Tales from the Terminal Room

January 2006, Issue No. 67

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Tales from the Terminal Room ISSN 1467-338X
January 2006, Issue No. 67
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, and November and December, which are published as single issues. TFTTR includes reviews and comparisons of information sources; 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.

Tales from the Terminal Room can be delivered via email as plain text or as a PDF with active links. You can join the distribution list by going to http://www.rba.co.uk/tfttr/index.shtml and filling in the form. You will be sent an email asking you to confirm that you want to be added to the list. TFTTR is also available as an RSS feed. The URL for the feed is http://www.rba.co.uk/rss/tfttr.xml .

In this issue:

  • Search Tools
    • Search Tools You Might Have Missed
  • Internet Librarian International 2006: Call for Speakers
  • Inforum, Prague
  • Cost of True Love's Christmas up by 6 per cent
  • Information Resources
    • Marketscan - Mailing Lists and Direct Mail Services
    • Alacrastore adds EIU content
    • Dohop - low cost flight search engine
    • UK National Newspaper RSS Feeds
    • Transport Direct - Connecting People to Places
  • Gizmo of the month
    • Mozdev Googlebar for Firefox updated
  • Meetings and Workshops
    • RSS, Blogs and Wikis (Newcastle)
    • Assessing the Quality of Information (London)
    • Searching the Internet: Google and Beyond (Birmingham)

Search Tools You Might Have Missed

This article is based on a free Information Masterclass given by Karen Blakeman at Online Information 2005, Thursday 1st December 2005.

Do your web searches strike oil on your first attempt or do you plumb the depths only to find murk and mire? Google is a fantastic search engine but it does not search all of the web, and you may be using the wrong “bit” of Google. The problem is that the web is huge, massive, ginormous! Yahoo now claims to have over 20 billion documents in its index, but it is not just the common or garden html web page that holds key information: blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, ebooks, databases, peer reviewed articles, videos, maps are all important resources. This article looks at some of the specialist tools that have emerged over the last year, both Google's and its competitor's, how they can help you mine the massive web and improve your search results.

First of all, we look at a few of the specialist Google tools and then some of the Google alternatives.

Google Books http://books.google.com/
Originally called Google Print, this service has been renamed because some users thought Google Print would help them print out web pages. This is not the Google Libraries project that has caused such a furore in the US regarding copyright. Publishers voluntarily submit their books to Google Books in electronic form or as hard copy. Google then scans and indexes the text. Once you have identified a relevant book you can search within that book. This is not new technology - Amazon.com has been providing this for some books for quite a while – but it seems to have been overshadowed by the arguments over the libraries project. The Advanced Search screen has options for searching by title, author, publisher, year of publication and ISBN.

Google Local http://local.google.co.uk/
Google Local is now available for the UK. It combines listings from Yell.com and Google's own web database and presents results superimposed on a map as well as a list. You can also view the Google Earth image of the area separately or superimposed on the map (hybrid). Not all areas of the UK have high resolution images, though. If you are travelling by car, you can ask for directions, which I am told are reasonably accurate. As far as the listings are concerned, I find that Google Local sometimes misses business that are included in both Yell and Google, and it varies from day to day which ones are omitted. Yell.com (http://www.yell.com/) is more likely to provide a complete listing and has maps and high resolution aerial photos of most areas.

Google Blogsearch http://www.google.com/blogsearch/
Google Blogsearch identifies blogs by the links to the RSS feeds that are often associated with them. Not all blogs have RSS feeds and not all pages that have RSS feeds are blogs. The default search pulls up the usual amalgam of self-indulgent, pointless postings with a few useful blogs dotted sparingly through the results list. The Advanced Search is a better bet with options for searching by author and for terms in the blog title. I find the latter gives me far more relevant results when I am looking for a serious, industry specific blog.

Google Base http://www.google.com/base/
A recent beta service and one, that I am afraid, may bombard us with yet more meaningless drivel. According to Google “Google Base is a place where you can add all types of information that we'll host and make searchable online. Based on the relevance of your items, they may also be included in the main Google search index and other Google products such as Froogle and Google Local”. On the other hand, If you are looking for a specific type of information such as jobs listings, comics, books etc this is the place to be.

Google Video http://video.google.com/
The interface to this seems to change every other week and you have to pay to view some of the clips. Worth trying but I often find that the Video search option of Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.co.uk/ or http://www.yahoo.com/) comes up with more relevant results and Blinkx (http://www.blinkx.tv/) has a wider selection of sources. The Video option in Dogpile (http://www.dogpile.com/) is also worth a go.

