Top Tips from Advanced Internet Search Strategies

Here are the Top Tips from the participants of yesterday’s workshop on advanced search (29th October 2009):

1. Creative Commons and public domain images

When searching for images that you can re-use on your web site, in your report or newsletters you need to be sure of what you can and can’t do with them. Rather than chasing after the “owner” of the image, the following tools only have creative commons or public domain images.

Geograph “aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland”.

Flickr Creative Commons This page lists the different Creative Commons licenses and enables you to search for images with a particular license.

Morguefile A relatively small collection of images but good quality, high resolution.

Most images on US government web sites are public domain. A few are not but these are clearly labelled with copyright statements. All of NASA’s images are also public domain.

Wikimedia Commons Be careful with this source. There are disputes over the copyright of some images, notably photographs from the National Portrait Gallery. Before using any images from this site look at the whole of image’s page to see if there could be problems. For example see Charles Abbot, 1st Baron Colchester by John Hoppner.

2. People search tools, for example LinkedIn,,

3. Google Customised Search Engine  Create your own Google search engine that searches only the sites that you specify. Great if you are always searching the same sites day after day, or want to provide your users with a search tool covering a specific topic

4.  “Show options” near the top of Google search results. It is not immediately obvious what it does, but click on it and a range of additional search options appear in a bar on the left hand side. See my blog posting Google new search and display options for further details.

5.Tripleme to display results from Google, Yahoo and Bing side by side. There is also a deduplicate button .

6. Google Squared Described as “fascinating” by one of the participants. This attempts to put information from the pages in your results list into a table. It is by no means perfect but has improved greatly since its introduction. Everyone agreed that it is “one to watch”. For some examples here are a few I prepared earlier: Volcanoes, Ducks and Royal Dutch Shell (to which I have added some competitors). I have left some of the wrong and questionable data in.

7. Geograph This was mentioned in number 1 but was singled out as a quick and easy way of finding Creative Commons images of locations, buildings and landmarks in the UK.

8. Blogpulse Singled out because of the “Trend this” option which displays graphically how often your term or terms have occurred in blog postings over time.

9. Wolframalpha Despite my own clearly stated reservations about this tool, it was nominated for mathematical calculations and chemical structures. At least it shows that the participants were of independent mind and not to be swayed by my prejudices!

10. Exalead’s Chromatik, which is part of the Exalead Labs experimental area. This enables you to search image tags by keyword and then select one or more colours that you want as major components of the image. Although Exalead does now have a colour option in its main image search it is not as sophisticated as Chromatik.

Workshop: Advanced Internet Search Strategies 29th October

If you have booked a place on my advanced search workshop taking place this week in London on the 29th, you should by now have received confirmation, joining instructions etc. via post, fax, or email (or all three!).  If you have not yet received anything from me contact me straight away via email, phone or fax. Details are at

Microsoft Academic Search – don’t get your hopes up

Microsoft Academic Search has been made a public beta.  Before you get too excited this is not Academic Live resurrected. This is a project from Microsoft Research Asia and although the help screen says “Find top scientists, conferences, and journals in a specific field” it only seems to cover computing and the Internet.

The visual explorer is interesting – you need to install sliverlight – and the Advanced Search is reasonable, but if like me you were expecting a worthy competitor to Google Scholar you will be disappointed. But if you are interested in conferences and papers on computing and Internet technologies then give it a go.

Twitter search in Bing and Google

Bing and Google have both announced that they have done a deal with Twitter that enables them to offer ‘real time’ Twitter searches. The Bing service is live now at SearchEngineWatch has an overview of the service at A Visual Tour. It looks impressive but as is so often the case with Bing the reality does not live up to expectations.

I have just returned from a conference on chemical information held in Sitges – hashtag #icic09. This should be an easy one for Bing Twitter to handle I thought. Silly me. Up came “We did not find any Twitter results or links for icic09″. I tried it with and without the hashtag – still nothing.  And yet both and had no problem finding tweets from the conference.

Bing Twitter results on #icic09

Twazzup results on #icic09

It also appears that you cannot search on a username. I then compared the results of searches on keywords and names that I knew had been tweeted at the conference: chemspider, chemspiderman, David Walsh, semantic mediawiki, markush. Nothing! It seems that the whole conference has been boycotted by Bing Twitter. I did begin to suspect that the service is not really up and running but searching on Nick Griffin came up with plenty of results and it found a tweet from one of my Twitter network about chickpea curry that had been posted a few minutes before.

