Category Archives: social media

How to alienate and seriously annoy your users

LinkedIn is seriously annoying some of its users. Megan Roberts recently reported her experiences of the network’s data insecurity on her blog LinkedIn and data insecurity ( But it seems they’ve upped their game.

I had (or possibly still do have) a Personal Premium account. As I don’t find the limited extra features of any use I decided to cancel my premium account about three weeks ago, well in advance of the renewal date. Having filled out the online forms I assumed that was all I had to do, but each time I logged in to my account it was still marked as a Premium account. So I went through the cancellation process again. I waited a few days but my account was still marked as premium. I went through the cancellation procedure again. My account was still labelled as Premium but when I went to try and cancel it a fourth time it was marked as already cancelled. Success? Well – no.

Today I checked my business bank account and saw that LinkedIn has debited my account for the renewal fee despite my cancellation. Perhaps I should have been alerted to potential problems when confirmation emails failed to arrive. But under my account settings the premium account was finally marked as cancelled so I assumed that was that.

I have raised a ticket with LinkedIn but I doubt I’ll get any sense from them – I never have done in the past. First thing in the morning I am reporting the debit to my bank as an unauthorised transaction.

Congratulations, LinkedIn, on developing a strategy that is guaranteed to thoroughly p*** off your users.

Update: LinkedIn have now apologised for the “misunderstanding”. My account has been reset to “basic” and they have refunded my money.

North Wales Libraries Partnership Top Tips

Cyril in the John Spalding Library

The John Spalding Library in Wrexham hosted the North Wales Libraries Partnership (NWLP) workshop “Search is more than just Google”. Delegates from public, government, academic and NHS libraries gathered together to look at the effect of mobile technologies on search, open access, getting better results from Google and alternative search tools. The consensus reached during one of the breaks was that Cyril, one of the library’s residents and pictured on the left, should have ignored Google’s nutrition advice and gone for the more authoritative sources available in the library and on the web. If only he had waited and attended the workshop he would have known exactly where to look!

There was much discussion on how mobile devices change how we can search – not always for the best – and there was concern, as usual, over how much we willingly give away about ourselves to services such as Google and Facebook. Open access was debated in the afternoon along with possible directions for academic publishing.

An edited set of the slides is available on authorSTREAM at and Slideshare at

The Top Tips that the group came up with included some of the usual advanced Google commands but others concerned cloud computing and social media. Here they are.

1. Back up your stuff. Having your data hosted in the cloud means you don’t have to worry about it disappearing when your laptop or server crashes. But what if your cloud service goes under or your account is deleted for some reason? Have you made a local backup of your essential files and treasured family photos? One of the participants mentioned the Library of Congress digital preservation toolkit for preserving family memories (

2. Private browsing for “un-personalising” search results. If you want to make sure that your results are not being influenced by past searches and browsing behaviour, find out where the private browsing option is in your browser (in Chrome it is called Incognito). This ignores all cookies and past search history and is as close as you can get to unfiltered results.

3. Change the order of your search terms to change the order in which results are listed. This is an old trick but still seems to work.

4. Use advanced search commands such as site:, filetype;, intext:, to focus your search. Some of the commands are available not just in Google but also in Bing and DuckDuckGo.

5. Create “newspapers” of articles mentioned on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or news sites by using services such as ( These can be generated from hashtags, keyword searches or your own Twitterstream. Have a look in the news stand to see if someone has already created a paper on your topic. automatically compiles the newspaper but there are other services such as Storify ( and ( that enable individuals to curate the content that appears in their personal newspaper.

6. Guardian Data Store for datasets and visualisations relating to stories in the news ( This was so popular that it was mentioned twice for inclusion in the top tips. What people liked about this is that the source of the data is always given and there are links to the original datasets.

7. Million Short If you are fed up with seeing the same results from Google again and again give Million Short a try. Million Short runs your search and then removes the most popular web sites from the results. Originally, as its name suggests, it removed the top 1 million but the default has changed to the top 10,000. The page that best answers your question might not be well optimised for search engines or might cover a topic that is so “niche” that it never makes it into the top results in Google or Bing. One person loved it because the type of research they do often pulls up pages of Amazon and eBay results in Google. Not a problem with Million Short

8. Google Reading level to change the type of results that you see. Run your search and from the menu above the results select ‘Search tools’, ‘All results’ and from the drop menu ‘Reading level’. Options for switching between basic, intermediate and advanced reading levels should then appear just above the results. Click on the Advanced option to see results biased towards research.

