Tales from the Terminal Room

December 2008, Issue No. 85

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Tales from the Terminal Room ISSN 1467-338X
December 2008, Issue No. 85
Editor: Karen Blakeman
Published by: RBA Information Services

Tales from the Terminal Room (TFTTR) is an electronic newsletter that includes reviews and comparisons of information sources; useful tools for managing information; technical and access problems on the Net; and news of RBA's training courses and publications. Many of the items and articles will have already appeared on Karen Blakeman's Blog at http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/

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:

PNC's Christmas Price Index

PNC CPI 2008 broadcast


PNC's Christmas Price Index (http://www.pncchristmaspriceindex.com/CPI/index.html) for 2008 is now available. The index, compiled by PNC Wealth Management, monitors the cost of the gifts sent by True Love in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. The Christmas Price Index (CPI) team, comprising James P. Dunigan, Rebekah McCahan and E. William Stone, have been tracking the index since 1984.

According to the 24th annual survey, the cost of the PNC CPI is now $21,080, $1,573 more than in 2007. PNC comment in their press release:

"The seven swans a-swimming proved to be a driver of this year's index, carrying the greatest weight with a whopping 33.3 percent increase due to their scarcity. True Loves will spend $5,600 this year for Swans compared with $4,200 in 2007..

Two other costs in the CPI dropped this year: three French hens and Six geese-a-laying. This year the hens cost $30, a drop of 33.3 percent over last year, and the geese cost $240, falling one-third. Four calling birds remained steady, costing $599.96, the same as a year ago."

An interactive chart (http://www.pncchristmaspriceindex.com/CPI/charts.html) allows researches to view the total CPI as well as individual items over the years. More detailed and historical information (http://www.pncchristmaspriceindex.com/CPI/mediaDownloads.html) is available including a spreadsheet containing data going back to 1984.

PNC CPI Interactive Chart 2008

For True Loves who prefer to shop over the Internet, PNC Wealth Management calculates that they will pay a grand total of $31,957, almost $11,000 more than in the traditional index.

According to Dunigan:

"In general, Internet prices are higher than their non-Internet counterparts because of shipping costs for birds and the convenience factor of shopping online"

PNC Wealth Management also tabulates the True Cost of Christmas, which is the total cost of items gifted by a True Love who repeats all of the song's verses. This holiday season, True Loves will pay more than ever before - $86,609 - for all 364 items, up 10.9 per cent from $78,100 in 2007.

Search Tools

MSE360 Search


I picked up details of Search (MSE360) via Phil Bradley's blog posting (http://philbradley.typepad.com/phil_bradleys_weblog/2008/10/mse360.html) and so far am very impressed with it. The home page is minimalist as is the norm these days and apart from the search box the only other obvious search option is a pull down list of countries. The 'Go Advanced' link has options for entering phrases, excluding pages that contain a term and searching within a site or domain. Filetype is not currently included but you can use it, and other advanced search options, as part of what I call a 'command line' search: for example

"car ownership" UK site:gov.uk filetype:pdf

I also found that you can use Boolean AND, OR, NOT operators and parentheses.

The Options link allows you to set safe search for images and enable/disable WOT. WOT is short for "Web of Trust" and is a community whose members exchange knowledge of websites. If WOT is enabled it will insert icons next to the results and the colour of the icon ranges through shades of green, amber and red, red indicating sites about which you might want to exercise some caution. Hover over the icon and you can view the WOT 'scorecard'.

The results page is 'three tiered'. The centre panel contains the usual web listings, and the default style has wikipedia and blog postings on the left, and images on the right. When I first visited MSE360 the layout could be changed by selecting a different stylesheet. At the time of writing this was not possible but there was a note on the site saying that they were changing the style sheets so hopefully this option will be back soon.


The quality of the results for my standard, basic test searches was excellent and compared favourably with Google.

MSE360 say that they are still a test site so there are bound to be bugs and changes to the interface will be made constantly. They say " We're not at a stage in which we can say we're ready , but still love hearing your feedback, good or bad". My first impression is that they are very close to being ready and light years ahead of some of the appalling, over-hyped search engines that have been launched recently. However, they clearly do not know how the people behind major search engines should behave: I sent an email regarding a problem and within 3 hours I received a reply and apologies for taking so long to reply :-). Come on you guys, if you want to be like Google you take 3 months to reply - oh, actually, you shouldn't reply at all!

