Business Information Workshops – September

There is a lot happening in the UK business information sector at the moment. From two of my earlier postings on company information you will probably have gathered that competition between the providers is hotting up. And if you need statistics then the open data initiatives provide direct access to raw data – possibly.

If you are interested in business information and want to get up to speed with current developments I am running a UKeiG workshop on the topic on Thursday, 8th  September. It is being held in Bristol at the Frenchay Campus of the University of the West of England. Further details are on the UKeiG web site at The emphasis will be on free and pay per view services. Please note that you do not have to be a member of UKeiG to attend, and the workshop will be relevant to all types of organisations.

If you are new to business information I am also running a workshop entitled “Introduction to Business Research” for TFPL on 15th September in London (


Google axes Google Directory and to close Labs

Yesterday I heard that Google had axed Google Directory (Google Kills Google Directory, Says Web Search Is Faster If you try to access the directory you will see a message telling you that it is no longer available and “We believe that Web Search is the fastest way to find the information you need on the web. If you prefer to browse a directory of the web, visit the Open Directory Project at“.

Google Directory Gone

The directory was not one created by Google but a version of, The Open Directory Project. I began using Dmoz when it started as an alternative to the Yahoo Directory, which Yahoo had stopped updating. I have not used it for several years, though. The quality of an increasing number of the entries was suspect and the number of dead links unacceptable. I have just revisited Dmoz and the quality seems to have deteriorated even further. It is as tedious as ever to navigate and one often ends up with a list of commercial pages advertising companies and services. I did not have much joy with the search option either (powered by AOL Search). Marketing  pages dominated all of my search results. I will not be mourning the passing of Google Directory.

Google does not seem to have made an official announcement about the directory and in the time honoured fashion has simply dropped the service. It has, though, dropped the bombshell that it is to close down Google Labs. (Official Google Blog: More wood behind fewer arrows They will carry on with “in-product experimentation channels like Gmail Labs or Maps Labs. We’ll continue to experiment with new features in each of our products“. Android apps will be available on Android Market. There is further comment at “Google Labs To Be Closed As Larry Page’s Product Streamlining Continues” (

This is something I did not expect at all and I will miss the single point of access to Google’s experiments. Fusion Tables ( has already “graduated” but what is to become of experiments such as the Art Project, Google Correlate, Image Swirl and the Public Data Explorer? Google simply says that updates will appear on the Labs website ( The close down emphasises the importance of not become totally reliant on Google search features and services. Get to know the alternatives – they are sometimes better!

I am now wondering what will be next in the firing line.

Company Information: Company Check gives more UK data for free

I first reviewed Company Check ( earlier this year (Free UK company information Since then they have made more UK company information available free of charge. As well as Cash at Bank the service also shows 6 years of figures and graphs for Net Worth, Total Liabilities and Total Current Liabilities. Data is taken from official Companies House documents. Documents can be purchased through UK Data ( but they are much more expensive than ordering direct from Companies House ( or bizzy ( UK Data’s detailed credit reports are worth considering though if you want more in depth analysis. Although Company Check lists the company directors it does not show other directorships as does bizzy. (See my previous posting Company information: Bizzy for UK company data and credit ratings This is another very useful site that I recommend you add to your company information toolkit.

Company Check on Thorntons PLC

Company information: Bizzy for UK company data and credit ratings

There are numerous services that take UK Companies House data and repackage it. Some of the data is offered free of charge but more detailed information and additional analysis such as credit reports are priced. bizzy ( is one such organisation but uniquely it also offers free credit ratings for many UK limited companies. (Note that it is the overall rating and not the full report that is available free of charge.)

To search bizzy simply enter the name of a company and bizzy presents you with a list of likely matches. Click on the company you want to view and as well as documents available for purchase you can see free of charge the names of the directors together with a list of the other companies of which they are directors, industry sector, date of incorporation, registered address, and a list of competitors and peers.

Bizzy Report on Thorntons

To see the credit rating of the company you have to register with the site. Ordinary registration is free but there is also a bizzy PLUS account (£9.99/month or £99/year). The PLUS account allows you to view credit limits, mortgages and CCJs, includes a Risk Tracker for monitoring companies of interest, and gives you a 15% discount on all purchases. If you have the bizzy FREE account you will only be able to see credit ratings that are from 100 down to 30. Those below 30 show “Not public for this company” for their credit rating. If you have signed up for the bizzy PLUS all credit ratings are displayed.

The bizzy credit scores are as follows:

 85 and 100 – ‘Excellent Creditworthiness’,
70 and 84  – ‘Very Good Creditworthiness’
50 and 69  – ‘Good Creditworthiness’
30 and 49  –  ‘Creditworthy’
15 and 29  –  ‘Credit Against Collateral’
0 and 14 –  ‘Caution – Credit At Your Discretion’

I ran a check on a company for a friend of mine. They had heard rumours about the company and were uncertain as to whether it was safe to do business with them. Would the company go under? There was little to go on at Companies House as the company was filing abbreviated accounts and had not filed documents for the previous year. I used bizzy FREE to run the search and no credit rating was displayed. In order to see how bad it was I bought the credit report (£11.99). bizzy gave the company a rating of zero and the long list of outstanding CCJs for unpaid bills was all the evidence we needed to avoid the company like the plague. (The company concerned has now gone into liquidation).

