Presentations: Online Information 2009

I shall be giving three presentations this year at the Online Information conference and exhibition at Olympia, London ( One is on Twitter in the main conference and I am also giving two free talks in the exhibition area. Details are as follows:

The ever changing landscape of search: Google is not enough (Free seminar being given as part of the Online Information 2009 exhibition)
Online Information 2009 Tuesday, 1st December 2009, 11.45-12.15 Theatre C, Grand Hall, Olympia, London
Twitter for Business: an essential marketing and research tool (Online Information conference presentation )
Online Information 2009 Tuesday, 1st December 2009, 16:00-17:30, Track 2 Olympia Conference Centre, London
Business research: Web 2.0 is not an option but a necessity (Free seminar being given as part of the Online Information 2009 exhibition)
Online Information 2009 Wednesday, 2nd December 2009, 12.00-12.30 London Room, Grand Hall, Olympia, London

All three presentations will be available on Slideshare

I shall be on the UKeiG stand (number 734) for a while over the next three days, so come and say hello if you are wondering round the exhibition.

If you are attending either the exhibition or the conference and tweeting, the conference tag is #online09

Google experiments with Image Swirl

Having made Google Image Options (including colour) and Similar Images available as part of their standard image search, Google are now playing around with Image Swirl in Google Labs. According to Google it “builds on new computer vision research to cluster similar images into representative groups in a fun, exploratory interface”. In practice it is a combination of similar images and the Wonderwheel.

One of my image test searches is Edvard Munch and Swirl came back with 12 thumbnails of stacked images (12 is the standard number of stacks) :

Click on a group of stacked  images and another set of images “swirl” into view in the form of the wonderwheel:

And you can keep on clicking on groups/stacks of images but still keep the “history” of your selections.

I was pleasantly surprised by the clustering or stacking of the images. I thought that by the time I had reached ‘level 3’ of my browsing each stack would be just different versions of the same image or images with similar colour composition. My Edvard Munch level 3 selection, however, came up with a selection of landscapes with different colours. They did, though, seem to have similar ‘patterns’, for examples paths or what could be interpreted as paths as a major component of the image.

Phil Bradley has also reviewed Google Swirl and comments “Bing is going to have their work cut out to try and catch up.” Far too polite, Phil. I’d say “Bing, eat your heart out!”

Google Swirl looks very promising and I shall be monitoring its progress with interest.

BL launches business essentials wiki

The British Library’s Business and IP Centre has launched a wiki: Business Essentials on the Web (

The wiki aims to provide business information that is aimed at entrepreneurs and SMEs. Topics covered currently include business planning, grants and finance, marketing and PR as well as industry specific pages. One of the industries listed is “Giftware” and coincidentally I was asked about this during my recent business information workshop. “Our client thinks that there is a single database that will give them all the data they need on giftware” said one of the participants. The bad news is that there does not seem to be a single source: the good news is that this wiki does list associations and web sites of organisations that are involved in the sector. So this wiki has already proved its worth to me.

Anyone can join the wiki community, edit and add a listing; a brave move but I have not yet seen any “vandalism” or spam. If there have been any inappropriate entries then BIPC have been very quick off the mark in removing them.

An excellent starting point for relevant information on setting up and running a business, and highly recommended for SMEs and startups.

Bing integrates Wolfram Alpha and out of beta in UK – allegedly

Hitting my RSS feeds this morning was the announcement from Bing that their UK version is out of beta. “So what,”  I thought. “Doesn’t look any different to me this morning”. But looking at the announcement in full I see that there is a plethora of new services that I can now enjoy. To start with:

“When you search for Football, what kind of answers do you expect to find. Well, I guess it depends on where you are doing the asking, if you are in the UK you probably don’t want to see NFL schedules. You probably mean what we in the US call soccer. Well today, millions of searchers in the UK can rest assured that Bing knows what they are talking about. We are excited to announce today that Bing in the UK is shedding its beta tag.  We want to congratulate our pals over in the UK on a huge milestone. You can now use Bing to make faster more informed choices on a daily basis.  Oh, and the next Manchester United game is on the 21st of November at 17:30 GMT (that’s 5:30 p.m. for us Yanks), in case you were wondering.”