I definitely recommend that you pay them a visit.

Begone Searchwiki

Google's Searchwiki sounded like a good idea at the time. Sign in with your Google account, activate Searchwki, carry out a search and you can promote, or delete entries in your results list and add comments that can be made public. So I had a go. Unfortunately, should you later want to look at the un-searchwiki'ed results list you cannot just switch it off. You have to log out of your Google account and re-run the search. What annoys me even more, though, is that it overrides my Firefox Customise Google add-on.

I like to drop in an out of my Gmail, look at Google analytics about once a day and work on my Google Custom Search Engines. So most of the time I am signed in to one of my Google accounts. I do not want to have keep logging out just to carry out an ordinary search and to be able to look at the results in the way I want. Thankfully, Google seems to have seen sense over this. Techcrunch reports that Google will be providing a toggle button to allow users to turn the feature off, possibly in Q1 2009.

In the mean time if you are interested in Searchwiki, curb your curiosity. Don't go there!

Ten science search engines

Ten science search engines (http://hwlibrary.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/science-search-engines/) is actually a list of nine compiled by Roddy Macleod and his team at Heriot-Watt. You are invited to submit suggestions for the tenth via the comments section. The nine are:Scirus, Scitopia.org, Science.gov, ScienceResearch.com, Scitation, WorldWideScience.org, Science Accelerator, TechXtra, and search.optics.org. They all have different coverage and emphasis and none are comprehensive. Which one will work for you depends very much on the subject area. The three I regularly use in this list are Elsevier's Scirus, TechXtra for engineering (ICBL and Heriot-Watt University) and WorldWideScience.org. Conspicuous by its absence is Google Scholar!

RefSeek for "academic information"

RefSeek(http://www.refseek.com/) is a new search engine that "aims to make academic information easily accessible to everyone". There is very little information on how it works other than it searches more than one billion documents, including web pages, books, encyclopaedias, journals, and newspapers. A few test searches suggest that it searches just .edu. ac.uk, .org web and .gov web sites but not .org.uk or .gov.uk.

Straightaway, those of us in the UK are missing out on a large chunk of scientific information and data as are other countries whose academic web domains do not include an organisation type such as. edu or ac. My searches on zeolites, for example, failed to pick up papers on Zurich University's web site (http://www.uzh.ch/). Also, .org and .org.uk domains can be bought by anyone and are not guaranteed to carry quality, peer reviewed articles. A search on my husband (Rhodes) and zeolites came up with some of his papers on the Royal Society of Chemistry web site (http://www.rsc.org/) and his own home page that is normally advertised as www.fresh-lands.com, but RefSeek picked up on the alternative freshlands.org domain.


Search options are the standard double quotes around phrases, minus sign to exclude documents containing a term, plus sign to include stop words and the Boolean OR. Next to each entry in the results list is an option to "Search this Site" which does work well. Although searching is free, you may find that you have to pay for articles on some sites.

Overall, RefSeek does a reasonable job of limiting your search to more serious scientific and academic information but there are far too many omissions for it to be reliably used on its own. There are several other science search engines that I would recommend you investigate and use along side of RefSeek: see Ten Science Search Engines at http://hwlibrary.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/science-search-engines/

ticTOCs Journal Tables of Contents Service

I had been doing so well at cutting back on my RSS feeds, but then I bumped into Roddy Macleod at Online Information. He reminded me about the ticTOCs service and then today I spotted their posting about the service in spineless? (http://hwlibrary.wordpress.com/2008/12/10/easy-journal-tables-of-contents-from-hundreds-of-publishers/)

ticTOCs (http://www.tictocs.ac.uk/) is a new scholarly journal tables of contents (TOCs) service and Heriot-Watt is one of the fourteen partners who have developed it. You can use ticTOCs to search for the most recent table of contents of over 11,000 scholarly journals, from over 400 publishers and also view them on the ticTOCs site.

