Tales from the Terminal Room
July/August 2010, Issue No. 91
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
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:
You may find advertisements on search results pages irritating but the search engines go to a lot of trouble to ensure that the ads you are exposed to match the content of your search and the sites that you select. Google stores this information in your ad preferences and allows you to view and edit them. You think you don't have any just because you don't click on ad? Then check out http://www.google.com/ads/preferences/.
It does not matter whether or not you are logged in to your Google account because the information is stored in cookies associated with your browser. If you use more than one browser, each will have their own set of preferences that have to be viewed from within the browser. This has implications if you conduct confidential research and others have access to your computer. You might be deleting your search history but it is still possible to get a general idea of what areas you are working on. Your ad preferences also affect advertisements that Google shows on other websites for which it provides advertisements, for example YouTube, news sites and blogs.
You can remove or add an interest category, or opt out altogether from Google's targeted advertising. My Firefox ad preferences mostly reflect the type of research I carry out, although I was puzzled by the inclusion of Local-Regional Content - Africa.
To opt out of behavioural or targeted advertising run by other services the Network Advertising Initiative at http://www.networkadvertising.org/ lists about 50 members and allows you to opt-out of all or a selection. The list will also inform you whether or not you currently have an active cookie from that service. When I looked at my listing there were about fifteen I had never heard of and amazed that I had active cookies on nearly all of them. This is big business!
NAI member companies set a minimum lifespan of five years for their opt out cookies but if your browser is set to automatically clear cookies after a certain time period you will have to go through the opt-out procedure again. Note that opting-out does not mean that adverts will no longer be displayed, it just means that they will not match what Google and other services believe are your interests.
Google has rolled out Bing style results for its image search. If you have never used Bing Image search take a look now. Several people in my latest search workshop loved it so much that they included it in their top search tips (http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2010/07/16/top-search-tips-14th-july-2010-workshop/). Bing Images results do not do page by page results: Bing Images does continuous scroll. As you move down through the results more images are loaded, and more, and more. There is no click "next page" to distract you. And now Google has copied the style. sort of.
I have several problems with Google's new image results layout. The first thing that struck me was that the images are all crammed in side by side to neatly fill the rows. Have the images been cropped to obtain the desired effect or have they been selected by dimensions, rather than relevance, to fill the 'mosaic'? Bing has four images in each row regardless of their relative dimensions so there is more white space between the images, which is easier on the eye. Google's display makes me feel as though I'm in a jam-packed standard class commuter train carriage: Bing is the more spacious, relaxed first class.
Neither Google nor Bing display by default image information, but you only need to hover over the image in which you are interested to see further details. The information is almost the same in both but Bing has an additional option to look for more sizes. The size option is great if you want to use an image but do not want to have the trouble of re-scaling it for your particular application. But not all images are available in 'more sizes'. It depends on whether or not other web pages have reproduced the image with different dimensions. If you own a particular image with strict copyright protection and you know you have only posted a specific size on one page, this can be a useful tool in tracking down copyright violations.
When it comes to scrolling down through your results, Google seems to have lost the plot. Work your way down through the results on Bing and the display smoothly unfolds. Google's is stop start stop...start, stop. And it is so sloooooooow. I can almost hear the cog wheels clanking. Another distraction in Google is that batches of images are separated by the text 'page 2', 'page 3', 'page 4' etc. Why? The whole point of continuous scrolling of results is that there are no pages of results. Bing is so much faster, smoother and slicker.
When it comes to clicking through on an image Google almost wins. Google gives you a background of the web page and superimposed upon that is the full size image. To the right is information about the image with the warning "This image may be subject to copyright".
Bing's does not have the same initial impact, but it does display a scrollable list of thumbnails of your search results to the left of the screen. This is very useful if the image you have selected turns out not to be exactly what you need and you want to review the alternatives.
Who wins? For me it is Bing. It is much faster, easier on the eye, has equally relevant results and has an extra 'more sizes' option. And finally. it just feels right.
