Tales from the Terminal Room
April 2001, Issue No. 20
Please Note: This is an archive copy of the newsletter. The information and links that it contains are not updated.
Tales from the Terminal Room ISSN 1467-338X
April 2001, Issue No. 20
Editor: Karen Blakeman
Published by: RBA Information Services
Tales from the Terminal Room (TFTTR) is a monthly newsletter, with the exception of July and August, which are published as a single issue. TFTTR includes reviews and comparisons of information sources and search tools; updates to the RBA Web site Business Sources and other useful resources; dealing with technical and access problems on the Net; and news of RBA's training courses and publications.
In this issue:
The Case of the Disappearing Portals
Portals can be a Godsend. And by "Portals", I mean those no-fuss, annotated subject listings that have been processed by human beings. The trouble is that when you find a really good portal there is a danger of becoming over-reliant on it. A couple of my favourite regional portals, listed on http://www.rba.co.uk/sources/country.htm, have just become effectively defunct and there were some anxious moments over a few others.
The first to go was Russian & East European Studies(REESWeb), which has been re-designed. Although US biased, this used to be a reasonable starting point for sources on Central and Eastern Europe but had not been updated for 12-18 months. It has now been updated with a vengeance: the lists are created by the user selecting a combination of options from the pull down menus, or via keywords. Some of the "categories" came up with very odd results and even though it is possible to get a sensible listing through trial and error, I decided that it was not worth the time and effort and have given up using or recommending it.
The second was the Slavic Research Center (SRC) (http://src- h.slav.hokudai.ac.jp/index-e.html), which had by far the best set of pages listing links to the Central and Eastern European resources. Those pages have been taken down while the section is redeveloped. I shall be keeping an eye on the "under reconstruction" area in the hope that it will reappear in the not too distant future.
The URLs of two other country portals were generating error 500 and "site cannot be found" messages over a period of about 5 days. Thankfully these were just temporary network glitches and have now been resolved. The incidents did make me realise, though, that I had become far too dependent on too few resources, as did the threatened closure of the open.gov.uk site (see the next item).
Government Portals http://www.rba.co.uk/sources/govern.htm
The open.gov.uk site caused a major stir amongst the UK library and information community by announcing that it was to close and recommending that users go to UK Online. Open.gov.uk was one of the first UK government Web sites and over the years has developed into a very useful and effective portal to UK central and local government. UK Online (http://www.ukonline.gov.uk/) is aimed at "consumers" and is by no means an adequate replacement for the information professional.
The information community was up in arms and bombarded open.gov.uk with "feedback". The result is that from 1st July 2001 the open.gov.uk service will be hosted by UK Online. The statement on open.gov.uk goes on to say:
A case of now you see it, now you don't, now you see it again!
The incident did have a beneficial side effect. Many of us started to look around for alternatives just in case the powers that be change their mind again. Gunnar Anzinger's superb, comprehensive, world-wide listing of central and local government sites (http://www.gksoft.com/govt/) is already included on the RBA government sources page.
Two new inclusions are:
Trade and Service Directories http://www.rba.co.uk/sources/trade.htm
Chambers of Commerce are often an excellent starting point for local and national business information. Many national Chambers maintain directories of their members and provide general economic and industry statistics. There are several directories listing Chambers of Commerce around the world, three of which are:
CEE-Mail Chambers at http://www.ceemail.com/chambers.html
World Yellow Pages - Chambers of Commerce at http://www.worldyellowpages.com/cc.html
World Chambers Network at http://www.worldchambers.com/
Search Strategies for the Internet http://www.rba.co.uk/search/
Google has made significant changes to both their Web search engine and the Google Groups.
Google now provides access to the full Deja archive of Usenet postings going back to 1995. They hope to provide Usenet posting facilities some time in May.
PDF documents: your search terms are now highlighted when you display the text version of PDF files.
Google now offers an English translation option for Web pages that are written in Italian, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. If your search has results in any of these languages there is a link to a version of that page translated into English. If you also want the titles and summaries of your search results to be translated into English, enable the translation option on the preferences page. Do remember that this is machine translation so the results can sometimes look very odd!
Not actually new to the RBA Web site - but I'm sure I'll find somewhere to list it - is a resource that recently helped me answer an unusual enquiry from a board level Director: "What is the great German Tenor Fritz Wunderlich singing so passionately about in Ombra mai fu?"
The answer can be found in the Aria Database (http://www.aria-database.com/), which indexes information on over 1,200 arias from 170 operas, and offers 380 translations and 1,000 aria texts. You can carry out a simple keyword search, use the advanced search screen or browse by alphabetical entry or resource type.
My enquirer's reaction to the answer was "So it's all about a b**** tree!"
I suspect he now wishes that he had never asked.
(A translation of "Ombra mai fu" is at http://www.aria-database.com/translations/serse01_ombra.txt)
These things are sent to try us!
You have mail: Oh no I don't!
What started as a minor irritation has turned into a major nuisance. Wrongly addressed email is beginning to drive me potty! I am not referring to poorly disguised spam with subject lines such as "Here is the URL that I mentioned" or "Nice to see you again", but to missives that contain important and sometimes confidential information, and which are obviously intended for someone else. On a good day, I receive two or three misdirected emails a day: on a bad day that can rise to six or seven.
The occasional slip of the mouse when selecting an address from your contact database can be forgiven: we have all done it at least once and regretted that we did not double check the To: field. I can even forgive the occasional slip of a finger when typing out a mail address, although one would expect more care to be taken with messages intended for someone at rbs.co.uk (Royal Bank of Scotland) rather than us at rba.co.uk (the letters s and a are next to one another on the keyboard).
I must confess that I was once tempted to take a peek at an attachment containing what was labelled as confidential customer information but contented myself by replying with our standard "wrong address" response. Luckily for the sender, my email software does not automatically open attachments. In contrast, many organisations do set up their users' systems so that files are opened when they click on the subject line.
But what really makes me see red are those who, despite our efforts to point out their mistake, repeatedly send out correspondence to the wrong address i.e. ME!!! There is a PR agency that works for the airline industry and thinks that we are Royal Brunei Airlines; and there is an architects practice in the north of England that has set up a mini mailing list for its associates and which includes various names @ rba.co.uk. In both cases, the messages are often accompanied by huge attachments.
Then there is the guessing game. A company has RBA somewhere in its name or abbreviated name, and senders guess or mishear the address. The more interesting include the Religious Basketball Association, Royal Bird Association, and the River Basin Authority. I also routinely receive email intended for a UK publisher and a recruitment agency, always with several megabytes of encoded files.
I am not the only one to be at the receiving end of wrongly addressed messages. A fellow sufferer, Richard Morris, has gone as far as to actually name and shame individuals on his E-Mail E-neptitude page (http://www.ineptitude.co.uk/email.htm). So next time you start bashing away at the keyboard and get ready to fire off a message to a friend or colleague, double check that email address first.
You have been warned!
Meetings and Workshops
Karen Blakeman will be presenting at the following courses:
May 9th, Business Information on the Internet
June 18th, 1.30 - 5.00 pm
TFTTR Contact Information
Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services
TFTTR archives: http://www.rba.co.uk/tfttr/archives/index.shtml
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