My first reaction was that I wanted to be sick: I found this so patronising. We in the UK should be so grateful that Bing has finally realised that we have a life separate from the US and that Bing has taken the trouble to find out what we mean by football. Sorry, but I am not at all interested in football so if this is all you are offering as UK customisation then I nominate you for the #epicfail awards.

But let’s not be hasty. Let’s look at what else they have to offer.

“The daily Bing Homepage image and hotspots are something that now will be localized in the UK, with unique imagery and hotspots.”

At last!  The photos on the home page are of landmarks and locations in the UK and not of the Galapagos islands or Mongolia. This morning we had the Angel of the North and then the Avebury stones. The ‘hotspots’ option is now working and if you are interested you can find out more about the subject of the photo.

Bing UK

“Visual Search using visual images and metadata to make search more visual and more compelling.”

Pathetic! For a start there is no visual search on the home page. You have to click on the More option, which takes you to a page where it is listed. They seem to have deleted US stuff and and given us UK politicians under famous people, and Premier League Football Players and Professional UK football clubs under Sports. That is it. Where are the rugby clubs and cricket?  Oh, and under ‘More’ we have ‘Yoga poses’. Now I wonder why that is there? Could it be anything to do with the fact that there are only pictures of photogenic girlies in interesting poses that might possibly attract a lot of visitors to the site? Surely not. How about some gorgeous male hunks in interesting poses?!

“More Instant Answers. Get quick response answers and results to searches, such as how is Liverpool doing in the Premiership or which tourist attraction should I take my in-laws to at the weekend?”

Yet more football, but I thought I would try out their own search “How is Liverpool doing in the Premiership”. Bing did not come up with any easy to find information on this (I was assuming that the searcher would want to know where Liverpool is in the League Table). Google, however, had the official site of the premier league at the top of the results, which has a link to the current league table positions of all of the clubs.

Bing results


Google results


“See who or what is being chatted about real-time with a global live Twitter feed with Bing Twitter search.”

#epicfail yet again I’m afraid. You have to know the URL of the Bing Twitter search because it is not listed on the UK home page or under ‘More’. Do not be too disappointed because it is a waste of server space, processing time and your time: see my blog posting Twitter search in Bing and Google

“Looking for the best deals?  – There is now an integrated shopping experience with Ciao UK. With Bing you can search the Internet to find the best prices, reviews and local availability.”

Bing didn’t do too badly on this one. We need a new frying pan and it came up with sensible results apart from the Keith Floyd biography “Out of the Frying Pan”. The best link, though, was one of the adverts for John Lewis.


“With insights from our Multimap users, Bing Maps now offers new map styles, imagery and transit integration as well as draggable routes.”

In general the maps are fine. The Bird’s Eye imagery, which is equivalent to Google’s Satellite view, is higher resolution than Google’s and sometime more up to date. The ‘find a business option’ is as incomplete as Google’s. If you want to locate pubs, restaurants, plumbers etc in an area then go direct to Yellow Pages or Thomson Local. The directions for walking from my house to Reading railway station were sensible but it failed when I asked for Manchester Piccadilly railway station to Manchester Business School  (Google Maps had no problems). In fact, Bing Maps could not find Manchester Business School in any shape or form. As for “draggable routes” – no sign of them here.

“Bing has been built for the UK to help consumers get to key local sites and services in fewer links by including popular links, search boxes and suggestions within best match.”

If you are interested in football and shopping, then that might be true. It is certainly better than the US-centric stuff but overall still nowhere near as relevant as Google’s results.

