Category Archives: Uncategorized

Receiving blog postings by email – GDPR

This posting is for those of you who receive articles from this blog by email, and I am sure that many of you within the EU will have received similar notices from other organisations. On the 25th May the General Data Protection Regulation comes into force and as part of that we need to know if you wish to continue to receive emails from this blog.  If you are on the blog distribution list you will shortly receive or will have already received an email version of this posting.

If you DO wish to continue to receive postings by email

Reply to the/this email saying you wish to continue to receive the alerts. The deadline is 20th May. If we do not hear from you by then, you will be removed from the distribution list.

If you do not want to continue to receive email alerts

Do nothing. You will be automatically removed from the distribution list on the 21st May.  You will continue to receive emails if new postings are made to the blog before then so you may prefer to use the unsubscribe link included in this email.

WebSearch Academy presentations – edited highlights

Edited highlights from the presentations I gave at the WebSearch Academy on 17th October 2016 at the Olympia Conference Centre, London are now available on SlideShare.  They are also available on authorSTREAM. These are selected slides from the presentations; if you attended the event and would like copies of the full sets please contact me.

The presentations are:

New Dimensions in Search: seeing, hearing viewing (takes you to authorSTREAM). Searching for images, video and audio.

WebSearch Academy: If not Google then what? (takes you to authorSTREAM). Looks at alternatives to Google and some specialist tools.

SlideShare options for both are given below.


Essential non-Google Search Tools – Top Tips

It has been a while since I did a Top Tips from my workshops so here is the first of two that came out of a couple of recent UKeiG events.  This collection of Top Tips is a combined list nominated by those who attended the workshop on “Essential non-Google Search Tools” on 12th April 2016 in London.

This particular workshop will be re-run later in the year on September 7th. See the UKeiG training pages for further details.

1.Use more than one search tool
Different search tools have different coverage, search features and sort results differently. If you are doing in depth research use more than one to make sure you are covering all aspects and use a tool that is most appropriate for the type of information you require.

2. filetype: command
An important advanced search command that is available not only in Google but in many alternative search tools. Use the ‘filetype:’ command to limit your research to PowerPoint for presentations, spreadsheets for data and statistics, or PDF for research papers and industry/government reports.

For example:

home ownership UK filetype:xls

Make sure that filetype is all lower case and that there are no spaces before or after the colon.

Unlike Google, most of the alternative general search engines will automatically search for both the pre Office 2007 file extensions (xls, ppt, doc) as well as the current ones (xlsx, pptx, docx) regardless of whichever version you specify.

3. Behind the Headlines – NHS Choices
This is an excellent site for tracking down the truth and the research behind sensational, front page stories about medical breakthroughs. It explains in plain English what the background is behind the story and whether or not the claims made by the newspaper articles are valid.Behind_the_headines_2

4. Million Short
If you are fed up with seeing the same results again and again give Million Short a try. Million Short enables you to remove the most popular websites from the results. Originally, as its name suggests, it removed the top 1 million but you can now choose to remove the top 100, 1000, 10K, 100K, or million from your search. The page that best answers your question might be on a site that is not be well optimised for search engines, or might cover a topic that is so specialised that it never makes it into the top results in Google or Bing.

There are filters to the left of the results enabling you to remove or restrict your results to ecommerce sites, sites with or without advertising, live chat sites and location. The sites that have been excluded are listed to the right of the results and you can, if you wish, view the excluded pages by site.

5. Carrot Search
Carrot Search was nominated for the Top Tips for its clustering of results into topics (left hand side of the results screen) that enable you to filter and focus the search, as well as the visualisations of terms and concepts via the circles and “foam tree”. This is always a popular search tool with those who prefer visualisations rather than just text as a way of presenting and refining results. Click on the Circles and Foam Tree tabs at the top and to the left of the results.

6. Compound Interest
“Compound Interest is a site that aims to take a closer look at the chemical compounds we come across on a day-to-day basis. It also provides graphics for educational purposes, both for teacher and student use.” It is run by Andy Brunning, a chemistry teacher based in Cambridge.

Recent topics include:

The Chemistry of Camembert
Chemistry History: Teflon & Non-Stick Pans
The Chemistry of an Electric Guitar

7. Internet Archive: Wayback Machine
Want to see what was on a website a few years ago or trying to track down a document that seems to have vanished from the web? Try the Internet Archive. Enter the URL of the website or document and you should then see a calendar of the snapshots that are in the archive. Choose a date from the calendar to view the page. The archive does not have everything but it is worth a try. See also the UK National Archives of old government websites and pages at

8. UK Parliament
Perfect for monitoring the progress of legislation through Parliament ( As well as following the progress of legislation you can view the documents associated with a Bill (explanatory notes, amendment papers, report stage procedures, select committee reports etc). RSS and email alerts are available for each Bill.

9. Tineye
Reverse image search tool for seeing where and when an image has been used. Either upload an image or enter an image URL. Sort the results by Best match (default), Most changed, Biggest image, Newest or Oldest. Browser plugins are available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE and Opera.

10. Search for images by license
If you want to be sure that you are allowed to use an image for a project use a search tool that enables you to search by license. Bing has a license filter in its image search so that you need only view those that have the appropriate license. Run your search and use the drop down menu under License in the menu bar across the top of the results to apply a copyright filter.

Always go to the page hosting the image to check that the license does apply to the image you want and not to another one on the same page. (Google Images has a similar option).

Flickr Creative Commons ( describes what the different licenses allow you to do and enables you to search for photos with that license.

Other tools that have Creative Commons or public domain images include:

Wikimedia Commons  (but do check the full information on each image as there may be copyright restrictions under some jurisdictions)
Geograph  “UK and Ireland photos of landmarks and buildings for every Ordnance Survey grid”

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


Update: if you are having difficulties viewing the presentation via authorSTREAM or the embed above, it is also available on Slideshare and the PowerPoint is at

Graphwords visual thesaurus

Graphwords ( is another thesaurus visualisation tool that uses Wordnet ( Type in a word and it generates a map of associated nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs.


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 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 A list of the more useful Google commands is at
  6. Try something different
    Get a fresh perspective by trying something different. Two most popular during these two workshops seemed to be DuckDuckGo ( and Millionshort ( Other search engines to try include Bing ( and Blekko (
  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 for Google Germany or 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 has instructions on how to do this for most browsers.
  10. Looking for research papers? Google Scholar ( 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, 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 to search just the UK official statistics web siteasthma prevalence wales 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

  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.
    Apart from presenting your search results in a different order is where Google tries out new features. As well as seeing pages that may not be highly ranked in 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 outlines the terms and conditions. “FAQs – Copyright – University of Reading” at 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”


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!


  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?