Google Images rolls out (very slowly) Bing-like results

Google has rolled out Bing style results for its image search. If you have never used Bing Image search take a look now. Several people in my latest search workshop loved it so much that they included it in their top search tips ( Bing Images results do not do page by page results: Bing Images does continuous scroll. As you move down through the results more images are loaded, and more, and more. There is no click “next page” to distract you. And now Google has copied the style… sort of.

I have several problems with Google’s new image results layout. The first thing that struck me was that the images are all crammed in side by side to neatly fill the rows. Have the images been cropped to obtain the desired effect or have they been selected by dimensions, rather than relevance, to fill the ‘mosaic’? Bing has four images in each row regardless of their relative dimensions so there is more white space between the images, which is easier on the eye. Google’s display makes me feel as though I’m in a jam-packed standard class commuter train carriage: Bing is the more spacious, relaxed first class.

Neither Google nor Bing display by default image information, but you only need to hover over the image in which you are interested to see further details. The information is almost the same in both but Bing has an additional option to look for more sizes. The size option is great if you want to use an image but do not want to have the trouble of re-scaling it for your particular application. But not all images are available in ‘more sizes’. It depends on whether or not other web pages have reproduced the image with different dimensions. If you own a particular image with strict copyright protection and you know you have only posted a specific size on one page, this can be a useful tool in tracking down copyright violations.

When it comes to scrolling down through your results, Google seems to have lost the plot. Work your way down through the results on Bing and the display smoothly unfolds. Google’s is stop start stop…….start, stop. And it is so sloooooooow. I can almost hear the cog wheels clanking. Another distraction in Google is that batches of images are separated by the text  ‘page 2’, ‘page 3’, ‘page 4’ etc. Why? The whole point of continuous scrolling of results is that there are no pages of results.

As a comparison, here are Google’s results for an image search of Blackpool Tower:

Google Images Rfesults New Display

Here are Bing’s results:

Bing Image Results Display

Bing is so much faster, smoother and slicker.

When it comes to clicking through on an image Google almost wins. Google gives you a background of the web page and superimposed upon that is the full size image. To the right is information about the image with the warning “This image may be subject to copyright”.

Google Images Display

Bing’s does not have the same initial impact, but it does display a scrollable list of thumbnails of your search results to the left of the screen. This is very useful if the image you have selected turns out not to be exactly what you need and you want to review the alternatives.

Bing Images Display

Who wins? It has to be Bing. It is much faster, easier on the eye, has equally relevant results and  has an extra ‘more sizes’ option. And finally… it just feels right.

London Workshop: Advanced Google Searching

I am running a series of hands-on workshops this autumn in London, and the first is on Advanced Google Searching. It is being held on September 23rd at Just IT, 7 Sandy’s Row, which is near Liverpool Street.

Google is the first port of call for many of us when it comes to searching the Internet, and with more data and services being added all the time it seems the obvious place to start. More information, more search features but not necessarily more relevant results. This hands-on workshop will look at the latest developments in Google and how to focus your search to obtain better results.

Topics covered include:

  • recent developments and new services from Google
  • how Google personalises your results
  • how Google is incorporating social media
  • essential advanced search commands
  • how to use the new options to narrow down your search for more relevant results
  • how to access and use the specialist tools
  • image, video and news search
  • build your own Google Custom Search Engine

This workshop is suitable for all levels of experience. The techniques and approaches covered can be applied to all subject areas.

Please note: this workshop concentrates on Google and does not cover the same topics as my recent UKeiG “Changing Landscape of Search” session.

A booking form is available at

I write like…Dan Brown, Charles Dickens, David Foster Wallace

Sorry?  David Foster Wallace – who he?

Exactly. Not well known in the literary circles we move in. But let’s go back to the beginning…

This all started with numerous tweets about “I write like” ( Just paste in some text from a blog posting, article or essay that you have written and it tells you who you write like. It told me that one of my blog postings was in the style of Dan Brown, and a second blog posting and an article for Information Today’s Online magazine were in the style of David Foster Wallace. Phil Bradley tweeted that his style was reported as being akin to DFW. Like me he had never heard of the fellow (

This is where I have to play around with the chronology of events because I want to get the frivolous stuff out of the way before moving onto the seriously worrying aspects of this website. So, first I shall regale you with some more “you write like” pronouncements.

Neil Ford (Twitttername: @neiljohnford) tweeted “just cut & pasted a few paragraphs from A Christmas Carol into “I Write Like” and it told me I write like Stephen King!” (

And thanks to Tom Roper for “I Write like Dan Brown « LRB blog” Do read the comments as well.

Phil Bradley then tweeted that he had “Pasted in some Hamlet, and told it was like James Joyce.” ( Phil did not say which part of Hamlet he used but I can believe that a computer analysis of the text could come up with Joyce. What is odd, though, is that I would have expected “I write like” to recognise a famous Shakespeare play. I tried paragraphs from A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. They came back with Charles Dickens as I would expect. But would it recognise a lesser known work? I dug out a few paragraphs from The Wreck of the Golden Mary, courtesy of Gutenburg (The Wreck of the Golden Mary  and Charles Dickens was transformed into Jack London.