Personalized Home Page http://labs.google.com/
This area on Google lets you personalise your Google Home page by incorporating weather forecasts, Googlemail subject lines, Search History (see below), RSS feeds etc. You have to log in to use this feature so you will have to set up a Google or Googlemail account of some sort.

Search History http://labs.google.com/
Search History keeps a record of all the searches that you do on Google and the pages that you click on. This can be a useful way of recording the sources that you have used as part of your research and the search strategies that you used. On the other hand, your work may be highly confidential and this is the last thing you need! It can be toggled on and off, and you can easily remove searches from the list. You may find that you have a Search History without knowing it. If you have a Google Alert or Mail account and do not always log out when you have finished, the Search History is switched on by default.

Alternatives to Google

Yahoo Search http://search.yahoo.co.uk/ or http://search.yahoo.com/
Re -launched in January 2004, a surprising number of people are still unaware of this excellent alternative to Google. It often presents completely different results to Google, claims to have over 20 billion pages in its index and supports full Boolean search options. It has most of the Google advanced search features, much better link commands, and indexes the first 500 K of a document as opposed to Google's 100 K (important when searching for PDF or PPT file formats). The image search is far superior to Google's in terms of relevance and there is an RSS/XML filetype in the Advanced Search if you are looking for blogs or RSS feeds.

Yahoo Mindset http://mindset.research.yahoo.com/
This version of Yahoo! Search sorts results according to whether they are more commercial (shopping) or more informational (research-oriented). Type in your search and Yahoo gives you the first 10 results with a slider bar at the top of the page. At one end of the bar is "shopping" and at the other "researching". You start off in the middle and can slide the bar in either direction to change the emphasis. Even if you have highly relevant results right from the start it is worth shifting the the bar in either direction; it does significantly alter the results that appear in the top 10 and presents pages that one might not have normally seen.

MSN Search http://search.msn.com/ or http://search.msn.co.uk/
Relaunched in Autumn 2004, this offering from Microsoft offers most of the advanced search features one would expect from a major search engine. Results are often listed in a different order from other search tools such as Google and Yahoo and sometimes tend to be more “consumer” orientated. For example a search on gin and vodka sales tends to pick up more online stores in the top 20 than market research reports. This is not necessarily a problem as you may want your results to be biassed in this way. The News search option is more limited than Yahoo's and Google and more US biased.

Ask Jeeves http://www.ask.com/ or http://www.ask.co.uk/
Ask Jeeves has had a major overhaul this year and is a worthy competitor in the search engine arena. It uses the Teoma database and has a very useful “Zoom” that suggests terms and strategies – listed to the right of your results - for narrowing down and broadening your search.

Exalead http://www.exalead.com/
A relative newcomer to general web search, Exalead has resurrected some of the search functions that were dropped by the the major search engines long ago. There is a NEAR command that looks for terms within 16 words of one another and you can use the asterisk (*) as a wild card at the end of a word. You can also use the * after a full stop in the middle of a word to stand in for one or more letters. You must start and end the term with a forward slash. For example, /psych.*ist/ will find psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst etc. The standard advanced search functions are supported as is full Boolean search. Unique features are the approximate spelling and phonetic search that can be accessed form the advanced search or from the left hand side of the results screen.

Gigablast http://www.gigablast.com/
Gigablast may not have the largest database but it does have some very useful features such as suggesting alternative search strategies (Giga Bits), displaying a text only version of the web page and linking to older versions of the page in the Wayback Machine (http://www.archive.org/)

Internet Archive, Wayback Machine http://www.archive.org/
If a site or document has disappeared from the web you may be able to find a copy in the Internet Archive. This also has applications in Competitor Intelligence as you can browse through older copies of a site and see how an organisation has changed in the way it presents and promotes itself and its products. Some sites go back to 1996.

Flickr http://www.flickr.com/
Looking for photos of a conference or sporting event? Try Flickr. Anyone can set up an account and upload photos, and make them available to a selected group of people or to the world in general. The only problem with Flickr is that you achieve the best results by searching the “tags” that have been assigned to the photos, and they are not always that easy to discover. Some conference and event organisers now announce the recommended tag at the start of the proceedings.

Morgue File http://www.morguefile.com/
This morgue file contains free high resolution digital stock photography for either corporate or public use. The term "morgue file" is popular in the newspaper business to describe the file that holds past issues. The purpose of this site is to provide free image reference material for use in all creative pursuits.

Blinkx TV http://www.blinkx.tv/
Blinkx.tv concentrates on video (news and entertainment) and audio/radio files from a wide range of sources including the BBC, ITN, CNN and GMTV.

