INFORUM starts in Prague today

The 14th annual INFORUM conference starts today in Prague at 10.30 Prague time. INFORUM covers professional electronic information resources for research, development, education and business purposes. If you are not able to attend the event in person live video broadcasting of the sessions being run in the New Auditorium will be available at The programme of the event is at

I shall be twittering some of the sessions (Twitter name karenblakeman) and I am sure there will be others. Unfortunately, because Twitter is “stressing out a bit” at the moment you can only view one page of tweets. The ‘Older’ option has been temporarily suspended, which is very annoying if you are trying to follow conference tweets. My own tweets are recorded daily by LoudTwitter at

Workshop: Effective Use of Web 2.0 in Business

If you were not able to attend my recent workshops on Web 2.0, I am running a similar course at Manchester Business School on June 5th. The workshop will start with a brief overview of Web 2.0 and what it means, then look in more detail at the different applications. As is usual with my workshops there is a substantial practical element so that you can try out the technologies for yourself. Details and a booking form are at or you can call the Business Information Service on 0161 275 6503.

Academic Live and Live Books axed

I did a double take when I scanned through my RSS feeds this morning. Live Search have announced that they are closing down Academic Live and Live Books Search. Surely a late report of an April Fool, I thought. Unfortunately it was a genuine posting on Live Search’s official blog. Both sites will be taken down this week and they are winding down their digitization initiatives, including their library scanning and their in-copyright book programs.

I have tried to support and promote it to those who attend my workshops as a viable alternative to Google. In my experience, it seems to have the most up to date database, often finds pages and documents that the other search engines miss, and has a great command for locating RSS feeds on a web site. But it keeps shooting itself in the foot. The site recently had a makeover, but the presentation of the advanced search is still awful and the only reliable way of using the options is via the command line. Live News has improved greatly and now has an RSS alert option, but only in the US version of Live. See my earlier posting updates news interface – but only for the US. And it had by far the best link and linkdomain commands but disabled those because of mass automated data mining.

Both Live Books and Academic Live were superior to Google’s offerings. They had different coverage but the advanced search options, for example date and author search, actually worked in Live, and Academic Live had options for exporting records to RefWorks and EndNote, albeit one by one. Live goes on to say in its announcement that books and scholarly publications “will continue to be integrated into our Search results, but not through separate indexes.” Sorry, but not good enough. That will work fine if you know exactly what you are looking for and it is a very narrowly focussed search, for example I can easily find my husband’s papers on ESR studies of zeolites, but it is impossible to limit a search to books or peer reviewed papers on a more general topic.

It seems that this part of the market does not make enough money for Live and it says that it will now “focus on verticals with high commercial intent, such as travel, and offer users cash back on their purchases from our advertisers.” Bribery appears to be part of the new company policy: another headline in my morning feed update reads “Office 2007 plus petrol: Microsoft Australia is trying to lure Aussies to buy Office 2007 with petrol”!

Forget about self-inflicted metatarsal wounds, I am beginning to suspect that Live has a serious death wish. I wonder what will be the next part of Live to go?

INFORUM 2008 – Video broadcast

INFORUM 2008 takes place next week in Prague on May 28th-30th. The live English online video broadcast from the sessions being held in the New Auditorium at the University of Economics will be available during the conference at . The official languages of the conference are Czech and English and you will be able to choose between the original commentary of the speaker and its simultaneous translation. Further details are available at The conference programme is at

Top Search Tips – May 2008, Liverpool

UKeiG’s recent Liverpool Internet search workshop was filled to capacity. It was a packed day with a significant amount of new content and plenty of time for participants to try out the tools and techniques for themselves. At the end of the day they were asked to compile a list of their top tips. There were the usual suspects but the Google Custom Search Engine was new. It is the first time that we have covered Google CSE in the workshop and it generated so much interest that UKeiG will be producing a fact sheet on it. The full list of top tips is as follows:

1. Use the ‘site:’ command to search individual web sites that have appalling navigation and useless site search engines.

2. Search for file formats to narrow down and focus your search. For example search for Word documents or PDFs if you are looking for government or industry reports; xls for data and statistics; ppt or pdf for presentations.

3. Try something else other than Google. Have one Google free day or hour a week. Change the home page in your browser if it is set to Google.

4. Use the OR command in combination with the site: command to search more than one site or type of site. For example,

"carbon emissions trading" filetype:ppt OR

5. Don’t believe all you see, especially when it comes to people searches and mashups. [Mashups combine information from several different sources to produce a single new resource.]

6. If the information is critical, always cross and double check the accuracy of the information with independent sources.

7. Books are still relevant. For example, if you are new to a subject or industry sector try and find an introductory text that can help you with the terminology. They are also excellent for historical information. As well as Amazon, try Google Books ( for older texts, and Live Books (

8. Use services such as Zuula or Intelways to remind you of the different types of information that are available and their appropriate search engines. Type in your search once and click on the search tools one by one.

