Update 18th May 2013: Google has now confirmed that translated foreign pages has gone.
“The translate foreign pages feature is no longer offered. Removing features always involves tough choices, but we do think very hard about each decision and its implications for our users. You can still translate entire pages in Chrome. Streamlining enables us to focus on creating beautiful technology that will improve people’s lives.”
While the press were busy reviewing the new Google maps and reporting on the Google I/O event Google quietly dropped foreign translated pages from its search tools menu. Foreign translated pages was a great way of searching for information in a language other than your own. It was invaluable when researching individuals or companies based in another country, or for news and legislation in a language other than your own. You ran your search in Google as normal and then clicked on ‘Search tools’ in the menu above your results followed by ‘All results’ and ‘Translated foreign pages’. If you included a country in your search Google would assume that you wanted information from pages in that country’s language. It would translate your search into that language and then translate the pages it found into your own language. If you did not mention a country in your search it would list the most commonly used languages. This would sometimes change according to your previous choice of languages but you could also add languages to the list.
It wasn’t perfect but it was a great way of finding local content in a foreign language.
The option disappeared from the search tools menu earlier this week. There was no announcement from Google, which is not unusual, and it was not until a question about it was posted in a Google Groups forum that someone from Google said they would investigate. The answer they came back with does not bode well:
“This feature is currently unavailable, but we’d like to bring the functionality back in the future. I’ll give you updates as I receive them, but for now there’s no time frame for when that will happen.”
There have been similar initial responses to enquiries about vanishing search features in the past. The Wonderwheel is just one example. All too often Google later admits that the options have been permanently axed. It does seem strange, though, that Dan Russell, who works at Google, recently highlighted translated foreign pages in his blog at http://searchresearch1.blogspot.com/2013/04/ramong-writes-in-with-great-question-i.html
Is there an alternative? Sort of, but it is not as slick.
1. Use Google Translate (http://translate.google.com/) to translate your search into the required language.
2. Copy the translated search and paste it into Google search.
3. If you are using Google Chrome and have enabled the translate option under advanced search settings Chrome will offer to translate the page of results for you. Alternatively, or if you are using a different browser, click on the ‘Translate this page’ link next to a result to view a translation of just that page.
Of course, you have to repeat the procedure for each language you want to use but at least it can be done. All too often there is no alternative at all to search tools and commands that have been banished. Many of us are wondering which one will be next – it is inevitable that there will be a ‘next’ – and what impact it will have on the quality of search results. At present there are still techniques we can use to force Google to run a search the way we want it run but it is getting perilously close to becoming useless as a serious research tool. Time to start investigating other search tools in depth.
Today’s Google Doodle features a selection of cakes and candles so it must be someone’s birthday, or perhaps a celebration of whoever invented icing sugar, marzipan or whatever else is plonked on top of birthday cakes. You won’t be able to see it, though. I moved the cursor over the image….
…. and it’s MY birthday!
Spooky? Not really. I told Google my birthday when I set up my Google+ account. Unless it has changed since I set up my profile, Google requires you to enter a birthday and I decided to tell the truth. Yes, I have sold my soul to Google+. If all you do on Google is search I usually recommend that you resist being forced into Google+ for as long as possible, but that is becoming increasingly difficult. I decided to succumb because I am freelance and need to market my services to as many people as possible. Google+ dangles many carrots in front of people like me, such as author verification, so it makes sense to do it.
What does concern me is that a fun Google Doodle could blur the boundaries between personal and public information even more than is happening already. Google personalises your search results according to past browsing activity and includes information from your Google+ circles, even if that information is restricted to people within a circle. If you are carrying out a search on behalf of someone else can you share that information? I would not, but it could be argued that if you want to keep something private or semi-private then don’t post it to Google+. Google, though, is clearly experimenting with pulling together private and public information on your search screen. I signed up to a field trial last year that added results from Gmail, Drive and Google+ (Google search to get more personal http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2012/10/19/google-search-to-get-more-personal/). The personal results were to the right of the usual listing and clearly labelled. But what if everything is combined into a single list? How easy will it be to differentiate between private and public?
