Bosses ‘should embrace Facebook’

Bosses ‘should embrace Facebook’ says a report on BBC News. Demos, “The Think Tank for Everyday Democracy”, has apparently released the findings of a study that says:

Companies should not dismiss staff who use social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo at work as merely time-wasters.

The BBC report goes on to quote Demos as saying:

Attempts to control employees’ use of such software could damage firms in the long run by limiting the way staff communicate…. Social networking can encourage employees to build relationships with colleagues across a firm. However, businesses are warned to be strict with those who abuse access.

I wanted to read the original report on the Demos site, or at least the press release, but there was no sign of it at 8.33 am UK time on 29th October 2008. So we’ll have to make do with the BBC article.

Not much ‘everyday democracy’ going on here if Demos is restricting access to the study!

Update on MSE360

Soon after I had published yesterday’s posting on MSE360,  I sent feedback to them on a couple of issues  including the lack of a ‘NOT’ command. They replied within a couple of hours and overnight have corrected a bug that had caused the problem.  So the Boolean NOT does work in MSE360.

I raised another question about a green icon that appeared to the left of some entries in the results list.  This was most obvious in my ego-surfing and I had hoped that that the icons next to my web pages and blog postings meant that they were highly recommended. Unfortunately it is not so.  The little green icon represents a site that you have visited before, but it is  a feature that only Firefox supports.  It is a really neat feature, though, especially for those of us who do a lot of desk research.  It is useful to be able to ignore those sites we already know about and have visited and, perhaps more importantly, to quickly track down the perfect site that we found yesterday but cannot easily spot in the results list.

MSE360 Search

One search engine bites the dust (Accoona) and another one is launched. I picked up details of Search (MSE360) via Phil Bradley’s blog posting and so far am very impressed with it. The home page is minimalist as is the norm these days and apart from the search box the only other obvious search option is a pull down list of countries. Hidden at the bottom of the page is an Options link that allows you to set safe search for images, change the default country, enable/disable WOT, and choose a different style sheet for your results. WOT is short for “Web of Trust” and is a community whose members exchange knowledge of websites.  If a site has a bad reputation, WOT will warn you by inserting an icon next to the results. The colour of the icon ranges through shades of green, amber and red, red indicating sites about which you might want to exercise some caution. Hover over the icon and you can view the WOT ‘scorecard’.

The results page is ‘three tiered’. The centre panel contains the usual web listings, and the default style has images on the left, and  wikipedia and blog postings on the right. The layout can be changed by selecting a different stylesheet. I eventually decided to have both sidebars on the right hand side of the screen. There are the inevitable ads (Google) but these are in the sidebar and clearly labelled as Paid Results.

The quality of the results for my standard, basic test searches was excellent and compared favourably with Google.  What did concern me initially was that there is no advanced search screen: I include site/domain and filetype commands in many of my searches and, for me, a search engine without them is a non-starter. After some experimentation, though, I discovered that that you can use the commands as part of your search strategy, for example

“car ownership” UK filetype:pdf

I also found that you can use Boolean AND, OR and parentheses but not NOT (reminiscent of Yahoo!) . The minus sign can be used in a simple search if you want to exclude pages containing term but it does not seem to work when combined with Boolean operators.

Moving on to general issues, MSE30 stores no private data The only stored data are customization cookies on your own computer.  Your IP is not kept, nor is any other identifiable information. To help combat spyware, they  use an internal spyware alert program to provide warnings next to sites that may host spyware.

MSE360 say that they are still a test site so there are bound to be bugs,  and no doubt some changes will be made to the interface. They say ” We’re not at a stage in which we can say we’re ready, but you still love hearing your feedback, good or bad”. My first impression is that they are very close to being ready and light years ahead of some of the appalling, over-hyped  search engines that have been launched recently.  I definitely recommend that you pay them a visit.

Accoona is no more

Search engine Accoona has at last closed down. There have been rumours for many months that it was on the way out and now the home page merely says

“Due to an overwhelmingly competitive search market, and will no longer be active.

We thank you for your previous support.”

Accoona came up with some interesting and innovative features such as the talking toolbar and SuperTarget (see my previous postings on Accoona). I was never impressed with the web search, and the business option was just a search on the D&B marketing directory. I did visit  the News section quite a lot, though, and in particular SuperTarget,  which  could be used to identify people and companies mentioned in your search results. More often than not they were the ‘usual suspects’ but occasionally it would flag up an unexpected association.

The service never realised its full potential and when it started dropping search options and cancelled its IPO, the rumours started flying and I stopped recommending it in my workshops. The search engine business is tough so no doubt many more will bite the dust before too long.

Simmons & Company – energy statistics and data

Simmons & Company International is the only independent investment bank specializing in the energy industry. Founded in 1974, the firm has acted as financial advisor in over $134 billion of transactions, including 535 merger and acquisitions worth over $93 billion. As well as copies of presentations made by senior partner Matthew R Simmons there is a collection of industry statistics gathered from a variety of sources. These are split into upstream and downstream and include rig counts, summaries of oil and gas prices, US crude oil inventories, refining capacity and days of supply. There is some International data but much of it is North American biased.

Under the main Energy Industry link are lists of major public listed upstream and downstream companies (coverage is world-wide), and links to industry news sources, associations, statistics and government sites (many are North American).

Despite the geographical bias, this is a good starting point for information on the oil and gas industry as it lists most of the key resources.  Matthew Simmons’s presentations and papers are often quoted in the main stream media and are worth monitoring. There is an email alert for new presentations but no RSS. If you are desperate for RSS rather than email  there is always the Page2RSS service that monitors pages for changes and alerts you via RSS.