Let’s move on to the announcement that Bing now incorporates results from Wolframalpha ( How Many Calories in a Burger? What’s 2^2^2^2^2? Bing and Wolfram|Alpha Have the Answers). This won’t take very long because I could not get it to work. I even tried the examples they give with the UK and the US versions of Bing and Wolfram Alpha is nowhere to be seen in the results. Has anyone managed to get this to work as described or has the integration not actually happened yet?

Having spent most of the morning struggling with Bing’s new features, and in some cases failing to find them at all, I was beginning to wonder if I had dreamt the dozens of announcements that littered my RSS feeds. I double checked and they are definitely there. Perhaps it’s a tech issue? I’m running Windows 7 on my main machine but the results are the same on Windows XP, and it makes no difference whether I run Firefox or IE. So I can only draw the conclusion that yet again Microsoft Bing has made a complete [expletives deleted] mess of everything. We could do with another half decent alternative to Google but Bing is just not in the same league.

    Top 10 Business Search Tips – 3rd November 2009

    A group of business information researchers gathered at the London Chamber of Commerce in Queen Street, London for the TFPL workshop – facilitated by yours truly – on key web business resources. The participants were from a variety of types of organisations but they all had a mission to find out what business information was available for free or on a pay-as-you-go basis. We covered not only business information sites but also how to make better use of the advanced search features of the likes of  Google and Yahoo.

    At the end of the day, the group was asked to come with a list of Top 10 Tips.

    1. Biznar
    A service from Deep Web Technologies that searches business databases and resources in real time. A list can be found on the Advanced Search screen. The search is not as quick as Google because Biznar has to visit each site live for each search, whereas Google searches stored copies of web pages. By default results are sorted by ‘rank’ but this can be changed to date, title or author. On the left hand side of the screen the results are automatically organised into folders on topics, authors, publishers, publications and dates, and you can narrow down your search by clicking on these options.

    2. Alacrawiki Spotlights
    The Alacra Spotlights section (at the top of the menu on the left hand side of the screen)  is a good starting point for evaluated sites and information on industry sectors. Note that although it is a wiki only Alacra can edit these pages.

    3. FITA
    Another good starting point for business information resources. Click on the Really Useful Links in the menu on the left hand side of the screen. The section on Cultural Issues was specifically mentioned.

    4. Europages
    B2B Directory covering 1.5 million pages from 35 countries. Browse by industry sector or search by keyword. You can further limit (refine) your search by countries, activity (manufacturer/producer, wholesaler, retailer) and workforce (banded number of employees).

    5. Wayback Machine – The Internet Archive
    For pages, sites and documents that have disappeared. Ideal for tracking down lost documents and seeing how organisations presented themselves on the Web in the past.

    6. Blogpulse trends
    Useful blog search tool that has a trends option, which shows how often your search terms have been mentioned in blog postings over time. This is useful for monitor competitors or industry intelligence to see what are the hot topics and when, and also to monitor what is being said about a product or company. Click on the peaks in the graph to see the postings.

    7. Intute
    An excellent starting point for anyone wanting to identify good starting points and quality resources on a wide range of subjects and industries.

    8. Repeat your search terms
    Fed up with the same old results popping up again and again? Just repeat one or more of your search terms one or more times to see different pages appearing in your results list.

    9. Google ‘Show options’
    A discrete link near the top of Google search results, it is not immediately obvious what it does. 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.

    10. D&B UK small business centre
    Aimed at UK small businesses, this service provides affordable reports on the performance of companies. The competitor and supplier reports costs £7.50 and the customer and partner reports £15. Payment is by credit card. There are sample reports that show what information each report contains. You can monitor up to 50 businesses for free with the D&B tracker and be notified by email when there are significant changes. (You do have to pay for the full report, though). Personal note: I used this service a couple of years ago when refurbishing my house to check up on four double glazing companies on my short list. One of the four was immediately dropped when I saw the report. A few months later it was declared bankrupt.