You have told Google your birthday and have allowed that to be shared with others, or have you? You can keep it private, but when Google presents you with your own doodle it may encourage a feeling that you are safe and secure. It suggests that everything you see on subsequent screens can be shared.
To quote Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody (Harry Potter): “Constant vigilance!”
Google lived up to its reputation at the UKeiG workshop “Make Google behave: techniques for better search results” and it didn’t take long for it to start presenting different results and layouts for the same query. We went through a vast array of commands, search options and specialist Google tools and by the end of the day we felt we had regained some control, or at least were finding more sensible results. Held in the training suite in the Library at Manchester University the delegates were a mix of information professionals from the private, legal, government and academic sectors. They were certainly not slow in suggesting top tips at the end of the day and came up with 15 instead of the usual 10. Here are the top tips.
Include the site: command in your search to focus your search on particular types of site, for example site:ac.uk or to search inside a large rambling site. You can also use -site: to exclude sites from your search. For example a search for statistics on Wales kept coming up with Australian sites mentioning New South Wales. Including -site:au quickly disposed of those.
2. Reading Level
Try ‘Reading level’ if Google is failing to return any research or business related documents for a query. Run your search and from the menu above the results select ‘Search tools’, ‘All results’ and from the drop menu ‘Reading level’. Options for switching between basic, intermediate and advanced reading levels should then appear just above the results. Click on the Advanced option to see results biased towards research. Google does not give much away as to how it calculates the reading level and it has nothing to do with the reading age that publishers assign to publications. It seems to involve an analysis of sentence structure, the length of sentences, the length of the document and whether scientific or industry specific terminology appears in the page.
Google automatically looks for variations on your search terms and sometimes drops terms from your search without telling or asking you. This is not always very helpful. Quote marks around phrases or individual words do not always force an exact match or inclusion in the search. If you want Google to run your search exactly as you have typed it in, click on ‘Search tools’ in the menu above your results, then click on the arrow next to ‘All results’ and from the drop down menu select Verbatim.
4. Translated foreign pages
For a different perspective or for information on government policies, companies, people, industries located in another country try ‘Translated foreign pages’. Run your search as usual and click on ‘Search tools’, then ‘All results’ and from the drop down menu select ‘Translated foreign pages’. Google will then give you a list of the most commonly used languages but you can add a language of your own to the list. Select the translation option you wish to use by clicking on the number or results next to the language. Google will then run a translation of your search on pages in that language and then translate the results back into your language. If you have mentioned a country in your search Google will automatically translate and search using the language of that country. Beware, though. Machine translation!
5. Asterisk *
Use the asterisk between two words to stand in for 1-5 words. This is useful if you want two of your keywords close to one another but suspect that there may often be one or two words separating them. For example solar * panels will find solar photovoltaic panels, solar water heating panels. One of the workshop delegates found that placing an asterisk between a keyword and the word ‘report’ significant improved the quality of results when looking for official information, industry or research reports.
6. Personalise Google news
There may be times when you do want personalise information and results. There may be some sections and sources in Google News that you do not want to see or you may want to increase the amount of information on a topic. Sign in to your Google account and on the Google News page click on the cog wheel in the upper right hand area of the page. You should then see options on the right hand side for personalising topics and newspaper options.
7. Date options
In Google web search, use the date options in the menus at the top of the results page to restrict your results to information that has been published within the last hour, day, week, month, year or your own date range. Click on ‘Search tools’, then ‘Any time’ and select an option. Unfortunately you cannot use this with Verbatim but you can use the daterange: command. You have to convert your dates to Julian date format and this is explained at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/JulianDate.php and it will even do the date conversion for you. It is far easier though, to use a tool such as GMacker date range search at http://gmacker.com/web/content/gDateRange/gdr.htm. Fill in the boxes and on the Google results page apply Verbatim in the usual way.