I am running a series of hands-on workshops this autumn in London, and the first is on Advanced Google Searching. It is being held on September 23rd at Just IT, 7 Sandy's Row, which is near Liverpool Street.
Google is the first port of call for many of us when it comes to searching the Internet, and with more data and services being added all the time it seems the obvious place to start. More information, more search features but not necessarily more relevant results. This hands-on workshop will look at the latest developments in Google (for example Google property search, statistics and public data explorer) and how to focus your search to obtain better results.
Topics covered include:
This workshop is suitable for all levels of experience. The techniques and approaches covered can be applied to all subject areas. Further details and a booking form is available at http://www.rba.co.uk/training/AdvancedGoogle.htm
An interesting mix of sectors were represented at my recent UKeiG workshop "The Changing Landscape of search". With social media becoming such an important part of search, there was a lot to cover in just one day and still include time for delegates to try out search tools for themselves. At the end of these workshops I ask the group to come up with their own top 10 tips. On this occasion we ended up with 13 and then a few people emailed me some more, thereby doubling the number to 20! The list is a combination of simple tried and tested techniques, new services and tools, and new strategies for dealing with the vast amount of information that is returned by the search engines.
The slides for the day can be found on Slideshare at http://www.slideshare.net/KarenBlakeman/changing-landscape-of-search
Mark Prisk went on to say "The regional Business Links have spent too much time signposting and not enough time actually advising." and that he envisages a "21st Century service" co-funded by the private sector and delivered online. The interview has been picked up by numerous blogs and the regional press, and comments have been both negative and positive. Some people have nothing but praise for their local Business Link whilst others report that the advice they received was useless and a waste of time. This reflects the mixed feedback I get from people who attend my business information workshops: the quality of the service varies widely depending on which Business Link you use and who you speak to.
Also worth reading is Real Business's analysis of Business Link at "Business Link: never fit for purpose" at http://realbusiness.co.uk/leadership/business_link_never_fit_for_purpose.
So what is going to replace Business Link if anything? Mark Prisk is reported as saying that he envisages private-sector business support agencies, such as those linked to their local Chamber of Commerce, taking on a bigger role in providing face-to-face advice and networking. In addition the "21 st century" approach will include an improved and easier to use desktop and mobile online service and a call centre that will provide "that little bit of extra advice".
Oh joy! We can now look forward to being held in a call centre queue for half the day before we reach a "consultant" who then works through the mandatory script. Some questions are easy enough to pre-package and include in an FAQ, for example where to find information on a company or the latest changes in VAT regulations. But, to be honest, if you do not already know the answer to either of those the chances of your business surviving are slim. Would the call centre be able to handle more complex enquiries, though? How about explaining why information on a particular company is NOT available at Companies House and should you be worried that it isn't, or where to find a list of the 100 best selling books on mind, body and spirit for the years 2005-2009?
I must admit that I have never used Business Links myself. They were not around when I started my business in 1989 and as I have worked in the information industry for over 25 years I know where to find the main sources of reliable business information. More importantly, personal and professional networks play a significant part in my intelligence and news gathering activities as they probably do for many other business people; and the use of social media is increasing. I wonder, then, how much impact if any the demise of the Business Links will have on SMEs and UK business in general.
Business Information Resources
At the end of July I was in mid Wales running a workshop on business information. There was a good mix of experience and backgrounds amongst the participants and plenty of time for people to try out 'stuff' and share tips with each other. At the end of the day they came up with a list of their top 10 business search tips. Actually it was 11 - the additional one was my own web site, which I used as a starting point for many of the examples. You could say they were virtually brainwashed into including it so I am giving them that one as a 'free' extra! Here is the full list.
Meetings and Seminars
Workshop: How to stay ahead of the game with Web 2.0
Workshop: Advanced Google Searching
TFTTR Contact Information
Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services
TFTTR archives: http://www.rba.co.uk/tfttr/archives/index.shtml
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|This page was last updated on 23rd August 2010||Copyright
© 2010 Karen