Personalised vs non-personalised search – a word cloud comparison

My talk at the recent INFORUM 2012 conference held in Prague was about the issue of personalisation and the impact of our social network activities on search results. I believe that personalisation, and in particular contributions from our social and professional networks and even Google+, can present us with an alternative view of a topic or person that can be an important part of our analysis of a situation. I always have two different browsers open. One is not logged in to any account of any sort, has all cookies cleared at the end of each research session, and has search history disabled. The other is permanently logged in to a Google+ enabled account, social and professional accounts, and has web history enabled. This enables me to quickly switch between two very different environments to give me very different results when I am conducting research on Google or even Bing. Demonstrating this at a workshop or conference can be difficult, though, because postings and comments from the social elements of the search results may have been restricted to friends or limited circles.

For the INFORUM 2012 conference I decided to generate word clouds for personalised and non-personalised results for a search on the single word Prague. The titles and up to the first 250 words of the top 20 results for the searches were scraped into a document from which the clouds were generated. In the graphic below, which has been taken from my presentation, the first word cloud represents a search that is as non-personalised as I could make it and the second has been personalised by several weeks of research on what to do and see in Prague. There are no prizes for guessing what we were interested in visiting!

Word cloud

Search gets personal and social

My INFORUM 2012 presentation on “Search gets personal and social” is available on authorSTREAM at

It is also available temporarily at

A paper is also available on the INFORUM web site at It covers much of what I said but bear in mind it was written a few weeks beforehand and the presentation was updated with new developments the night before I gave the talk.

Business information key web resources presentation

This is the presentation that formed the basis of the business information workshop that I facilitated on 17th May 2012.

If you do not see the embedded presentation above you can go direct to the file on authorSTREAM at

The top tips can be found at

Business Information Workshop – Top Tips

The TFPL business information workshop held on May 17th in London turned out to be quite an intense day with plenty of questions and much discussion between the participants regarding the services and resources they use. When it came to the participants nominating their Top Tips at the end of the day there was a bit of umming and ahhing initially but they soon picked up speed and we ended up with eleven. Here they are.

1. BL BIPC industry Guides The British Library Business Information and IP Centre’s industry guides were very popular. You probably already know about the BL Business Essentials wiki Industries pages ( but these have now been expanded into a series of 30 PDF guides at highlighting relevant industry directories, databases, publications and websites. One of the participants who had been using the guides since they were launched said that they are regularly updated and everyone was impressed that a named person responsible for the guide is clearly shown on each one.

2.  Zanran A search tool for  identifying charts, graphs and tables of data in PDFs and Excel spreadsheets. Run your search and Zanran comes up with PDF and spreadsheet files that match your criteria. Very useful if you are looking for industry statistics.

3. Slideshare Looking for a conference presentation, an expert on a particular subject, overview or background on an industry then look in Slideshare. One workshop participant commented that they wished they had known about this a couple of weeks ago.

4.  SCOTBIS  A national information service aimed at Scottish businesses and based on the business resources at the National Library of Scotland but, nevertheless, useful information for those of us not based in Scotland. SCOTBIS provides its users with a free enquiry service and also offers fee-based research and other charged services.

5.  Don’t just Google – try other search tools! If you are carrying out a general web search don’t just Google. You may find the information you are looking for more quickly using alternatives such as,,,

6.  Advanced search commands. Familiarise yourself with the advanced search commands, in particular ‘site:’  for searching within a single site and ‘filetype:’. Look for PowerPoints for presentations, spreadsheets for data and statistics, or PDF for research papers and industry/government reports. Note that filetype:ppt will not pick up the newer .pptx so you will need to include both in your search, for example.

filetype:ppt OR filetype:pptx

You will also need to include .xlsx if you are searching for Excel spreadsheets and .docx for Word documents.

7.  BUSLIB-L  – an email based discussion list that addresses all issues relating to the collection, storage, and dissemination of business information regardless of format. To join the list, go to where there are also searchable archives.