8. Usage rights for images
If you are looking for images that you can reuse then use the usage rights option on the Image advanced search screen as a filter. First run your search in Google images. On the results page click on the cog wheel in the upper right hand area of the screen and select ‘Advanced search’. Towards the bottom of the advanced screen there is a ‘usage rights’ box. Click on the downward pointing arrow for a list of options that include four “free to use….” licences. Select the relevant licence and Google will limit your search accordingly. Do double check, though, that the licence applies to the image you want to use. Go to the original web page that contains the image and make sure the licence is indeed associated with it and not with a different image on the same page.
9. Image reverse search
If you already have an image and want to search for different sizes, or images that are similar to it, then use the reverse image search. The Google Images search box has a camera icon to the left of the search button. Click on the camera and you will be given the option to either paste in the URL of the image or upload an image.
10. Changing number of results per page
By default, the number of results that Google displays on your results page is 10. If you want to increase this go to http://www.google.co.uk/preferences or click on the cog wheel in the upper right hand area of a results page and click on ‘Search settings’. First make sure that Google Instant predictions is set to ‘Never show instant results’ otherwise Google will ignore your changes to the results per page. Then under ‘Results per page’ click on the required number on the slider bar and then on ‘Save’ at the bottom of the screen.
11. Google Trends
Google Trends (http://www.google.com/trends/) lets you see and compare how often people are searching on terms. Type in your terms separated by commas. On the results page you can further refine your search by date and country. The frequency graph is annotated with news items that may explain unexpected peaks. Trends may show, for example, whether a marketing campaign has been successful and increased the level of awareness of a brand or product, and can also be used to see how competitors are faring in the search popularity stakes.
12. Google’s main index and supplemental index
Google does not automatically search everything it has. It first searches it main index and only includes information from the supplemental index if it thinks that the number of results is relatively low. Increasing the number of search terms and using Verbatim, or any of the advanced search commands, seems to force Google to search both indexes, which explains why you sometimes see more results as try and refine your search.
13. Public data explorer
The Public Data Explorer is one of Google’s best kept secrets. It can be found at http://www.google.com/publicdata/ and allows you to search open data sets from organisations such as the IMF, OECD, IM, Eurostat and the World Bank. You can compare the data in various ways and there are several chart options.
14. Google Art Project http://www.googleartproject.com/
This is a collaboration between Google and over 150 galleries from across the world. You can take a virtual tour of a gallery and zoom in on a painting to see the brushstrokes. You can view paintings and drawings by gallery or by artist. Warning: this is highly addictive!
15. Cycle lanes on Google maps
For all you cycling fans Google Maps now displays cycle routes for the UK. In the UK Google has been working with Sustrans (http://www.sustrans.org.uk/) to include bike trails, lanes and recommended roads. Set your starting point and destination as usual and the directions area on the screen should include a bicycle icon in addition to the car, public transport and walking icons. If you just want an idea of what is available in a particular area click on the Traffic option in the upper right hand area of the displayed map and select Bicycling. Trails are shown as solid dark green lines, dedicated lanes are light green lines and bicycle friendly roads are displayed as dotted green lines.
The Google workshop will be run again in London in October (http://www.ukeig.org.uk/trainingevent/karen-blakeman-make-google-behave-techniques-better-results-0). If you’d rather explore alternatives to Google I am leading a workshop in Newcastle in June on “Anything but Google”! (http://www.ukeig.org.uk/trainingevent/anything-google-karen-blakeman)
Factiva is discontinuing its pay as you go option for occasional users as part of a “strategic refocus”. Instead of an annual fee of $69 plus a per document charge of $2.95, there will now be a fixed monthly fee of $249/month. This allows you to download up to 100 documents a month with additional articles above this limit being charged at $2.95 each. The new pricing will take effect on 30th April 2013 and, for existing customers, will be payable from their next renewal date.
I have not used Factiva for over a year and, to be honest, I haven’t missed it at all. Much of my research is highly specialised and I find that I am using industry specific sources and scientific papers more and more. Nevertheless, it is a great shame that Factiva has taken this step. Many of the people I work with appreciate the quality of the service but few use it often enough to warrant the $249 monthly fee.