9. Beware fragmented discussions. Articles can be posted and reposted in many different places: blogs, websites, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. with the result that potentially useful and informative discussions are dotted all over the place. Learn how to locate fragmented discussions in your subject area and where they are likely to occur.

10. Try something other than Google. Take a look at the slides for a few(!) suggestions of what you could use.

Tweets from the past

Embarrassed by some of your first tweets from 2007? Wish you hadn’t got involved in that drunken virtual brawl on Twitter last Christmas? There was a time when you could safely assume that those ramblings would be lost in the mists of Twitter’s archive never to be seen again. A search on Twitter would only give the last few days worth of postings and Google no longer archives the whole of Twitter. True, the Library of Congress does keep copies of every single tweet for posterity but access is only allowed for serious research purposes. So far, the Library has received  about  400 inquiries but has not yet been able to provide access ( So you can breathe easily again? Unfortunately not.

There are commercial organisations such as Datasift ( and Gnip ( that charge an arm and a leg for analysing tweets and other social media comments, but the cost puts their services out of the reach of the casual searcher. You may find, though, that your forthright hashtagged tweets at a conference have been recorded for all to see free of charge (Sharing (or Over-Sharing?) at #ILI2012, And Twitter, itself, is finally providing access to historical tweets.

You can now download your entire collection. Go to your Twitter home page, click on the cog wheel in the upper right hand corner and select settings.

Twitter Settings

At the bottom of the Settings page is a link to request your archive.

Request your archive

You should receive an email a few minutes later with a download link. The file is zipped and once you have unpacked it you can browse your tweets by year and month or search the archive using keywords or hashtags.

Downloaded Twitter Archive
Browse downloaded Twitter archive by year and month
Search downloaded Twitter archive
Search downloaded Twitter archive

I have not been able to work out how often you are allowed to download your archive and, rather annoyingly, there is no top-up option.

Twitter also runs searches on its entire archive – sort of. There is no obvious date option at the moment, not even under advanced search, so it is appears to be all or nothing, and it does not give you everything straightaway. I thought I would have a look at the tweets on Internet Librarian International 2009, hashtag #ili2009, and was surprised that there seemed to be so few. I scrolled down to the bottom of the results and saw “You’ve reached the end of the Top Tweets for #ili2009” with a link to “View all tweets”. Twitter then loaded the remaining tweets as I continued to scroll down the page. About Top Tweets Twitter says:

“We’ve built an algorithm that finds the Tweets that have caught the attention of other users. Top Tweets will refresh automatically and are surfaced for popularly-retweeted subjects based on this algorithm. We do not hand-select Top Tweets.”

There are also links at the top of the results page that enable you to view Top, All, and tweets from just ‘People you follow’.

Twitter Archive search

There are in fact advanced search commands that can be used to include a date range in your search (see for details). Changing my search to #ili2009 since:2009-10-01 until:2009-10-31 did seem to work. I am not convinced, though, that Twitter is giving me everything, even when I choose ‘All’. It’s a start and long overdue, but I’m not going to abandon my own archiving strategies just yet.

Presentation: Search Turns Social – Resistance is Futile

The presentation I gave to CILIP in Hants & Wight yesterday (Search Turns Social – Resistance is Futile) is now available on authorSTREAM at

It is also available on Slideshare at and temporarily on my web site at

Presentation: Spring Clean Your Social Media

The presentation I gave at CILIP in Surrey last night (Spring Clean Your Social Media) is now available on authorSTREAM at and on Slideshare at



Update: Claire Gravely has written a blog posting covering some of the issues we discussed. See “Karen Blakeman’s talk on spring cleaning your social media – some thoughts and musings” Library Claire

And the next Google killer is….Google!