You can view the latest TOC (table of contents) of the journal, link through to the full text (where subscriptions allow), and save selected journals to MyTOCs so that you can return to the site and view future TOCs. Alternatively, you can save your selection as an OPML file and import the list into your favourite RSS reader. And that has been my undoing. I have already added about 30 journals to my feeds but I suspect that I shall delete some of those once I have had a chance to evaluate their relevance to my areas of interest. But I have at least two more subject areas to investigate. RSS feed overload is imminent!



Using Twitter for Business

As well as being an RSS junkie I confess that I am also a member of the the 'twitterazzi'. Deprived of my regular Twitter fixes I suffer severe withdrawal symptoms. What is infobunny up to? Did Jillbrad manage to print her spreadsheet? Did Tebbo meet up with anyone at T5?

Persuading people that RSS is a good thing is not that difficult, but proving the value of Twitter is hard work, especially as the associated jargon - tweets, twitterstream, twits - sounds so ludicrous. Chris Brogan's blog posting on 50 Ideas on Using Twitter for Business (http://www.chrisbrogan.com/50-ideas-on-using-twitter-for-business/) is a great starting point for ideas on how you can seriously use Twitter. He also lists 'The Negatives People Will Throw at You' and 'Some Positives to Throw Back'. My personal favourite in the list is number 11: Instead of answering the question "What are you doing?", answer the question "What has your attention?"

If you need more convincing that Twitter is good for business an article in Business Week on ' How Companies Use Twitter to Bolster Their Brands' (http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/sep2008/tc2008095_320491.htm) does what its says on the tin.

"Microblogging lets an airline, for instance, monitor customers' gripes - and tweet back. Is this a creepy trend?"

Companies mentioned include JetBlue, Comcast, Dell, General Motors, H&R Block, Kodak and Whole Foods Market.

Information Resources

Free Official Swedish Company Information

allabolag.se - Gratis företagsinformation på Internet (http://www.allabolag.se/start) is a quick and easy way to access basic official information on Swedish companies free of charge. That is the good news. The bad news is that it is only available in Swedish but it easy enough to navigate. On the home page there are two boxes: in the first you can enter a company or a person's name, whereas the second is for entering components of the address. You can view contact details, key financials and executives free of charge and there is an option to order various reports. If you have the Google toolbar installed in your browser, the 'Translate into English' option works well enough to enable you to understand most of the headings and financial items.

Google translation of company information page

Swedish company information


Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

The Texas Secretary of State is the official office for registering various business entities in Texas, but I have been told that it is not the best source for quick and free information. The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts - Taxable Entity Search (http://ecpa.cpa.state.tx.us/coa/Index.html) has basic business entity information including name, status, location, agent, file number, SOS (Secretary of State) registration date, and taxpayer ID. You can search by file number, tax ID or entity name.

Chipwrapper introduces time-slices

One of my favourite news sites, Chipwrapper (http://www.chipwrapper.co.uk/), now offers an option to search for articles within a specified time period. Chipwrapper is a Google custom search engine that covers UK news sources on the Internet. Until now, a drawback of the service has been the absence of an option to limit your search by date. You can include a year and/or month in your search but now there are built in options to search for articles published within the past 24 hours, week, month or year.

Chipwrapper search page

My earlier review of this excellent service can be found at http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2007/12/29/chipwrapper-search-uk-newspapers/

Simmons & Company - energy statistics and data

Simmons & Company International (http://www.simmonsco-intl.com/default.asp) is the only independent investment bank specializing in the energy industry. Founded in 1974, the firm has acted as financial advisor in over $134 billion of transactions, including 535 merger and acquisitions worth over $93 billion. As well as copies of presentations made by senior partner Matthew R Simmons there is a collection of industry statistics gathered from a variety of sources. These are split into upstream and downstream and include rig counts, summaries of oil and gas prices, US crude oil inventories, refining capacity and days of supply. There is some International data but much of it is North American biased.

Simmons & Company

Under the main Energy Industry link are lists of major public listed upstream and downstream companies (coverage is world-wide), and links to industry news sources, associations, statistics and government sites (many are North American).

Despite the geographical bias, this is a good starting point for information on the oil and gas industry as it lists most of the key resources. Matthew Simmons's presentations and papers are often quoted in the main stream media and are worth monitoring. There is an email alert for new presentations but no RSS. If you are desperate for RSS rather than email there is always the Page2RSS service (http://www.page2rss.com/) that monitors pages for changes and alerts you via RSS.