There is something seriously wrong with Bing Twitter. Until they fix it and can present credible results I recommend that you give it a miss.

So what of Google’s offering? It isn’t live yet but there is useful discussion and comments on Google Social Search Is Coming & More On Google-Twitter. The main question for us as searchers is whether or not the Twitter search will be integrated into the standard web search or made available as a separate option. Tweets are already included in the web search as I discovered when I did a search on icic09 but they are spread out amongst the results. It would make sense to have a separate search tool such as Google’s Blogsearch. Another option would be to incorporate it into the side bar under “Show options” (See Google new search and display options).

Bing have yet again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. As for Google Twitter, we shall just have to wait and see.

Presentation: Internet Search – a challenging and ever changing landscape

CILIP in the Thames Valley, 6th October 2009, Great Expectations, Reading

The presentation I gave to CILIP in the Thames Valley on 6th October is now available in a number of locations. At least one of these should be accessible through your firewall!

PowerPoint presentation – RBA web site


Some of the slides have annotations from my blog and new comments so make sure you check out the notes to the slides. Many of the slides are screen shots so they won’t make much sense without the notes or unless you were at the live presentation.

Google new search and display options

Some of you may have spotted that Google has introduced some excellent new search and display options. Many of you probably have not – the link to them is very discreet, almost as though Google does not want you to find out about them. Carry out a standard Google search and to the left just above your search results you will see a “Show options” link.

Click on ‘Show options’ or the plus sign and additional search and sort options will appear to the left of your search results.

At the top of the list you can choose to limit your search to videos, blogs, forums or reviews.

Below that are options to restrict your search to “recent results”, the past hour, past 24 hours, past week, past year or to your own specific date range. Not surprisingly the past hour, 24 hours and week pull up mostly blog postings and news articles. “Recent results” seems to pick results that go back about a couple of months.

As soon as you select any of the time options apart from the specific date range, additional options to sort by relevance or by date appear but the date option only sorts with most recent first. For some inexplicable reason sorting by date disappears if you want to specify your own range of weeks, months, or years; results are automatically sorted by relevance.

A word of warning about Google’s date sorting: the “date” of many of the web pages bears no relationship whatsoever to the real date of publication or when the content was actually written. In these cases Google is using the date and time stamp assigned to the page by the hosting web server. Most web sites have been revamped and reloaded at least once in their lifetime and some pages are dynamically created at the time of search. The dates of blog postings and news articles are a little more reliable, although there too you can find anomalies.

If you want to quickly identify articles that fall within a specific time period you may be better off selecting the Timeline but this seems to only include articles from Google Current News and Google Archive News. Also, the list of results below the Timeline graphic does not include every year. You have to click on the bar representing the required years and only then are all the articles displayed.

Related searches is obvious: this comes up with alternative search strategies that you might want to try. For me they would be far more useful displayed at the top of the standard search results rather than being hidden under  “Show options”.

The Wonder wheel is difficult to describe in words as it is a clustering and visualisation tool combined. Click on a link on the first wheel and a second pops up with a different set of clustered links for you to follow. Try it and see if it works for you.

“Images from the page” adds thumbnails of images found on the page next to the text entry in your results list.

The “More text” option gives you a larger extract from each of the pages in the results list making it easier for you to decide which are most relevant for your needs.

And if you are fed up with seeing shopping sites in your lists or perhaps want more, Google has thought of that as well. Simply click on “Fewer shopping sites” or “More shopping sites”. This works very well and reminds me of Yahoo’s Mindset experiment that allowed you to move a slider bar between research and shopping to change the emphasis of the results. Sadly, Yahoo never incorporated it into its standard search and abandoned the project a while ago.

Overall, Google has come up with a winner here. I would not want to use every option for every search so having a bar from which you can easily select and combine them is a great idea. It is a pity that Google has not made the additional options more obvious.

Internet Search: a challenging and ever changing landscape

CILIP in the Thames Valley evening meeting

Date & Time: Tuesday 6th October 2009,  1800 for 1830 hrs
Location: Great Expectations, 33 London St, Reading

Google threatens to go hyper with its “caffeine” search. Bing is taking over Yahoo. Image search options are expanding: creative commons, colour, similar images. More specialist search tools for the “hidden web” are emerging and Web 2.0 is now an essential part of the search mix. Karen Blakeman will look at the new services that are being pushed out by the major search engines and the alternatives.

This is a free event followed by free refreshments and networking opportunities with colleagues.

An invitation is extended to anyone with a professional interest in the topic

Contact: Norman Briggs, to advise attendance for catering purposes.