Many of us have been saying for a while that the search engine that will kill Google is Google itself. It has come so close in the past, two of the more recent incidents being the removal of the plus sign from general web search and stopping the ‘ANDing’ of search terms. Prefixing search terms with the plus sign enabled searchers to disable Google’s synonym and variation search so that it carried out an exact match search. It still works in Google Scholar but not in general web search; Google is now using the ‘+’ prefix within Google+ to help users find Google+ business pages, for example +BASF will quickly take you to the BASF business page.  Google redeemed itself to some extent by hastily bringing in the Verbatim option, which can be found in the left hand menu of your results page. This will run your search exactly as you specify it (Google: Verbatim for exact match search However, while it works with Google commands such as ‘filetype:’ and ‘site:’ it gives up as soon as you start using some of the options in the left hand menu on the results page, such as date.

And now enter Google+ and Search Plus Your World (SPYW). If you decided to add Google+ to your Google account Google has seriously messed up altered the way it handles your search if you are logged in. It now incorporates and gives priority to results from your Google+ network. (For more details from Google see Search, plus Your World – Inside Search At present it is only available if you are signed in on and searching in English. “Search Plus Your World” is now the default and personalizes your results based on both your own behaviour and social connections, and content that has been shared with you through Google+.  Phil Bradley has written an excellent posting on how this works (Why Google Search Plus is a disaster for search

Initially I was in two minds about SPYW. I thought I might find it useful if I wanted to check what people in my Google circles were saying about a particular issue but then realised that most of them prefer to post on Twitter rather than in Google+ and Google+ does not cover Twitter! The Search+ results include

  • listings from the web
  • pages from the web that have been given priority because of your search behavior
  • pages from the web given priority because of your social connections
  • both public and private (or limited) Google+ posts, photos and Google Picasa photos

When it comes to serious research Search+ includes far too much irrelevant information. So how easy is it to turn it off? If you are logged in when you run your search you will see a message above your results that tells you the number of personal results and “other results” that have been found. There is also a toggle that enables you to switch between personalised and unpersonalised results. You can also switch it off permanently within your search settings.

You can of course just log out of your Google account before you run a search, or never sign up for Google+ in the first place. But Google is making the latter increasingly difficult. Let’s look at the results that might be popping up on your screen and as an example I’ll use a search on Phil Bradley, search and social media expert and President of CILIP. First of all a search on Phil Bradley before Search+ arrived:

On my screen I see pages from his web site, his blog and a Wikipedia entry (which is not the Phil Bradley I am looking for!). When I sign in to a Google account that has Google+ associated with it I see something completely different:


Phil’s Google+ profile is given priority above everything else and takes up most of the screen regardless of whether or not it is the most relevant or most up to date (Real-Life Examples Of How Google’s “Search Plus” Pushes Google+ Over Relevancy  And don’t think you can escape with a Google account that does not include Google+. Google has ways of enticing you to “upgrade”:

Even worse, if you sign up now for a new Gmail, YouTube or Blogger account you are automatically joined to Google+ (

Search+ has even tainted the suggestions that pop up as you type in your search:

Phil’s Google+ profile is given prominence and if you click on the link without having an account yourself your are invited to join:

To see what the suggestions should look like a group called Focus on the User ( has produced a bookmarklet for Chrome, Firefox and Safari and extensions for Chrome and Firefox. This tries – and succeeds most of the time – to display your search results without the intrusion of Google+ results. For my search on Phil his Google+ profile is replaced with Twitter.

When I run a search on my own name my Google+ entry is supplanted by my LinkedIn profile.

“What Google should be” does not, though, remove the extra “content” that Search+ sometimes adds to the right of your results. Run a subject search and you may see “People and Pages on Google+” that are supposedly related to your search terms.

I have not yet found these entries to more relevant than standard search results and the link “Learn how you could appear here too” indicates that Google sees this as another way of persuading people and organisations to join Google+. Switching it off is not easy. It is still there if you are logged out of your Google account. It is still there if you add &pws=0 to the search URL (in fact &pws=0 does not seem to work any more at all for depersonalising results). It does disappear, though, if you use Incognito in Chrome. The intrusion of Google+ is most obvious when running searches with just one or two terms or more consumer biased searches. As soon as you start building more complex searches involving filetype: or site: for example, or research more scientific subjects then Google+ takes a back seat.

Search+ is not all that is affecting how Google presents results. Google is simplifying its privacy policies and combining user data from all of its services (Official Google Blog: Updating our privacy policies and terms of service It sounds innocent enough but I’ve already spotted major changes. Google knows I live in Reading because I have told it and I do find that useful when I am carrying out local searches for restaurants, builders etc. Google has now decided, though, to bombard my YouTube home page with videos about Reading.