8.  Bureau van Dijk’s M&A Portal A gateway to news, events, research and analysis on mergers and acquisitions worldwide. Some of the information on the portal home page is free of charge and there is a free search option for tracking down deals and rumours contained in BvD’s Zephyr database. The deals can be sorted by value, date or status. Basic information is free but you can purchase the full details from the Zephyr database using a credit card. The cost of the reports varies depending on the amount and type of information available.

9. Mergers and Acquisitions Review (Thomson Reuters). This was recommended by one of the workshop participants. Free quarterly summaries and reviews of M&A activity, for example and

10. Official Company Registers. A first port of call for many of us when checking up on a company. Most registers’ sites will offer an English language interface for searching but the information is usually in the local language. To locate searchable online official registers try one of the following:

11. ISI Emerging Markets Provides news, company information, industry reports and M&A from over 100 emerging markets. Much of the content is unique to ISI Emerging Markets. This was another service that was highly recommended by one of the workshop participants.

Useful industry information guides from the British Library BIPC

Evaluated listings and subject guides from people who know the sectors are the quickest way to home in on good quality sources of information. The British Library Business and IP Centre (BIPC) has, for a long time, had a wiki at listing web-based resources on a number of industries. These have been expanded into a very useful series of 30 PDF guides at highlighting relevant industry directories, databases, publications and websites.

 British Library Business & IP Centre Industry Guides

All of the guides show when they were last updated and the name of the person who has edited the guide. Not all of the resources are freely available on the web but you can access the information for free in the Business & IP Centre at the British Library, St Pancras. You will need a Reader Pass; details on how to obtain one can be found at

The resources are split into Directories, Business Advice Sources, Market Research and Statistics, Trade Magazines and Newsletters, and Internet Resources. Even if you cannot make it to the BIPC to access the publications these guides are valuable pointers to the key sources of information on industry sectors. Highly recommended.

A bit of telecoms history off to recycling

This time I really am going to do it. About 4 years ago I had a grand clear-out of my office and decided that my archive of telecoms software and manuals had to go. I offered them to anyone who was interested and a few items were snapped up. The rest are still sitting here in a box and I am offering them again to anyone who might be interested for historical reasons, research or whatever. You do not have to take the whole lot. Let me know if you are interested. Closing date  is 28th May 2012 when they are definitely off to recycling.

Telecomms software manuals

Database/information provider specific

Mercury Business Intelligence (MBI) User Guide Version 1.1. A5 ring binder
MBI Launcher v 1.2 (Windows) 3.5″ disk + hardcopy installation guide.

FT Profile freeway user manual (Windows 3) + 3.5″ disk

DialogLink for Windows Operating Systems Version 2.0 1993
User’s Guide + 3.5″ disk

Radio-Suisse DataMail Guide 1991-1992 (Guide to setting up and using DataStar’s online DataMail service)

General telecomms software

Odyssey User Manual spiral bound + 3.5″ disk. 1990
Odyssey for Windows A5 User manual + 3.5″ disk 1995

Crosstalk for Windows User’s Guide + Crosstalk for Windows CASL Programmer’s Guide 3X 3.5″ disks, 3x 5.25″ disks. 1992

Deputy User Guide. A5 ring binder + 3.5″ diskette 1992, version 3.04

Procomm Plus User Manual + Aspect Script Language Reference Manual + 2x 3.5″ disks, 3 x 5.25″ disks. 1991.

Procomm Plus for Windows User Manual (EC Version) + Windows Aspect Script Language (EC Version) + 3 x 3.5″ disks, 3 x 5.25″ disks. 1992

Procomm Plus Very Connected 3.0 user guide + CD

Hayes Smartcom for Windows 1993:

Read Me First!
User’s Guide
Quick Reference
Editor Reference
SCOPE for Windows Technical Reference
Communications Reference
4x 3.5″ disks
4x 5.25″ disks

Sage Chit-Chat 2.6 for IBM PC/XT
Boxed set of user manual, installation notes, 3.5″ disk, 5.25″ disk

QuickLink II Fax and telecommunications Windows & DOS 1993. User manual + 3.5″ disk

QuickLink Message Center: voice, fax & telecommunication. Windows. 1993. User manual + 3.5″ disk