GoshMe brings together hundreds of specialist web sites and databases. The home page has a number of major headings such as science, environment and society, audio, health, law, reference, sports. Select the most appropriate subject or subjects and type in your search. GoshMe looks at the results from different search engines – it claims to cover approximately 1,000 – and then displays what it thinks are the best tools in which to run the search. You can then choose the tools you want to use.

AlltheWeb Livesearch Beta

This is a great new search tool from AlltheWeb, now owned by Yahoo. As soon as you start typing your search terms, Livesearch suggests how you might like to complete your strategy. For example, I had only got to ‘peak o’ of one of my test searches – peak oil – and it was already suggesting peak oil news, peak oil production, peak oil myth etc. At the same time it starts displaying results in the main part of the screen. The suggested strategies and results change as you type in more letters.

The suggested searches are good but the way the results change so quickly as you add or modify terms means that you can immediately spot if you are going down the wrong track. Highly recommended.

Inforum 2006 kicks off today

Forget about Paris in the springtime, Prague is the place to be, and the annual Inforum conference is the perfect excuse to combine business with pleasure. I first attended Inforum in 2005 when I was invited to give a preconference workshop and a conference presentation. I was so impressed with the quality of the papers and enthusiasm and friendliness of all involved that I decided to attend Inforum 2006 under my own steam. The conference takes place over three days – between Tuesday, May 23rd and Thursday, May 25th – which gives ample opportunity to add a few extra days to your stay to see the sites.

Inforum kicks off on the Monday with pre-conference workshops and I opted to attend one given by Adriana Cronin Lukas from the Big Blog Company: Blogs and blogging in the daily life of an information professional. It was a fascinating morning and I could not begin to do Adriana’s session justice by summarising it, but here are a few key phrases that I noted down:

Blogs are:

  • a sort of “online underworld” and make your work more effective and fun!
  • a key for news management and reputation management
  • a more natural way of communicating
  • flexible project management with information sharing

Think of blogs as:

  • an easy way to publish – you don’t have to be tech savvy
  • your own personal printing press instead of a collection of manuscripts (web sites)
  • ease of publishing combined with a powerful content management system
  • books – there are many genres
  • instruments of social change

The conference itself starts today, Tuesday 23rd, at University of Economics in Prague. Last year’s opening address was a show stopper; see the photo gallery for day 1 for some interesting photos of the “presentation”, in particular the jpegs inforum005 to inforum011! They will have to work hard to beat that.

The main programme this morning includes Alan Foster on Scientific Communication: evolution or paradigm shift, Lothar Nunnenmacher on the Creation of an Integrated Local View on Information Diversity, and What is our Future Standing on from Boris Skandera. The afternoon session is on new technologies and tools for electronic information.

The full programme is on the Inforum web site but if you cannot attend in person you can watch the live videobroadcast and online reporting at www.ikaros.cz and www.inforum.cz/inforum2006/english. For the videobroadcast you can choose between the original commentary of the speaker and its simultaneous translation. The official languages of the conference are Czech and English. The online reporting will be published in Czech only.

Yahoo! Babel Fish – Translation

Yahoo have integrated the Babel Fish translation tool into their service. Originally part of AltaVista, which Yahoo owns, Babel Fish looks very much the same in its new home. Additions include:

  • Two more language pair choices: Simplified Chinese into Traditional Chinese, and Traditional Chinese into Simplified Chinese;
  • Yahoo search results now include a translation link next to foreign language pages when a Babel Fish language pair is available
  • You can add the Babel Fish button to your Yahoo Toolbar for one-click translation of web pages

It has more language pairs than Google, but Google’s offering has Arabic to English translation.

If you have never tried any of these tools before, do not expect too much from them. Remember it is a computer program not a human being preparing the translation. The results are often more humorous than accurate, and sometimes the tools give up completely, but there is usually enough to give you a rough idea of some of the content of the page.

What is a Babel fish? It is a fictional species of fish that appears in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. You stick it in your ear and you can immediately understand anything that is said to you in any language.

UKeiG – Desktop Tools

UKeiG (UK eInformation Group) is running a one day event on desktop search entitled “Desktop Tools – managing the flight deck”.

Date: 14th June 2006

Venue: Bloomsbury Suite, Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

Whether we like it or not, desktop search will be landing on our PCs in the very near future. It will play a central role in Microsoft’s new operating system, Vista, and will enable users to quickly locate files and search the content of documents stored on their computers. The other major players in the search market have already entered the fray with their own versions of desktop search, the serious contenders being Google, Yahoo, Ask, Copernic, Exalead, Blinkx and ISYS.

It is essential that we understand and are aware of what is happening in this area. It is no longer just about web search with an option to install and use desktop search for those of us who are geekishly inclined. The two will become inextricably entwined and we need to know who is doing what and understand the implications for both our users and ourselves.

The programme includes speakers from Copernic, Microsoft and ISYS, and I will be presenting the users point of view with a session on “Desktop search tools compared: the good, the bad and the ugly”.

The event costs £80 + VAT (total £94.00) for UKeiG members, and £100 + VAT (total £117.50) for non-members. Further information can be found on the UKeiG web site and on their blog.

Accoona Talking Search Bar

Accoona have released a talking toolbar for Internet Explorer. As well searching the web and news sources via the Accoona web site, the toolbar converts any highlighted text on a web page into speech. The voice (Heather) is very life like and has so far coped very well with most things I have thrown at it, including acronyms such as CILIP, Aslib and UKeiG. I aimed it at the UKeiG management committee contact list and it did very well until it read our training coordinator Shaida Dorabjee’s details. The toolbar uses artificial intelligence, as does the search engine itself, to try and put words and abbreviations into context. In this case it decided that the SD of ‘SD Information Services’ stood for South Dakota! Whoops. It also had a few problems with the pronunciation of my address – Caversham, Berkshire – but then many humans get those wrong so I am not going to complain too much about that.

The “talking” part of the toolbar, which is an optional plug-in, was developed in collaboration with The China Daily Information Company (CDIC). CDIC says that it will help Chinese users, particularly students, advance their knowledge of spoken English through the Web but it obviously will help any foreign language students who are learning English and also people with a visual impairment.

The toolbar requires Microsoft Windows NT/ME/2000/XP and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0+ . There have been complaints that it is classed as spyware by some privacy tools. I suspect that is because of the way it is capturing text on the screen for conversion to speech. I have a similar problem with my Pawsense program, which stops my cat messing up everything on my computer every time she sits on the keyboard. With Pawsense, it is the keystroke logging function that causes the mis-identification. Pawsense is certainly not a threat and I do not believe the Accoona toolbar is either.

With respect to installation, there have been reports of not being unable to un-install it. That was not a problem for me – in fact I had the opposite experience. The installation repeatedly told me I did not have admin rights, even though I was logged in as the administrator. I eventually solved it by unticking the option to have Accoona as my default search engine.

This is an interesting tool but not one that I am likely to use that often. Although I am a great fan of Accoona News, the toolbar is only available for Internet Explorer and I use Firefox. Nevertheless, I shall be watching this one to see how it develops.