African Financials

African Financials (http://www.africanfinancials.com/) is a free Annual Reports portal focusing on investment in Africa. If you need an annual report on an African listed company this is a good place to start. There are 1100 reports and you can browse by sector, year or country. There are also links to CEO blogs and recently added documents. The IPO section lists rumoured, expected, recent, current, archived, cancelled, and postponed IPOs. Some of the IPO documents are available via the Download section.

African Financials


SCoRe: national UK catalogue of printed company reports

SCoRe S earch Co mpany Re ports (http://www.score.ac.uk) is a catalogue of printed company reports, both current and historic, held in UK libraries. The catalogue does not provide links to digitised documents but it is a very quick and easy way of identifying libraries that hold hard copy reports. The participating libraries include London Business School, the British Library, Manchester Business School, City Business Library, Guildhall Library, Strathclyde University and the University of Warwick. A full list is available at http://www.score.ac.uk/collections.asp.

Searching is straightforward: simply type in the company name and select a collection, or leave it as the default 'All'. Non UK companies are also covered and you can restrict your search to a specific country by using the Advanced Search. The results give you name of the company and any variations, for example searching on Cadbury will find results on Cadbury Schweppes, Fry

Cadbury, Cadbury Brothers etc. The libraries that hold copies of the reports are listed together with the earliest and latest years of a collection's holdings.


An added bonus of this service is that it suggests you look at related companies. For example, clicking on Cadbury Brothers Ltd in my results lists came up with British Cocoa and Chocolate Co Ltd, of which Cadbury Brothers was a subsidiary, and Cadbury Schweppes. Cadbury Brothers, it tells me, later to become Cadbury Group merged with Schweppes to form Cadbury Schweppes in 1969). In addition to locating historical annual reports, this service is a good place to pick up clues on past corporate relationships.  

TriMark Publications - Biotechnology, Healthcare and Life Sciences Market Research

TriMark Publications (http://www.trimarkpublications.com/reports.htm) focuses on market research in biotechnology, health care and the life sciences. You can browse reports or search by keyword. The market reports vary in price but there are detailed table of contents and the first three or four pages available free of charge as a sample. However, any figures or data on the pages are blacked out. It is refreshing, though, to see a detailed listing of what is contained in the reports before you part with significant amounts of money.

Sector Snapshots cost just USD 500 and provide a high-level overview of a particular market sector, including key players, sales data and emerging trends.

Database Tables, costing USD 100 each, are a one-page table of hard-to-find numerical information. They are derived from "a proprietary source" and provide a high-level overview of specific data points in a table format. Database Tables are not reports or comprehensive analyses.

British Services UK

Owned and operated by Infoactive Media Ltd, British Services UK (http://www.britishservices.co.uk /) lists major governing bodies, government departments, associations and resources of over 100 industries in the UK along with non-profit organisations, charities, groups, clubs and businesses. My particular interest in this site was the list of trade associations and regulatory bodies at http://www.britishservices.co.uk/associations.htm. Trade associations are often an excellent starting point for general information and key resources on industry sectors.

You can browse by service type, for example Trade Associations or Chambers of Commerce, and narrow down your results by location. There is no option to browse by industry sector and the absence of a proper site search engine makes it even more difficult to find information. Overall, the coverage of trade associations and regulatory bodies is good but not as comprehensive as the Trade Association Forum (http://www.taforum.org/)

The search box at the top of the screen fails to pick up any results from the listings and at best only displays advertisements. You could, of course, use Google Advanced Search to carry out a site search, but this was when I began to suspect the quality of some of the data. A search on my own professional body CILIP, which is also a registered charity, did indeed find the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals but it is listed under Bloomsbury Newspapers along with Benjamin Dent & Co, Northcliffe Newspapers, The Friend Publications and The Spectator.

This site has potential, but the navigation needs to be improved and a working search engine ought to be added. Some of the services are incorrectly listed and there are more comprehensive listings elsewhere. British Services UK has an advantage in that everything is in one place, but use with caution.

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


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This page was last updated on 16 December, 2008 Copyright © 2008 Karen Blakeman.