The videos of the Reading railway station redevelopment are vaguely interesting but I see enough of that in real life on a daily basis when I pass through the centre of town. The football videos are of no interest to me whatsoever. So the crossover of content has already started and I am not looking forward to what Google decides to put in my web search results as a consequence of my YouTube activity!

It is becoming increasingly difficult to make Google behave. Using advanced search commands is one way but many searches do not require them. The best method I have found so far is to use Chrome as your browser and open an incognito window. This depersonalises your results, ignores your web history and existing cookies, and leaves no traces of your search activity. Alternatively, since Google has clearly lost the plot when it comes to search, try another service. The three that I would currently recommend are Bing (, DuckDuckGo ( and Blekko (

Updated and new social media guides

The first of my updated guides and one new guide covering social media and collaborative tools are now up on I use these guides in some of my social media workshops and they are intended to help people get started with the various tools. You will notice that there are two Getting Started with Blogger guides: one for the old interface and one for the new. Don’t worry if you have not seen the new version of Blogger – Google is rolling this out gradually so it may be a while before the option appears on your screen.

The guides are Word documents so that you can edit them for use in your own organisation. I have given them a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License but if you are not sure whether your use of them will be covered by that license do get in touch with me.

So far the guides include:

Getting Started with Twitter
Introduction to Blogs
Getting Started with Blogger – Old Interface
Getting Started with Blogger – New Interface

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

Google includes your social circle in search

Google has been including search results from your social circle for quite a while. If you are logged in to a Google account it sometimes includes a box either at the bottom or in the middle of your search results page with a couple of “Results from people in your social circle”:

Google Social Circle

Click on the link and it will show you more from your circle.

If you are using and open up the search options in the side bar to the left of your results there is a “Social” option that will do exactly the same thing.

Google Social search option

Want to know who is in your social circle? Head straight to your Google dashboard at and scroll down to Social Circle. This not only tells you which of your social networks Google is using but also lists who.

Google lists your social circle

Any social networks that you have mentioned in, for example, your Blogger profile or your general Google profile such as Twitter will be included as will contacts in Google Reader, Google Buzz, Google Contacts and Picasa. In addition to your direct connections Google also searches the content of secondary connections that are publicly associated with your direct connections. The A-Z reveals all!

Until now the Social option has been kept separate but Google has started integrating all of these results with the rest of  your search starting with (see Official Google Blog: An update to Google Social Search So if you are using and are logged into your Google account you will now start seeing results automatically from your social circle.

Google's new social search

Underneath the social search entry it will say something like “Joe Bloggs shared this on Twitter”. Hover over this and it tell you how you are connected.

I frequently use social media to search for information and advice but I much prefer to choose when and how to do it. I do not always want Google unilaterally deciding to add opinions from all and sundry in my network. Remember, this is not just the direct connections that you have chosen to make but others who are connected to them and over which you have no control. The only way you can shut this off completely is to log out of your Google account. I will reserve final judgement until I have used it more but after only 2 hours of experimentation I am already finding that some searches are dominated by results from Twitter, Google Reader and Flickr. The results look even more cluttered than before and I fear it gives Google even more opportunity to completely mess up the search.

Workshop: social media strategies

I am running a pre-Online Information conference workshop about social media strategies on Monday, 29th November 2010 at the Olympia Conference Centre, London –  “The real-life guide to using social media to promote your organisation and services”.

In essence it will cover:

  • how the major search tools are incorporating social media and real time information in their search results and how you can use this to increase awareness of your organisation and its services
  • the importance of identifying relevant platforms and applications for your organisation and tailoring content for them
  • ways in which you can generate and re-use content to reach more potential users
  • engaging with existing and potential customers and users
  • how you can monitor the effectiveness of social media
  • technical and human resource issues and the skills needed to implement a social media strategy

Further details are at Online Information 2010,

If you wish to book a place but are not attending the conference you need to click on the “Book Conference Place” link. Fill in the your details on the first page and on the next you can select the workshop only option.

If you have already booked a conference place then you need to call Jo Letts (Joanna.letts@incisivemediacom and +44 (0) 207 316 9361).

Prices are  £195 + VAT if you are attending the conference and for the workshop only £399 + VAT