Alacrawiki http://www.alacrawiki.com/
This is a guide to business information companies, publishers and databases from Alacra.com. The Alacra Industry Spotlights in particular are extremely useful in providing reviews and commentary on industry specific web sites, and the Types of Content section lists resources under headings such as mergers and acquisitions, news, people and corporate governance. There is also information on content aggregators, databases and the best business information blogs. Anyone can contribute and edit the pages apart from the Industry Spotlights, which are locked. There is a US bias on some of the sectors but there are enough International sources to make it worth a visit if you want a quick overview of an industry.

Bringing it all together

It can be daunting trying to remember which tool to use for which type of enquiry. This is where meta search tools (tools that run your search across several tools at once) and sites that enable you to compare and quickly switch between different services come into their own.

Killerinfo http://www.killerinfo.com/
This is a meta search tool that combines your results into a single de-duplicated list. The results are clustered into folders to help you focus on more relevant pages and there is a “Quick Peek” option for each entry that lets you preview the page within the results list. See also Vivisimo (http://vivisimo.com/).

Dogpile http://www.dogpile.com/
The web search on Dogpile combines results from Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves or you can view the results from each one side by side with the unique results highlighted. The video and audio search options are also worth trying, although for these types of search you cannot compare the results from the different tools.

Graball http://www.graball.com/
Graball enables you to compare results from two search tools at a time and has web, video, audio, and image options.

Trovando http://www.trovando.it/
This is an interface to dozens of search tools covering a wide range of formats and information types. You type in your strategy just once, click on the type of information (for example web, image, blog, video/audio, reference) and then choose your service (for example Reference includes Wikipedia, Google Scholar, FindArticles, Scirus, Encarta). This is a very quick way of running your search sequentially in a whole range of tools. Although one cannot always use advanced search commands I find that it provides an excellent reminder of which resources I should be considering.

Firefox Customise Google Extension https://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/
If you are a Firefox user, the Customise Google Extension is worth considering. It enables you to add or remove elements from Google results pages and to add links to other search tools according to whether you are using web, image, news etc.

A9 http://www.a9.com/
This is a sort of "roll your own" service that allows you to pick and mix results from over 200 search tools including web, image, blog, news and reference sources.

Keeping up to date

I report on new resources and search features in my own blog at http://www.rba.co.uk/rss/blog.htm and in my free newsletter Tales from the Terminal Room (http://www.rba.co.uk/tfttr/index.shtml). For my own current awareness I use a mix of newsletters and RSS feeds, but the top three for me are:

Internet Resources Newsletter http://www.hw.ac.uk/libWWW/irn/irn.html
A monthly newsletter available on the Web and via email highlighting key sources of information and new search tools.

I want to .... http://www.philb.com/iwantto.htm
A page, maintained by Phil Bradley, of over 300 utilities that help you do stuff you want to Web 2.0 applications.

Phil Bradley's Blog http://philbradley.typepad.com/
First port of call for the more unusual search tools and new search engine features.

Internet Librarian International 2006: Call for Speakers

Information Today invites proposals for presentations at Internet Librarian International 2006, to be held at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in London, UK, 16-17 October 2006. The emphasis is on the practical rather than theoretical, and on case studies and proposals about initiatives in your library, not product pitches or overviews. If you would like to be considered as a speaker, please go to https://secure.infotoday.com/ILI/submit.asp to submit your ideas (deadline: 30 March 2006).

Possible topics (but don't let this limit your imagination!) include:

  • Web search Digital libraries/collections
  • Social software and social networking
  • Blogs, wikis, podcasts
  • Libraries as publishers
  • Taxonomies, folksonomies
  • Gaming in the library
  • Information policy
  • Web site usability
  • E-books
  • Web 2.0 Library 2.0
  • Open access and open source
  • Distance learning

If your proposal is selected, the primary speaker will receive a complimentary registration to the full conference, which includes lunches and a reception.

Inforum, Prague

The 12th Inforum conference will take place in Prague, Czech Republic, May 23-25 2006.

The three-day conference focuses on a variety of issues concerning the use of electronic information resources in research, development, education and business. It is attended by information specialists from public and special libraries, corporate sector and government agencies. I attended last year as a speaker and workshop presenter and was so impressed by the quality, variety and enthusiasm of the conference that I shall be attending this year as a delegate. One of the great things about this event is that you do not see the same faces giving the same talks every year: it is always fresh and vibrant and takes place in a wonderful city that should be on your must-visit list.