And more great news for me. I pasted in the  bullet points from my recent workshop on the Changing Landscape of Search and I am a budding Charles Dickens. I have pasted below the text that I used so that you can all appreciate my true literary worth:

  • what’s new in Google, Bing and Yahoo and how to get the most out of the new features
  • how social media is being incorporated by the “big three” into their standard search results and does it work?
  • why social media is important as a part of the search strategy
  • specialist tools for subject/industry searches and the hidden web
  • image, video and audio search tools – new technologies, new search techniques
  • news services, blogs and twitter
  • tools for searching social and professional networks, people search tools
  • setting up your own customised search engine

Charles Dickens, eat your heart out.

How does this work?

According to the “I write like” blog:

“Actually, the algorithm is not a rocket science, and you can find it on every computer today. It’s a Bayesian classifier, which is widely used to fight spam on the Internet. Take for example the “Mark as spam” button in Gmail or Outlook. When you receive a message that you think is spam, you click this button, and the internal database gets trained to recognize future messages similar to this one as spam. This is basically how “I Write Like” works on my side: I feed it with “Frankenstein” and tell it, “This is Mary Shelley. Recognize works similar to this as Mary Shelley.” Of course, the algorithm is slightly different from the one used to detect spam, because it takes into account more stylistic features of the text, such as the number of words in sentences, the number of commas, semicolons, and whether the sentence is a direct speech or a quotation.”

But writing style is more than that. It is the vocabulary, the sentence structure (and that is not just about the number of words, commas and semicolons) and the subject matter. When I told my husband what I was blogging about he confessed that he had tried it out on a couple of his articles. The results were Conan Doyle and David Foster Wallace (him again!). I had a go with two pages of his novel University Shambles and it came back with H P Lovelock. Rather a come-down he thought as one reviewer had described his masterpiece as “very David Lodge”, but that was probably referring more to the treatment of the subject matter rather than the writing style.

Harmless bit of fun?

At the top of the “I write like” blog there is a reference to another blog posting “Are you Tolstoy or are you Dan Brown? Ask ‘I Write Like.’ Then disregard answer – Lewis Grossberger” Do read this.

For most of us it is just a bit of fun. We play with it, we move on. But when it has analysed your text and told you how marvellous you are there is a prominent invitation to subscribe to download a free copy of “Short Story Writing: A Practical Treatise on the Art of the Short Story By Charles Raymond Barrett, Ph. B.”

I Write Like

Although its says “We respect your privacy: email addresses are never sold, and you can unsubscribe at any time.” I decided to play safe and use a disposable Spamgourmet email account. [If you want to investigate disposable emails Phil Bradley has an excellent list at]

I haven’t yet read “A Practical Treatise on the Art of the Short Story” – I’ll report back later – but it does sound rather learned and dry. Much more exciting and enticing is “Do you want to get your book published?”. Of course you do! And the ultimate “Learn how to secure a book publishing contract!” This is it. You are going to be famous. Both of these links take you to “eBooks: Writing a Winning Book Proposal”  at It looks as though “I write like” is an affiliate of Michael Hyatt’s website, which offers two publications on writing “winning” proposals for fiction and non-fiction books.  That means “I write like” earns commission when people click on the links on “I write like” and make a purchase on Michael Hyatts publications page.

The ebooks aren’t free but neither are they that expensive:

…I decided to offer these eBooks for just $19.97 each. I may raise the price later, but for right now, I would rather make these eBooks available to as many people as possible at an affordable price. In addition, if you are considering both fiction and non-fiction, you can buy both eBooks for just $29.94—a $10.00 savings!”

I have no idea if the books are any good, but I’ll find out soon. Yes, reader, I have bought them. Watch this space for reviews.

What worries me about this type of set up is not so much that people are being asked to part with money – it is a relatively small individual amount – but that it raises hopes. My husband’s first novel, University Shambles, has been published and is doing well. It took him 18 months to write but 3 years to find a publisher. Many in the publishing industry have told us that he was lucky to find a publisher so quickly or at all! It is easy enough to write a formulaic winning proposal but that won’t guarantee that it will be even glanced at by the publisher. Most are filed straight away under WPB.  We are living in tough economic times and there are bound to be many who will be putting pen to paper or dusting off a manuscript in the hope of hitting the virtual shelves at Amazon or even a real physical shelf at Waterstones. Writing the book is nothing compared with the long hard slog of finding a publisher. The only real winners in this set up is Michael Hyatt and his company Thomas Nelson Publishers.

By the way, this posting is written in the style of H P Lovelock.

Top search tips – 14th July 2010 workshop

An interesting mix of sectors were represented at my recent UKeiG workshop “The Changing Landscape of search”. With social media becoming such an important part of search, there was a lot to cover in just one day and still include time for delegates to try out search tools for themselves. At the end of these workshops I ask the group to come up with their own top 10 tips. On this occasion we ended up with 13 and then a few people emailed me some more, thereby doubling the number to 20! The list is a combination of simple tried and tested techniques, new services and tools, and new strategies for dealing with the vast amount of information that is returned by the search engines.