9. Build your own Google Custom Search Engine for collections of sites that you regularly search, to create a searchable subject list, or to offer your users a customised, more focused search option.

10. Try good old fashioned Boolean. Yahoo, Exalead and Live support AND, OR, NOT and ‘nested’ searches, but don’t go overboard. Remember to type in the operators as capital letters. otherwise the search engines will ignore them as stop words.

11. Make use of proximity searching.

a) Double quote marks around your search terms to force a phrase search works in all of teh search engines. For example

"carbon emissions trading"

b) In Google, use the asterisk (*) to find your terms separated by one or more terms but close to one another. There is no information in the help files on the maximum separation. Increasing the number of asterisks is not supposed to make a difference but it does and it appears that one asterisk stands in for one word.

c) The Exalead NEAR command finds words within a maximum of 16 terms within each other. You can control the degree of separation by using NEAR/n where ‘n’ is a number specified by you. For example

climate NEAR/3 change

12. Try social bookmarking services to track down other people’s research lists on a subject. For example, Furl, Connotea, Citulike,

13. If you are looking for formatted files search Yahoo as well as Google. One participant tested several searches on both and found that Yahoo consistently came up with more. This could be due to different coverage of the two services but is more likely to be down to the fact that Google indexes the first 100K of a document but Yahoo indexes 500K. [Karen Blakeman comments: also search in I recently found two unique documents via that contained vital information on a company that I was researching].

14. The Internet Archive (Wayback Machine) at for pages, sites and documents that have disappeared. Ideal for tracking down lost documents, seeing how organisations presented themselves on the Web in the past, and for collecting evidence for a legal case.

15. Partially Answer your question in your search strategy. For example

"A hippopotamus can run at"

What planet is our government on?

Gordon is now on YouTube and Number 10 is busy Twittering away. It seems, though, that they are so pre-occupied with their new toys and the digital environment that they have forgotten to check what is going on in the real world. In the House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 12 May 2008 pt 0002, Norman Baker asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether she plans to revise her projections for the future price of oil in (a) 2010, (b) 2015 and (c) 2020. Jim Fitzpatrick replied that the Department for Transport uses oil price projections from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) in its transport modelling. The 2nd May 2008 revised BERR oil price assumptions are (a) $65; (b) $68; and (c) $70 for the years requested.

Unbelievable! I dread to think what sort of policies will emerge as a result. As well as a third Heathrow runway, they’ll probably be suggesting a fourth or even a fifth one.

With oil having recently reached $128/barrel, and Goldman Sachs predicting that prices could reach $150 to $200 a barrel over the next 6 months to two years, I am beginning to suspect that our government is a) living in cloud cuckoo land b) in peak oil denial or c) knows something that we don’t.

New look for two steps forward, three steps back

Microsoft have launched their new look for It has the now obligatory minimalist look, which was already evident in the previous interface, but has at long last added a link to the Advanced Search option on the home page. Also new to this version is the option to receive an RSS alert for news searches. “Hurrah!” I shouted, “At long last they are listening to users and in danger of threatening Google’s crown”.

Unfortunately, my joy was short lived.

1. The advanced search screen is still pathetic compared to Google’s, Yahoo’s and Exalead’s, and there is no filetype search option. You have to use the ‘filetype:’ command in the default search box

2. A major issue I have had with Live is that it offers different search options and results displays depending on which ‘country version’ you are using (see the slide below from one of my recent presentations comparing the UK and US versions and number 3 on the News search). UK vs US versions – March 2008

In the previous version of you could force it to switch from, for example, the UK to the US version by going into the Language option and choosing English (US) instead of English (UK). Now, there is no differentiation between US and UK. I thought I might be able to solve this problem by going into Options and changing the location at which Live thinks I am based. It assumes London but even when I tell it that I am in New York, United States it still insists that I am in the UK! A minor issue you might think but if your ISP gives Live an IP address in Frankfurt, Australia or wherever and Live is telling you that it is going to give you customised results according to your location – well, what is the point? Google and Yahoo give you the option to switch between different country versions whenever you want.

3. At long last they have implemented RSS feeds for news search alerts, but then I realised that I was looking at the boring old news results for the UK and not the super-duper display that the US now sees (see my earlier posting on this issue). And there is no way that I can find, other than going through an anonymous proxy server based in the US, to gain access to the US version.

The verdict? I have to partially agree with Phil Bradley’s comment “If I get a delegate on a course asking me why Live Search should be their preferred search engine I simply couldn’t give them a good reason.” They have so much going for them and then they totally mess it up. Their database is the most up to date for many of the sites that I search on; the coverage seems to be better; they have a worthy competitor to Google Scholar in Academic Live; Maps, Books and Live Earth are pretty good too. So why do they keep shooting themselves in the foot with c**p interfaces?