Thanks to everyone who sent me details of the changes.
My latest business information workshop, organised by TFPL, was held yesterday in London. A large chunk of the session was taken up with exploring and discussing web sites but we also looked at how advanced search options and commands can be used to focus on higher quality business information. An edited version of the slides is available on authorSTREAM at http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/karenblakeman-1775787-business-information-key-web-resources/ and Slideshare at http://www.slideshare.net/KarenBlakeman/business-information-key-web-resources-19252576.
Towards the end of the afternoon the participants were asked to come up with a list of top 10 tips and tricks. Two more were submitted to me by email soon after, so we have a dozen in total.
Google automatically looks for variations on your search terms and sometimes drops terms from your search without telling or asking you. Neither of these are very helpful if you are looking for a company or a person. Quote marks around phrases or individual words do not always force an exact match or inclusion in the search. If you want Google to run your search exactly as you have typed it in, click on ‘Search tools’ in the menu above your results, then click on the arrow next to ‘All results’ and from the drop down menu select Verbatim.
2. Reading Level
Try ‘Reading level’ if Google is failing to return any research or business related documents for a query. Run your search and from the menu above the results select ‘Search tools’, ‘All results’ and from the drop menu ‘Reading level’. Options for switching between basic, intermediate and advanced reading levels should then appear just above the results. Google does not give much away as to how it calculates the reading level and it has nothing to do with the reading age that publishers assign to publications. It seems to involve an analysis of sentence structure, the length of sentences, the length of the document and whether scientific or industry specific terminology appears in the page.
3. Guardian Data Store http://www.guardian.co.uk/data
This section of the Guardian posts articles, charts, graphs and maps on stories in the news using official government data, datasets collected and published relevant organisations and sometimes data obtained via Freedom of Information (FoI) requests. Links to the original datasets are provided so that you can download the raw data.
Use the filetype: command to limit your research to PowerPoint for presentations, spreadsheets for data and statistics or PDF for research papers and industry/government reports. Note that in Google filetype:ppt and filetype:xls will not pick up the newer .pptx and xlsx formats so you will need to incorporate both into your strategy, for example filetype:ppt OR filetype:pptx, or run separate searches for each one. In Bing.com, though, filetype:pptx will pick up both .ppt and .pptx files.
Include the site: command in your search to focus your search on particular types of site, for example site:gov.uk. You can also use -site: to exclude a site or group of sites from your search, for example:
potato yields forecasts 2013 site:gov.uk -site:www.gov.uk
to run the search on UK government web sites but excluding the new www.gov.uk site.
6. Duedil chart
Duedil (http://www.duedil.com/) is one of several companies that repackage Companies House data and makes some of available free of charge. The workshop participants particularly liked the company Group visualisations.
7. Company Check http://www.companycheck.co.uk/ and Company Director Check http://company-director-check.co.uk/
Like Duedil, both of these services repackage Companies House data. Company Check provides 5 years of figures and graphs for Cash at Bank, Net Worth, Total Liabilities and Total Current Liabilities free of charge and lists the directors of a company. Click on a director’s name and you are taken to the Company Directory Check where you can view other current and past directorships for that person.
8. RSS feeds
Several of those attending the workshop already use, or are considering using, RSS feeds as a means of monitoring events and companies. Google is closing down Google Reader but Phil Bradley has lists of alternatives at http://philbradley.typepad.com/phil_bradleys_weblog/2013/03/20-alternatives-to-google-reader.html and
9. BL BIPC industry Guides
The British Library Business Information and IP Centre’s industry guides at http://www.bl.uk/bipc/dbandpubs/Industry%20guides/industry.html highlight relevant industry directories, databases, publications and web sites. Excellent starting points if you are new to the sector.
10. Domain Tools http://www.domaintools.com/
A useful tool for identifying who owns the domain name of a web site. Alarm bells should start ringing in your head if the owner is hiding behind an agent or a privacy protection service.
