LibraryThing UnSuggester | Don’t read THIS

Fed up with reading the same type of book or want to try a completely different genre? Then head straight for LibraryThing Unsuggester
I came across this in Tom Roper’s Blog. According to LibraryThing Unsuggester it “takes ‘people who like this also like that’ and turns it on its head. It analyzes the seven million books LibraryThing members have recorded as owned or read, and comes back with books least likely to share a library with the book you suggest.”

I was very impressed with the unsuggestions for the Seven Pillar’s of Wisdom: Confessions of a Shopaholic, Sushi for Beginners, and the Harry Potter paperback boxed set. You can’t get much different than that! I was rather disappointed, though, with the first two on the alternative list for The Ragged Tousered Philanthropists. That is until I discovered that number one (America: a Citizens Guide to Democracy Inaction) is tagged as humour and the number two (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) is classed as chick lit.

Ideal for helping you choose the perfect Christmas gift for that oh-so difficult to please relative 🙂

Advanced Internet Search Strategies – Manchester Business School

If you want to get in some serious practice on the latest Internet search techniques before Christmas there are still some places available on the workshop that I am running at Manchester Business School on December 5th. The event is held in the Eddie Davies Library at Manchester Business School, Booth Street West.

Although it is being held at the business school, the workshop covers sites and techniques relevant to all subject areas and types of research. There is ample time for practical sessions so you can try out some of the tips and tricks yourself. Also, the number of participants is kept small enough for me to discuss with each person the search tools that are relevant to their specific research area.

Details of the workshop and a booking form are on the
MBS web site.

Please contact me if you have a question about the content of the workshop, but for all queries regarding bookings please contact the Business Information Service at MBS on tel: 0161 275 6502/3, Fax: 0161 275 6505 or Email:

New ways to communicate: a practical approach

I shall be presenting a keynote at an event organised by UC&R in Birmingham on December 6th. Details are as follows:

New Ways to Communicate: A Practical Approach. Using RSS, Blogs and Wikis to Communicate with your Users.

Venue: Learning Centre, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston Campus
Date: Wednesday 6th December 2006, 10am – 4pm

As the Internet has developed, so has the potential for reaching information service users. This event will consider how information professionals can best use modern tools such as RSS feeds, weblogs and wikis tools to communicate with users and colleagues, and to develop and promote their services.

Speakers include:
Keynote: Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services and UKeiG
Alan Cooper, CILIP Web Team

Cost: £35 for CILIP members, £50 for non-members (inclusive of VAT)
A limited number of free places are available for students currently studying for a degree in library and information science. Lunch is included in the fee.

Further event details may be obtained from:

Clare Langman, UC&R Group West Midlands Chair and Co-Events Secretary,
Information Specialist (Engineering and Life Sciences),
Library and Information Services, Aston University,
Birmingham B4 7ET
Tel: 0121 204 4513

Let’s Get Wiki’d

The slides from my presentation “Assessing the Quality of Collaboratively Collected Information” are now available on my web site. This was part of the Let’s Get Wiki’d event organised by CILIP’s East of England Information Services Group. It was an excellent day covering the whole range ‘2G’ internet services such as Library 2.0 and Web 2.0 Dave (Pattern from the University of Huddersfield), Mashups (Richard Wallis, Talis), Social Bookmarking and Connotea (Joanna Scott, Nature), and wikis and the semantic web (Nick Kings, BT). I understand that links to the other presentations will be available on the ISG web site.

I now have a short break from presentations and workshops, but the next series kicks off quite soon at the end of November at Online Information 2006. I shall be giving two free seminars on Tips and Tricks and What’s New in Search. Details of these and the full programme of free seminars and masterclasses are available on the Online Information web site.

Windows Live – linkfromdomain command

This a new command from Windows Live search (formerly MSN Search) that gives you a list of links to other pages from your specified domain, for example This can be useful if you have a trusted source of information and want to see what other sites they recommend or link to. It can also be used as a means of assessing the bias of a site so that you can see the diversity, or lack of it, in the pages that the site ‘references’.

Firefox Addon – Resurrect Pages

This is the prefect Firefox add-on for the dreaded 404 message, or if you want to see which version of a page the search engines have in their cache. You can try five page cache/mirrors in turn: CoralCDN, Google Cache, Yahoo! Cache, The Internet Archive and the MSN/Live Cache. The search engine caches usually only have copies going back days or, at most, weeks but the Internet Archive may have copies going back to 1996. If you have installed Firefox 2 you may need to use the Nightly Tester Tool add-on to persuade Firefox that Resurrect Pages is compatible.

Assessing the Quality of Information: Top Tips

Or: Paranoia ‘r’ us

This is a list of Top 10 Tips that the participants of Assessing the Quality of Information compiled at the end of a workshop held at TFPL in London on 31st October 2006. On a scale of 1 to 10, most of the delegates started out with a paranoia level of around 7 or 8. By the time they had worked through half the exercises a couple of them had increased that to 25-30! Paranoia had eased off slightly by the end of the day and at least they had a toolkit at their finger tips that they could use to help evaluate and assess the quality and validity of information.