If you are interested in taking part at the conference, either as a speaker or as a participant, you can find detailed information at the Inforum 2006 website http://www.inforum.cz/inforum2006/english/ (which includes main conference topics, paper submission form, etc.). The delegate registration forms will be available along with the preliminary conference programme by the beginning of March 2006.

Cost of True Love's Christmas up by 6 per cent

If you are counting the cost of overindulgence and overspending at Christmas, spare a thought for True Love and his (or her) overstretched credit cards. The 21st annual PNC Christmas Price Index (http://www.pncchristmaspriceindex.com/pressrelease.htm) shows that the cost of Christmas for True Love - made famous by the song 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' - has gone up by 6 per cent. Avian flu and energy prices are major contributory factors the report claims.

Every year, PNC Advisors calculate the cost of goods and services gifted by True Love in the song and this year it totalled USD 18,348. That figure represents the cost of the individual items, not the total cost of presents gifted by a True Love who repeats all of the song's verses. That comes to a whopping USD 72,608 for all 364 items, up 9.5 per cent from USD 66,334 in 2004.

Jeff Kleintop, chief investment strategist for PNC Advisors said "Not only are avian flu fears and fuel costs driving prices higher, but gold prices are also on the rise. Meanwhile, wages for skilled laborers are struggling to keep up with rising expenses." The biggest hurdle for True Loves will be obtaining imported birds. The threat of avian flu has restricted the international shipment of birds, thus preventing the purchase of three French hens from France. However, there are US domestic breeders of French hens, as well as the other feathered friends mentioned in the song. Since the large birds are bought from national suppliers, total costs are higher due to the shipping and related increases in fuel prices. The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens reports the cost of geese almost doubled this year while the cost of swans increased by 20 percent.

For online shoppers, PNC tabulates the cost of The Twelve Days gifts purchased on the web and the figures show that it can be considerably more expensive to go Internet shopping. The true cost of Christmas via the web this year is USD 123,846.62. The greatest differential was for Ten Lords a Leaping: USD 10,947 online compared with USD 4039.02 paid for their services using more traditional means of recruitment.

Information Resources

Marketscan - Mailing Lists and Direct Mail Services


Marketscan offer direct mail services to businesses and individuals. The lists appear on first glance to be heavily UK biased but there are also International and European lists. You can browse and build lists via a number of different routes: business, consumer, company directors, market sectors, SIC codes, geographical planner. The business lists, for example, include New Connections, Job Function, Medical Data Set, IT Data Set and email lists. I found the market sectors approach far more flexible than SIC codes, which is the usual option offered by most other services. Building a list is straightforward and prices start at GBP 115 per 1000 records.

There is also a guide to direct mail marketing (http://www.marketscan.co.uk/direct_marketing_guide.asp) that can be viewed on site or downloaded as a PDF. The points and issues raised should be common sense to anyone experienced in direct marketing but it is all too easy to lose track of where you are in a campaign. For newcomers to direct marketing, this is an essential primer: for seasoned veterans it is a useful checklist and reminder.

Alacrastore adds EIU content


Alacra Store, who provide pay as you go access to company and industry data, have added EIU content. You can now find all types of EIU Country Data in the store including Country Profiles, Country Reports, Country Forecasts, ViewsWire articles, and Risk Briefings. They have also included all of the content from recent issues of The Economist magazine.

A new feature currently being tested on the EIU files is "Search This Document". It enables you to see the keyword in context for each place it appears in a given report. I find that this is the only way to confirm that the information you want is in a document. Tables of contents can not always do this. I note, though, that any figures in the text surrounding the keywords are replaced by ###. Drat, drat and triple drat! But not surprising as it would be a sneaky way to get free market share information :-). But the reports are reasonably priced and in dollars, which at the moment is good news for those of us in the UK.

Dohop - low cost flight search engine


Dohop is a relatively new search engine from Icelandic company Dohop Ltd. At launch, it concentrated on low cost airlines but now includes "standard" airlines and fares, and suggests flight combinations where needed. It does not sell flights or take bookings but the search results include links to airlines and travel agent web sites where you can book tickets directly. To search, you start typing in the location of your departure point and dohop will come up with a list of suggested airports as it does with your destination. Click on the date fields and a calendar pops up to help you enter them in a valid format.

When the results list is displayed, you can narrow down your search by airport, transits and airline. Prices are automatically displayed when there is only one price for an airline/airport. For the other results, click on the Get Price link and the range of options is displayed together with the source. For my London/Inverness test search it came up with four prices for a flight that it had found on the BMI web site, Expedia, ebookers and Opodo. Prices are in shown by default in Euros but you can change the currency via a pull down menu. So far, I am impressed and I have not yet been able to better the results by going to my usual sources one by one.