11. GBRdirect http://www.gbrdirect.eu/
A single point of access to the official company registries of 22 European countries. As well as searching for companies your can search company appointments and personnel for some countries, and verify VAT numbers. The amount of information that is disclosed varies depending on the country and details of what is available is included in the price list at http://gbrdirect.eu/priceList.aspx. The information that it finds will be in the original language.
12. Numeric range
This command is unique to Google. Use it for anything to do with numbers – years, temperatures, weights, distances, prices etc. Simply type in your two numbers separated by two full stops as part of your search. For example: world oil demand forecasts 2015..2030
This workshop is being held again on Thursday, 19th September 2013 in London. The content will have changed by then – in fact, some things have already changed! – and participants are encouraged to let us know the areas and topics in which they are particularly interested and areas of research that cause them problems. This enables me to tailor the event to the needs of those attending. Hands-on practical sessions are included so that everyone has a chance to try out the sites and techniques for themselves. Further details of the day are on the TFPL website.
Many of us seem to be in Google bashing mode at the moment but they do produce good stuff at times, or at least some of their employees do. Dan Russell, who works at Google, has an excellent blog called SearchReSearch at http://searchresearch1.blogspot.com/. The blog is “about search, search skills, teaching search, learning how to search, learning how to use Google effectively, learning how to do research. It also covers a good deal of sensemaking and information foraging“. Dan comes up with a topic for research and invites people to comment on what they find and how they found it. The questions usually arise when Dan is out and about and spots something curious. A recent query was about the roadside use of weedkiller and was asked because he and a friend had noticed brown strips of dead vegetation along the edge of the highway. (See ‘How much death at the roadside’ http://searchresearch1.blogspot.com/2013/03/answer-how-much-death-at-roadside.html).
The questions are a great way to test your search skills and see how others have tackled them. Don’t be deterred by the US emphasis. After all, many of us sometimes have to research industries and events in other countries. It’s wonderful exercise for the little grey cells.
April is going to be a very busy month for me this year. As well as speaking at conferences I am also giving six full day workshops so am having to prepare the presentations, handouts and notes well in advance. When it comes to the Google sessions the material the delegates receive never matches exactly what they see on their screens during the practicals. That’s par for the course where Google is concerned and it’s a great way of getting across to people how Google
messes up enhances search results. The problem I had yesterday, and am still having this morning, is that Google seems to have dumped me into several major ‘live experiments’ and results keep changing second by second. The consequence is that it is impossible for me to pull together a set of consistent screen shots but I, and the delegates, will just have to live with that. And it makes a good story on the day!
If you don’t know what Google’s ‘live experiments’ are the YouTube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5RZOU6vK4Q will enlighten you. In essence, Google tests out changes to its search and ranking algorithms on users before deciding whether or not to go ahead with the changes. It could be me or you who ends up being one of Google’s lab rats. We are not asked if we want to be part of the test nor are we told. Most of the time the changes are so minor that we don’t notice the difference but occasionally they lead to some very bizarre results. See my blog posting from a couple of years ago when Google decided that coots were really lions (http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2011/02/12/google-decides-that-coots-are-really-lions/). What I’ve been seeing over the last couple of days is not in that league but extremely irritating all the same.
One of test searches is fairly straightforward – copper extraction north wales. This is what I saw:
What’s wrong with that you might ask. At first glance it looks as though Google is dropping terms from my search because none of them are emboldened in the extracts. On closer inspection, though, the terms and their synonyms are present. I ran Verbatim on the search and saw a similar set of results with no emboldening apart from words in the title.
I use Chrome as my default browser and wondering if it was an issue with that I tried Firefox. The emboldened terms reappeared.
Internet Explorer also displayed emboldened terms.
I went back to Chrome and ran the search in an Incognito window. The search terms appeared emboldened in the extracts.
