Category Archives: Uncategorized

Slides: Born digital – time for a rethink

My slides from yesterday’s NetIKX workshop, “Digital Native, Digital Immigrant – does it matter?”, are now available on authorSTREAM at http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/karenblakeman-1650757-born-digital-time-rethink/

 

Update: if you are having difficulties viewing the presentation via authorSTREAM or the embed above, it is also available on Slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/KarenBlakeman/born-digital and the PowerPoint is at http://www.rba.co.uk/as/

Graphwords visual thesaurus

Graphwords (http://graphwords.com/) is another thesaurus visualisation tool that uses Wordnet (http://wordnet.princeton.edu/). Type in a word and it generates a map of associated nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs.

Graphwords

To view the meaning of a group of words move your cursor over the node and to explore a word and its related terms in more detail simply click on it.

Many thanks to Carol Bream for the alert.

Search Strategies goes electronic

My publication “Search Strategies for the Internet” is changing and going electronic. There will be shorter articles covering specific search techniques and search engine features. In addition there will be screencasts and presentations. The new structure means that updates to the content will be easier and more frequent. Initially there will be no “book” but I may eventually combine some of the articles into a single publication.

As before, some information such as the fact sheets and Top Tips are available free of charge but the detailed information and screencasts will be available to subscribers only. See http://www.rba.co.uk/search/ for further details. Annual individual subscription rates are £48/year (£40 + £8 VAT). Multi-user and corporate rates are available on request. If you don’t want to commit to an annual subscription some of the articles will be available separately for purchase.

“How to make Google run the search you want” is already available in the subscribers’ area and covers Verbatim, daterange, using the tilde and intext. Several topics are in preparation and to help me get an idea of what people are interested in I have set up a quick poll. It would be great if you could rank the seven topics with ‘1’ being the one you would like to see most. If there is a search topic or feature that you would like to see covered and it is not in the list use the comment box at the bottom of this posting. The topic with the most votes will be made available in the free content area.

Many thanks.


Top search tips from North Wales

August is usually a quiet month for me with respect to work. Time for a holiday away and then a couple of weeks ambling along the Thames Path or pottering around the garden. This year, though, as soon as I was I back from my travels I was knuckling down and updating my notes for two search workshops in North Wales. Both were for the North Wales Library Partnership (NWLP), the first taking place at Coleg Menai in Bangor and the second at Deeside College. Both venues had excellent training facilities and IT, which meant we could concentrate on getting to grips with what Google is doing with search and experiment with different approaches to making Google do what we want it to do.

At the end of the workshops both groups were asked to come up with a list of  Top 10 Tips. I’ve combined the two lists and removed the duplicates to generate the list of 16 tips below.

  1. Repeat one or more of your search terms one or more times
    Fed up with seeing the same results for your search?  Repeat your main search term or terms to change the order of your results.
  2. Menus on left hand side of Google results pages
    Use the menus on the left hand side of the results page to focus your search and see extra search features. To see all of the options click on the ‘More’ and ‘More search tools’ links. The content of the menus changes with the type of search you are running, for example Image search has a colour option.
  3. Verbatim
    Google automatically looks for variations of your terms and no longer looks for all of your terms in a document. If you want Google to run your search exactly as you have typed it in, click on the ‘More search tools’ options at the bottom of the left hand menu on your results page and then on Verbatim at the bottom of the extended menu that appears.
  4. intext:
    Google’s automatic synonym search can be helpful in looking for alternative terms but if you want just one term to be included in your search exactly as you typed it in then prefix the word with intext:. For example carbon emissions buses intext:biofuels flintshire. The command sometimes has the effect of prioritizing pages where your term is the main focus of the article.
  5. Advanced search screen and search commands
    Use the options on the advanced search screen  or the search commands (for example filetype: and site:) in the standard search box to narrow down your search. A link to the advanced searchscreen can usually be found under the cog wheel in the  upper right hand area of the screen. If you can’t see a cog wheel or the link has disappeared from the menu go to http://www.google.co.uk/advanced_search. A list of the more useful Google commands is at http://www.rba.co.uk/search/SelectedGoogleCommands.shtml
  6. Try something different
    Get a fresh perspective by trying something different. Two most popular during these two workshops seemed to be DuckDuckGo (http://duckduckgo.com/) and Millionshort (http://millionshort.com). Other search engines to try include Bing (http://www.bing.com/) and Blekko (http://blekko.com/).
  7. Use the country versions of Google for information that is country specific
    This will ensure that the country’s local content will be given priority, although it might be in the local language. Useful for companies and people who are based in or especially active in a particular country, or to research holiday destinations. Use Google followed by the standard ISO two letter country code, for example http://www.google.de/ for Google Germany or http://www.google.no/ for Google Norway.
  8.  Filetype to search for document formats or types of information
    For example PowerPoint for experts or 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 look for .xlsx if you are searching for Excel spreadsheets and .docx for Word documents. The Advanced Search screen file type box does not search for the newer Microsoft Office extensions.
  9. Clear cookies
    Even if you are logged out of your Google account when you search, information on your activity is stored in cookies on your computer. These can personalise your results according to your past search and browsing history. Many organisations have set up their IT systems so that these tracking cookies are automatically deleted at least once a day or whenever a person logs in or out of their computer account. At home, your anti-virus/firewall software may perform the same function. If you want to make sure that cookies are deleted or want to control them manually How to delete cookies at http://aboutcookies.org/Default.aspx?page=2 has instructions on how to do this for most browsers.
  10. Looking for research papers? Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com/) is one place to look but there may be additional material hidden somewhere on an academic institution’s web site. Include advanced search commands, for example filetype:pdf site:ac.uk, in your search.
  11. For the latest news, comments and analysis on what is happening in an industry or research area carry out a  Google blog search and limit your search by date. Simply run your search as usual in the standard Google search box. On the results page click on Blogs in the menu on the left hand side of the screen and then select the appropriate time option.
  12. site: and -site:
    Use the site:command to search within a single site or type of site.For example:2011 carbon emissions public transport site:statistics.gov.uk to search just the UK official statistics web siteasthma prevalence wales site:gov.uk OR site:nhs.ukto search all UK government and NHS web sites