UK National Newspaper RSS Feeds


I spotted this list via Peter Scott's RSS Compendium Blog (http://ast.antville.org/). As the title says, this is a list of RSS feeds provided by the major UK national newspapers: The Guardian, Times Online, Independent, FT, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Mirror.co.uk and the Scotsman. The BBC feeds are also included.

Transport Direct - Connecting People to Places


I was alerted to this site by my friend and colleague Dot Walker. It claims to give "information for door-to-door travel for both public transport and car journeys around Britain. Our aim is to provide you with comprehensive, easy-to-use travel information to help you plan your journeys effectively and efficiently." They work with both public and private travel operators and local/national government. It is operated by a consortium led by Atos Origin. The non-profit service is funded by the UK Department for Transport, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Executive.

I have seen many of these types of services before and most of them have been dire. They are usually OK as far as trains and flights are concerned but when you get down to the really local level where you need to take buses or trams they generally fail. I decided to test it out on some real stinkers. My husband and I have been walking the "Thames Path". This is a route of foot and tow paths that follow the River Thames from its source near Kemble to the Thames Barrier at Woolwich. We use public transport to get to and from the various staging posts, and we sometimes need to use some weird and wonderful combinations of services to do it. Until now we have had to work out the transport routes ourselves, so I thought this would be a good test of the door-to-door option.

Transport Direct came up trumps every time: Ashton Keynes, Cricklade, Wallingford - even Castle Eaton. And it sometimes came up with better, alternative routes that we had never considered. The Maps section shows each stage of the journey and form of transport.

On tickets/cost it was not so comprehensive. It was able to give fare options for trains but not always for the buses. That is a minor quibble, though. We just need to know that if we break off early on our walk, or decide to go a bit further, that there is a way home other than phoning for a taxi to rescue us. And you can access the service from your PDA or mobile. Brilliant!

Gizmo of the Month

Mozdev Googlebar for Firefox updated


Googlebar has been updated to make it compatible with Firefox 1.5. It was possible to fool Firefox into allowing the earlier Googlebar extension to be installed by using the Nightly Tester Tools but one could not guarantee that all the buttons would work. Note that this is not the Toolbar provided by Google (http://toolbar.google.com/) but a completely separate project. I much prefer the Mozdev Googlebar as it offers far more search options from the toolbar including video, book, Scholar, Maps, Local and Glossary search.

Meetings and Workshops

Workshop: RSS, Blogs and Wikis
Organiser: UKeiG
Presenter: Karen Blakeman
Venue: Netskills Training Suite, University of Newcastle
Date: Wednesday, 22nd February 2006
Course fee: UKeiG members £150 + VAT (£176.25); others £180 + VAT (£211.50).
URL: http://www.ukeig.org.uk/training/2005_02_22_rss.html
Outline: Whether you plan to use these new technologies purely as information sources, or intend using them as part of your information delivery strategy, this workshop will guide you through the jargon and demonstrate why you ought to be using these technologies. There will be practical sessions during which you can set up your own personal alerts service using RSS, start a blog, and contribute to a wiki. The techniques and approaches described in this workshop can be applied to all subject areas.

Workshop: Assessing the Quality of Information
Organiser: TFPL
Presenter: Karen Blakeman
Venue: TFPL, London
Date: Wednesday, 1st March 2006

Workshop: Searching the Internet: Google and Beyond
Organiser: UKeiG
Presenter: Karen Blakeman
Venue: Main Library Training Room, University of Birmingham
Date: Tuesday, 21st March 2006
Course fee: UKeiG members £150 + VAT (£176.25); others £180 + VAT (£211.50).
URL: http://www.ukeig.org.uk/2005_03_21_search.html
Outline: Most of us head straight for Google when we want to search the Internet. But Google is not the only search engine and all too often we would be better off taking a completely different approach. With so many new tools available and so many new search features being launched every day, it can be difficult to know which one to use and when. Karen Blakeman will take you through the best of the search engine world and highlight how they can be used to significantly improve your results. By the end of the day participants will have a vital toolkit to help them search more effectively, including key search tools, comparisons, top tips and essential techniques.

TFTTR Contact Information

Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services
UK Tel: 0118 947 2256, Int. Tel: +44 118 947 2256
UK Fax: 020 8020 0253, Int. Fax: +44 20 8020 0253
Address: 88 Star Road, Caversham, Berks RG4 5BE, UK


TFTTR archives: http://www.rba.co.uk/tfttr/archives/index.shtml

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This page was last updated on 25th January 2006  Copyright © 2006 Karen Blakeman.
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