Official documents filed at Companies House and bought direct from them cost £1 but can be bought via bizzy for £0.99. That is only 1 pence less than the Companies House price and might not be enough on its own to tempt you onto bizzy but the additional free information might. An important part of company research is uncovering what the directors are up to and bizzy makes it very easy to view a list of directorships held by a person. On the Companies House web site this is only possible if you subscribe to the full service rather than the free Webcheck option.

I have found that the information on bizzy is often more up to date than that provided by some of the larger credit rating companies and bizzy covers every UK limited company, even very small ones. I tried searching for three small companies using, which I have often used in the past, and none of them were in the database.

Bizzy also searches official information and sells credit reports on companies in other European countries. It is not obvious how you do this until you start searching on the company name. Above and to the right of the list of companies on the results page is a ‘Search Country’ box and it is from the drop down menu that you select the country.

Bizzy European Companies

Remember, though, that the amount of information that companies have to disclose varies from country to country and may consist of little more than name, registration number, status and address.

If you are researching UK companies I recommend that you consider including bizzy in your toolkit, but should you go for a FREE or PLUS account? It all depends on how much company research you think you’ll do in a year. If it is just a handful then perhaps the free option will suffice but more than that and bizzy PLUS with its 15% discount and standard display of credit limits, mortgages, and CCJs makes more economic sense.

A good year for culling Google search options

2011 is proving to be a vintage year for disposing of Google search options. Google, in common with most search engines and database providers, is quick to announce wonderful new search features but tardy in telling users about discontinued tools. In fact, it generally takes several messages to the Google support forums about something not working in order to elicit the news that a service has been withdrawn.

UK Google Maps property search was one of the first to go this year. Google had done deals with several UK online estate agents so that when you ran a search in Google Maps on your post code together with the word property you were presented with a Google map showing all the properties for sale or rent in your area. You could even specify price range, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Google Maps Property Search

The service was discontinued in February of this year with “low usage” being given as one of the reasons. That’s hardly surprising because after the launch Google did almost nothing to promote it and did not even offer a hint on the UK Maps home page that it existed.

Next to go was starred results. This enabled you to star or bookmark pages in your results list so that next time you ran a similar search they would appear separately at the top of your results.

Google starred results

The ability to create new starred results was removed but your existing starred results remain and will continue to appear in search results (No More Starred Results in Google Search

The ‘define:’ command was the next to be axed although the same functionality is still available under the Dictionary link in the left hand menu on the results page. Instead of simply prefixing your term or abbreviation with define: you now have to run a search on it and then click on Dictionary. The results are the same but it requires a couple of additional clicks to get there.

Next up were the numerous changes to the appearance and layout of the results page in the runup to the launch of Google+. One casualty was the ‘Similar’ link that used to appear next to most entries in the results page. This would find pages similar in content and from similar types of organisations to your selected page. Although it has gone from the results the related: command is still available and it remains on the Advanced Search screen. Another victim of the revamp was the Wonderwheel. This was a great way of exploring concepts and alternative search terms within a search, especially if you are working in a subject area new to you.

Google Wonderwheel

The closest alternative is the Related Searches option in the menu on the left hand side of the results screen. It doesn’t allow for the same ease of navigation between searches and doesn’t match the variety of terms and phrases that the Wonderwheel offered.

Related searches

The latest disappearance is Realtime search, which returned mostly Twitter results. The contract giving Google direct access to Twitter expired on July 1st and Google have not renewed the contract. This started out as a very useful Twitter search tool as Twitter’s own search at returns results from the last few days and many of the advanced search commands do not work. More recently, though, Google Realtime became unreliable and started returning increasingly bizarre results, usually with hashtags because it would automatically correct what it thought was a spelling mistake. You can still use Google to search Twitter by combining your search terms with but it does not pick up everything. Bing Social is a little better and is generally good but neither pick up everything.

As an example, I recently attended and spoke at the South West and Mid Wales Library Partnership staff conference. The hashtag was #swamp11 and two days after the event the archive document I created in Tweetdoc ( listed 185 tweets, which tallied with the number in my own record. Bing Social finds 75 tweets, Topsy tracks down a mere 38 and when you force Google to do an exact match search together with you get a paltry 4 results.

And finally…. a search option that many researchers find invaluable seemed to have vanished over the weekend. A link to the Advanced Search screen had vanished from the Google home page, as had Language Tools. Both are now hidden under the gear icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

Advanced Search Link

What will go next? Who knows except Google and they always seem reluctant to tell us. As Gary Price said in his article on the Search Engine Land site (

“..taking a service offline is up to the company. Users are free to go elsewhere or share their opinions with Google. What we hope for is simply for the company to let users know what’s going on versus waiting around, speculating, and wasting time.”

SWAMP presentation available

The presentation that I am giving later this morning (July 11th, 2011)  to the South West and Mid Wales Library Partnership (SWAMP) is now available for viewing and download in various places. Entitled “Where’s everyone gone? New places and ways to meet your users” the presentation is mostly images so may not make much sense on its own. It will be looking at how we can communicate more effectively and electronically with users and colleagues.

You can find it on my own web site at, on authoSTREAM at and on Slideshare at