    If you are fed up with a site dominating your results use -site: to exclude it from your search.

    For example:

    Dylan Thomas -site:bbc.co.uk

  13. Reading level – from tourism to research
    Use this to option in the menus on the left had side of your results page to change the type of information. For example run a search on copper mines north wales. Then click on Reading Level in the left hand menus. Selecting “Basic” from the options that appear at the top of the results gives you pages on tourism and holiday attractions. “Advanced” gives you research papers, journal articles and mineral databases. Google does not give much away as to how it calculates the reading level and it has nothing to do with the reading age that publishers assign to books. It could involve sentence structure, grammar, the length of sentences on a web page, the length of the document, the terminology used and doubtless many other criteria.
  14. Google.com
    Apart from presenting your search results in a different order Google.com is where Google tries out new features. As well as seeing pages that may not be highly ranked in Google.co.uk you will get an idea of how Google search may look in the UK version in the future.
  15. Numeric range search
    Use this for anything to do with numbers – years, temperatures, weights, distances, prices etc. Use the boxes on the Advanced Search screen or just type in your two numbers separated by two full stops as part of your search.For example:world oil demand forecasts 2015..2030
  16. An understanding of copyright is important if you intend to re-use information found in the web and absolutely essential if you are going to use images. Creative Commons licences clearly state what you can and can’t do with an image but they are not all the same. The list at Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ outlines the terms and conditions. “FAQs – Copyright – University of Reading” at http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/imps/Copyright/imps_copyrightfaqs.aspx gives some guidance on copyright but if in doubt always ask! An example of what can happen if you get it wrong is demonstrated by “Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog” http://www.roniloren.com/blog/2012/7/20/bloggers-beware-you-can-get-sued-for-using-pics-on-your-blog.html.

 

Literature Review (1984): Christmas can seriously damage your health

Some of you may have seen the article in the Times Higher Education – What will poor Robin do then? Perforate your small bowel. It reminded me of an article I wrote for an in-house newsletter in 1984 when I was working for a pharmaceutical company and which addresses similar issues. Here  it is (reference number 3 is the one referred to in the THE headline):

Seated one day at the terminal
I was weary and ill at ease
And my fingers wandered idly
Over the noisy keys (1)

So I decided to cheer myself up, type in a few Christmassy search terms into Medline and see what papers came up. Bingo! 354 hits. However, a glance at some of the titles revealed that the majority were articles on Christmas disease (a form of haemophilia); one was concerned with crystals in the eye called Christmas tree decorations because of their light refractive properties (2); and another was entitled “Small bowel perforation due to a Christmas cake decoration”(3). A broader scan of the literature merely confirmed my initial impression that Christmas merits a government health warning.

It seems that beer drinking is the only festive activity that does not give rise to some class of serious ADR (Adverse Drug Reaction). A group from the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle have shown that drinking six pints of McEwans Export “causes remarkably little metabolic disturbance”(4). Nevertheless, the volunteers did suffer from headache, nausea, dry mouth and malaise the following morning. It is also interesting to note that the eminent Professor KGMM Alberti was thanked for his “invaluable help”.

