you have to do to create a pod out of those pages is to give your bookmarks.html file to PeARS, and indicate the keyword cute cats in the relevant text box. Your indexing will start shortly! You can then search those pages locally, and also share them with your friends as a pod by going to My orchard.



Help! I made a mistake while indexing!

Don't panic! You mean, entered the wrong keyword? Indexed a page you didn't want? Head over to your DB Admin page. From this page, you can access records in your pear's database. Click on 'See/modify your URL list'. You will get back a list of all URLs indexed on your pear. There's a search box at the top of the list, which you can use to find the record you wish to modify. Once you've found it, either delete it completely (clicking on the little wastebin on the left) or if the problem is just with the keyword, edit it in the last column of the list. Problem solved!



How do I contribute to the PeARS code?

We'd love to see you on our GitHub repo! This version of PeARS is PeARS-Orchard. Feel free to send us a pull request or contribute to our issues list. If you feel very brave, you can also ping us on the main PeARS repo (dev branch) which aims at having a fully distributed version of PeARS.