  1. Set up your own Google custom search engine ( for groups of sites that you regularly search and use. It is quick and easy to do, and you can keep them private or make them public.
  2. Docjax ( for searching Google and Yahoo for file formats ppt, doc, xls, pdf
  3. Use Twitter ( to keep up with what people are saying about your organisation or industry, and to find out what is happening at conferences.
  4. Nearby Tweets ( for monitoring tweets on a subject and from a geographical location
  5. Save tweets and Twitter searches if you are using Twitter for competitive intelligence or reputation monitoring/management.
  6. Try out the the Google Wonderwheel to see connections between concepts and to change the direction of your search. Run your search, open up the options in the menu to the left of your search and click on Wonderwheel. This had mixed reviews from the workshop participants and even its fans said that it does not always help with the search. Nevertheless, worth trying if you are stuck in a rut and fed up with seeing the same results again and again.
  7. In Google  use the menu options to the left of your search results to help you focus your search and for more relevant results.
  8. Separate real time and “traditional” web search. Google, Bing and Yahoo incorporate real time and social media results into the main search results. These results are not comprehensive and give a superficial, biassed view of the topic. Use the specialised real time search tools for searching social media.
  9. Slidefinder ( for locating individual presentation slides that contain your search terms. There is an Advanced Search that enables you to search specific areas of a slide, for example title, text, notes. You can also limit your search to a university. There are browsable lists at the bottom of the page but they do not list every institution: there are only 47 for the UK!
  10. View the cached page version of a document in your search results to see where and how often your terms occur. Useful for very large documents.
  11. Biznar ( Real time federated search tool covering selected business sites, some of which are not searched by Google et al.
  12. Google Timeline to see the distribution of pages and documents over time. Remember, though, that the dates are not always when the content was published. A date or year might just have been mentioned in the text or Google mistakenly interpreted a number as a date.
  13. Use  double quotes “” around phrases to find specific names or titles. This one is a golden oldie but one that is often forgotten. Works in nearly every search tool.
  14. Try alternative names or change a single term to expand your search results, for example BP oil spill vs. BP oil leak. See what the search engine suggests as you type in your strategy and in Google look at  the Related Searches option in the menu to the left of your search results.
  15. Add the year to your strategy when searching for somebody or something from a particular year. A simple, obvious trick but another one that is often forgotten. This will only look for the number in the text and does not run a date search, but it does significantly narrow down your search.
  16. Try using non-UK and non-US versions of Google, for example or if the information is likely to be in Spanish.
  17. When using Google, click on ‘similar’ to find related information and sites similar in content and type.
  18. Bing for images. No need to keep clicking the next page for more images, just keep scrolling down. Some also commented that the quality of the results and the layout are better than Google.
  19. For video archives try BBC Motion Gallery – BBC Archive at and NewsFilm Online at
  20. Social Mention ( Great for monitoring mentions in the social media about a person, company or topic.

The slides for the day can be found on Slideshare at

Business Links to go

Real Business reports that Business Link is yet another UK government service due for the chop. In an exclusive interview Mark Prisk, the business and enterprise minister, told Real Business ““We’re going to wind down the Regional Development Agencies, and as part of those, we’ll be winding down the regional Business Link contracts.” (Business Link to be axed

Mark Prisk went on to say “The regional Business Links have spent too much time signposting and not enough time actually advising.” and that he envisages a “21st Century service” co-funded by the private sector and delivered online. The interview has been picked up by numerous blogs and the regional press, and comments have been both negative and positive. Some people have nothing but praise for their local Business Link whilst others report that the advice they received was useless and a waste of time. This reflects the mixed feedback I get from people who attend my business information workshops: the quality of the service varies widely depending on which Business Link you use and who you speak to.

Also worth reading is Real Business’s analysis of Business Link at “Business Link: never fit for purpose” at

So what is going to replace Business Link if anything? Mark Prisk is reported as saying that he envisages private-sector business support agencies, such as those linked to their local Chamber of Commerce, taking on a bigger role in providing face-to-face advice and networking. In addition the “21st century” approach will include an improved and easier to use desktop and mobile online service and a call centre that will provide “that little bit of extra advice”.

Oh joy! We can now look forward to being held in a call centre queue for half the day before we reach a “consultant” who then works through the mandatory script. Some questions are easy enough to pre-package and include in an FAQ, for example where to find information on a company or the latest changes in VAT regulations. But, to be honest, if you do not already know the answer to either of those the chances of your business surviving are slim. Would the call centre be able to handle more complex enquiries, though? How about explaining why information on a particular company is NOT available at Companies House and should you be worried that it isn’t, or where to find a list of the 100 best selling books on mind, body and spirit for the years 2005-2009?

I must admit that I have never used Business Links myself. They were not around when I started my business in 1989 and as I have worked in the information industry for over 25 years I know where to find the main sources of reliable business information. More importantly, personal and professional networks play a significant part in my intelligence and news gathering activities as they probably do for many other business people; and the use of social media is increasing. I wonder, then, how much impact if any the demise of the Business Links will have on SMEs and UK business in general.