Thinking the problem was due to me being signed in to a Google account I signed out and ran the search. No emboldened terms. I cleared the cache and cookies. No emboldened terms. I disconnected Chrome from my Google account. No emboldened terms. I disabled all of the extensions. No emboldened terms. It was clear that Google was not going to show me emboldened terms when using a normal Chrome window. Why is it so important? Because it is a quick way of initially assessing the relevance of the results. No emboldened terms in the extract suggests that they were not found in the text of the page. If this is indeed an experiment and not a local glitch on my system, and Google decides to roll this out to all users we are all going to waste a lot of time wading through irrelevant results.
On to possible experiment number 2. Google sometimes ignores the setting that tells it how many results to display on a page. I have set mine to 100 but occasionally it reverts to just 10. Refreshing the page or going into settings and saving them again usually works for me. This is a minor irritant, unlike experiment number 3.
Google has started showing just six results for some searches. Phil Bradley is one who is definitely not impressed with this (Google results – down to 6 on a page and most of those are wrong! ). Then I started seeing it for some of my own searches.
I didn’t see 6 results but 4! (As an aside, the emboldened search terms in the extract have returned). The fifth was a result for similar searches with an annotation that indicated ‘& co second hand’ had been omitted. A couple of the results were OK-ish but I was hoping for more detailed information. Is there really so little information for this query? Like Phil, when I clicked on to the next page I was back to sensible results. Unlike Phil, using Verbatim on the search worked for me and overrode the experiment, so again I was back to sensible results. This morning, I could not replicate the 6 results per page display.
Experiment number 4: annotations below the extracts. Some of these annotations look like headings from the pages themselves but others are not. I cannot replicate what I saw yesterday and didn’t take any screenshots of this one. I am definitely sure I didn’t dream it because a couple of my network on Twitter have reported similar experiences.
This continual round of disappearing, reappearing, disappearing “features” is infuriating. Yes, we can all go off and use other search engines but there are times when the type of content and level of coverage tempts us back. You do have to know how to use the advanced search commands to get anything sensible out of Google, but even then success is not guaranteed. This is an area I concentrate on in my workshops. The next one on Google is being organised by UKeiG in Manchester (see the UKeiG web site for details). The title “Make Google behave: techniques for better results” may seem a little overoptimistic given my own and other people’s experiences, but there are plenty of tricks we can employ to get usable results.
Given that Google is now just over 13 years old and a teenager it is not surprising that it has become somewhat truculent. It’s when it starts going through the silent grunting phase that we need to really start worrying.
At last! I’ve managed to convert my article on “Free search tools for research information” into a Kindle version (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C11XLVQ). It took me four attempts to get it right (and I hope it is indeed OK). The Amazon instructions are here, there and everywhere. Amazon’s general guide on producing a Kindle version is OK, but it’s the detailed stuff that is hard to find. The link I have given takes you to Amazon.com. If your “local” Amazon is different you’ll need to search for either the title or my name in the Kindle store.
New Search Strategies articles are now available.
“Excluding sites from your search” (subscribers only) is at http://www.rba.co.uk/search/subscribers/ExcludeSites.shtml
“From tourism to research information: how to change the emphasis of results” (subscribers only) covers techniques for changing the type of information returned by the search engines, for example consumer vs. more research focused pages (http://www.rba.co.uk/search/subscribers/Emphasis.shtml).
“Free Search Tools for Finding Research Information” is a 42 page PDF covering five things you need to know about Google, advanced searching in Google, alternative web search tools, institutional repositories and specialist tools. If you do not wish to purchase an annual subscription to the whole of Search Strategies, this article can be purchased on its own for £5.99. See http://www.rba.co.uk/search/ResearchInformationTools.shtml for further details.
A full list of Search Strategies fact sheets and articles is at http://www.rba.co.uk/search/.
Search Strategies covers facts and tips, reviews of search tools and detailed strategies for more effective searching. Some information such as the fact sheets and Top Tips are available free of charge. The more detailed information on strategies is available on subscription. Annual individual subscription rates are £48/year (£40 + £8 VAT). Multi-user and corporate rates are available on request.
Details of how to purchase a subscription are at http://www.rba.co.uk/search/purchase.shtml