Those of you who prefer a drop of uisgebeatha may be interested in a trial conducted to discover whether or not regular drinkers can distinguish single malts from blended whiskey (5). They could not, but the design of the trial has been criticised. A very select group of volunteers were used (surgeons from one unit) and the question “How blind were the volunteers?” was raised (6). Furthermore, were the 36 tastings by each volunteer carried out in one sitting as implied by the study? (6). If so, then LD50’s, despite now being less favoured, may have yielded more useful information.

As for Rudolf, rumours that his red nose is due to excessive intake of Christmas cheer have finally been scotched by a report of two moose involved in motorcycle collisions (7). The crash investigators carefully point out that “One motorcyclist was intoxicated. No evidence of alcohol was found in either moose”.

With respect to Santa Claus himself, it is not surprising that belief in Father Christmas has been found to decline markedly with age and is associated with a rise in “causal reasoning” (8). The poor economic climate has also meant that Santa has had to be given the sack by some department stores (9). It seems that they can no longer afford to provide the necessary “specialist working environment” – namely a grotto.

The shops may be able to get away with making Father Christmas redundant, but British Rail were not so lucky when they tried to economise on their “Santa Specials” (10). One angry customer demanded a refund when he found that although there were elves and pixies as advertised, the train was definitely deficient in fairies. A BR spokesman stated “The man has complained that there were no fairies. Indeed there were not but we did have four children dressed up as elves and pixies. I am reluctant to refund the man’s £1.25 …….because he did have his mince pie and a glass of sherry”.

Which neatly brings me to the nutritional aspect of the Yuletide celebration. This also presents problems. Apart from the cake decorations mentioned earlier, bay leaves may have to be surgically removed (11), and asparagus can give you pongy pee (12). However, you can rest assured that the DHSS has taken steps to ensure that gobbling your turkey does not give you the trots (13); and the EEC is very particular about the size of the crustaceans in your prawn cocktail (14).

In theory, you can always offset any overindulgence in plum pud by participating in some outdoor activity, but this too is beset with perils. The hazards of jogging have been well documented with syndromes such as jogger’s nipple (15), jogger’s liver (16), judo-jogger’s itch (17) and penile frostbite (18) top of the list. If you think cycling is safer, be warned: the Victorians identified a similar catalogue of complaints associated with that pastime including Kyphosis bicyclistarum or cyclist’s stoop, bicycle hernia, cyclist’s neurosis and cyclist’s sore throat (19). Bicycle face was characterised by a “peculiar strained set look, produced by the excessive tension involved in maintaining balance on a two wheeled machine”. More recently a case of unicyclists sciatica has been reported (20).

Indoor pursuits are not much safer: addicts of Rubik’s cube can be incapacitated by cuber’s thumb (21); and prolonged sessions of video games can give rise to unilateral wrist pain referred to variously as Space Invader’s wrist, Asteroids osteoarthritis and pinball palsy (22). But don’t think that being a spectator is free from side-effects. The excitement of watching a football match has been known to cause Celtics fever or “play-off induced ventricular arrhythmias” (23).

If, like me, you are now thoroughly depressed then why not go to a party? There seem to be plenty going on especially in the NHS (24). Since the Chancellor of the Exchequer is intent on cutting NHS expenditure he should perhaps read a paper from the BMJ, which expresses concern at the extent of these unorganised jollifications (24). The situation is sufficiently serious to warrant the recommendation that an administrator be appointed to rationalise this area of hospital life. Strange that the post was not mentioned by Roy Griffiths in the NHS Management Inquiry.

Finally, just to make you feel even worse the morning after, here are a few European translations of the term “hangover”: baksmälla – kickback, katzenjammer – cat misery, and gueule de bois – mouth of wood.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

References:

  1. Adapted from A Lost Chord by Adelaide Ann Proctor
  2. “Christmas Tree Decoration” crystals in the lens Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd 1983;182(1):15
  3. Small bowel perforation due to a Christmas cake decoration BMJ 1983;287:1923-1924
  4. Acute biochemical responses to moderate beer drinking BMJ 1982;285:1770-1773
  5. Can malt whisky be discriminated from blended whisky? The proof. A modification of Sir Ronald Fisher’s hypothetical tea tasting experiment BMJ 1983;287:1912-1913
  6. How blind were the volunteers? BMJ 1983;287:1914-1915
  7. Moose-motorcyle collisions New Eng J Med 1981;305(10):590-591
  8. Children’s belief in Santa Claus. A developmental study of fantasy and causality J Amer Acad Child Psychiat 1979;18(4):658
  9. Santa Claus gets the sack in three stores. The Times, Nov 24, 1980
  10. Railway fairies unfit for elf fanatic. The Daily Telegraph Nov 22, 1979
  11. Beware the bay leaf BMJ 1980;281:1682
  12. Volatile organic components in human urine after ingestion of asparagus Clin Chem 1977;23:1941
  13. Turkeys, safe preparation Health Notice (HN)1977:190
  14. Long-awaited reform of the prawn laws The Times Aug 8, 1980
  15. Jogger’s nipples New Eng J Med 1977:297:1127
  16. Jogger’s liver New Eng J MEd 1980;303:589
  17. Judo-jogger’s itch New Eng J MEd 1979;300:866
  18. Penile frostbite, an unforeseen hazard of jogging New Eng J MEd 1977;296:178
  19. Are exercise ailments cyclical New Eng J MEd 1983;309:858-859
  20. Unicyclists sciatica – a case report New Eng J MEd 1981;305:231-232
  21. Cuber’s thumb New Eng J MEd 1981;305:768
  22. Space-invader’s wrist New Eng J MEd 1981;304:1368
  23. Celtics fever: playoff induced ventricular arrhythmia New Eng J MEd 1981;305:467-468
  24. Hospital Christmas Parties BMJ 1980;281:1667-1668