  1. Check who is behind the domain name of a web site using . The contact details sometimes just give the ISP or service who organised the domain name for the web site owner but at least it is a starting point if you need to contact the owner to discuss any issues about the content. If someone really wishes to hide, they can use an agent to do the registration for them and in that case there is little one can do to track down the real owner. Note that you can only find out who owns a domain name; you cannot take a person’s or company’s name and find out which domain names they own.
  2. Try the Wayback Machine (Internet Archive) ( for tracking down pages or sites that have disappeared. Type in the web site URL or the URL of the document/page you have ‘lost’. This can pick up pages no longer cached by the search engines (see number 3 below). This trick is not guaranteed: some sites have asked to be removed from the archive or have designed their pages so that they automatically refresh to the most recent page. This can also be a useful tool for reviewing how a company presented itself on the web in the past and how organisations have evolved, both of which can be useful components of assessing quality.
  3. Look at the search engine cached copies of pages for more recent past pages. This is especially useful if the current web page that you found via Google et al does not seem to resemble your search strategy in any way. The cached copy is the copy that the search engine has in its index and it will also highlight your search terms within the page.
  4. Use links to and from the site or page to find pages that are similar to a known quality page (pages of similar content tend to link to one another), or to see what other people saying about the page in terms of quality and the authority and of those that link to it. Use Windows Live ( . For pages that link in to your known or ‘suspect’ page use the link and linkdomain commands.Link will find pages that link to an individual page, for example:

    Linkdomain will find pages that link to anywhere within a web site, for example:

    To find out what page a site links to (can give you an idea of bias, political stance, ideology etc) use linkfromdomain, for example:

  5. Use ‘hoaxbusting’ sites for if you are suspicious about a site or a ‘well known and accepted fact’. Examples are: (concentrates on virus myths and hoaxes)
  6. If relevant and appropriate double check information and data with other independent sources (not always possible and you may find yourself going round on circles chasing sources that quote each other!)
  7. Use the search engine advanced options to focus your search. For example the domain and site command or box to limit your search to, for example, UK government sites (, academic sites (, .edu etc), a known trusted site.
  8. Use different search tools and their features to give you results that are prioritised in a different order or for suggestions on alternative search strategies: – for results sorted in a different order from Google
    AltheWeb – for results that change as you type and suggestions for alternative search terms – for ways of narrowing down or broadening your search – for its unique advanced search commands and related terms
    Windows – for its link, linkdomain and linkfromdomain commandsThink about using different types of resources for example reference sources, video/audio, blogs and RSS feeds (yes, there are some good ones around!). Have a look at Trovando ( ) for some starting points. And don’t forget evaluated listing such as Intute ( and, for business, Alacrawiki ( ).
  9. If you are looking for up date to market research etc. use market research content aggregators to identify who is publishing on a topic and go direct to the publisher. Individual publishers do not always give their full catalogue to the aggregators, may embargo their information for weeks or months, and may have more up to date information on their web site. You can also sometimes get a better deal by going direct to the publisher.
  10. Dates. Compared with structured databases, proper and accurate date searching is almost impossible with Google et al. A web page is assigned a date by the web server when it is loaded or reloaded onto the web site. It is not when the information was gathered or written. The web server date is the one that the search engines look at when you use the date option in the advanced search. Neither should you automatically trust the date that so often appears at the bottom of a page. It may be accurate and reflect the date of the content, but pages can be set-up to incorporate the date the page was loaded or reloaded onto the site, the date when minor changes are made, or even today’s date 🙁 If the date is not obvious from the content, contact the author.

Two additional general points were made in conclusion:

  • it is important to build up your own personal collection of sites, relevant to your sector and applications, and that you have already quality assessed and trust
  • errors and misleading information are not new and pre-date the Internet era. Nothing has changed in that mistakes and bias in the media – whatever form – are a fact of life. What has changed is that everyone now has the opportunity to become involved in creating and perpetuating myths and mis-information, which means that we have to wade through so much more rubbish and spend more time separating the gold from the dross.

Searching without Google: the hottest and best of the new search engines

Presenter: Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services
Date: November 8th 2006, half day seminar starting at 1.30 pm
Venue: Manchester Central Library, St Peter’s Square, Manchester M2 5PD
Cost: Aslib members GBP 50; non-members GBP 60

There is still time to book a place on this half day seminar on what is new and what is hot in the search engine world. Find out what is wrong with Google and why other search tools are often better and more reliable. This session will take you through the latest alternative web search engines; blogs and RSS search tools; image, video and audio tools; and specialist tools including evaluated listings.

Further information and a booking form can be found at or contact Rona Stedman,, tel 0151 951 3524