Date originally written: 7th December 1984
Author: Karen Blakeman

Brighton & Hove bus times on iPhone

Nice one Brighton & Hove, and I am not being sarcastic! According to the Local Government Chronicle Brighton & Hove City Council claims to have the first iPhone bus app. It has launched a free real time bus time information app created by one its residents, Rick Thompson, and which updates automatically to show live bus times across the area’s network.

My own local bus service, Reading Buses,  is just a couple of steps away. Most of our bus stops, even over “the river” in Caversham, have displays telling you when the next 2-3 buses are due to arrive so the data obviously exists. They just need to make that data available to someone like Rick.So how about it Reading Buses?

Bing – don’t bother!

Bing.com has launched and I just cannot believe that Microsoft have made so much fuss over something that is no better than the existing Live.com. The UK version is labelled as beta and the US one as “Preview” so is there more coming soon as is suggested by Microsoft/Bing in their blogs? I sincerely hope so because so far this “decision engine” does not live up to the hype.

Phil Bradley has already reviewed Bing and I agree entirely with everything he has said.  The home page is reminiscent of the old Ask home page that allowed you to “skin” the page with an image. I like the snow leopard that is on the UK version but if I should get bored with it, I can’t change it.

My test web searches came up with results that were mostly identical with those from Live.com. For some of them, for example my search on car ownership UK, Bing puts a fact or a statistic at the top of the page. In this case it came up with 510 cars per 1000 people, a statistic apparently from the International Road Federation but 2004 data! The Advanced Search is as pathetic as ever, but you can use search commands such as ‘filetype: ‘ and ‘site:’ in the standard search box.

The image search is virtually the same as Live’s with minor changes to the layout.  The Shopping option takes UK users to Ciao.co.uk (very confusing), News is as useless as before, and Maps takes you to Multimap. Much more interesting is the Google-type maps option at http://maps.live.com/ or http://maps.bing.com/ but you cannot find that by following the menu options. You have to know and enter the URL directly into your browser.

At present, all Microsoft seem to have done is put a slightly different interface on top of Live and given it a different domain name, an impression further reinforced by the help files still being on live.com. I will continue to use Live.com as one of my favourite alternative search engines: it does sometimes come up with unique content and I like the image search. Bing has nothing that is significantly new or innovative. As Phil Bradley says, what a wasted opportunity. Google can rest easy.

Online maps for local crime statistics

Police forces in England and Wales are now providing access to local crime statistics via online maps. These allow the public to drill down to ward level and view crime trends in their area. The statistics include information about burglary, robbery, theft, vehicle crime, violent crime and anti-social behaviour.

The maps should be available via the local police web sites, although you may have to hunt around for the links. Once you have found the maps, you can either browse them or enter your post code to find information on just your area. The interfaces and presentation of the data can vary considerably between police forces as does the break-down of the crime statistics. Thames Valley provides a basic map and tables of data, while others such as the Metropolitan police offer graphs as well as the figures. All of the online maps colour code areas according to the levels of crime: high, above average, average, below average, low or no crime.

Metropolitan Police crime statistics for postcode DA17 5JD

Metropolitan Police statistics for postcode DA17 5JD

Chipwrapper introduces time-slices

One of my favourite news sites, Chipwrapper (http://www.chipwrapper.co.uk/), now offers an option to search for articles within a specified time period. Chipwrapper is a Google custom search engine that covers UK news sources on the Internet. Until now, a drawback  of the service has been the absence of an option to limit  your search by date. You can include a year and/or month in your search but now there are built in options to search for articles published within the past 24 hours, week, month or year.

My earlier review of this excellent service can be found at http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2007/12/29/chipwrapper-search-uk-newspapers/