CILIP in the Thames Valley, 6th October 2009, Great Expectations, Reading
The presentation I gave to CILIP in the Thames Valley on 6th October is now available in a number of locations. At least one of these should be accessible through your firewall!
PowerPoint presentation – RBA web site
Some of the slides have annotations from my blog and new comments so make sure you check out the notes to the slides. Many of the slides are screen shots so they won’t make much sense without the notes or unless you were at the live presentation.
I have been looking at Reportlinker for several months. Their strapline says “Industry reports, Company Profiles and Market Statistics from 200,000 public authoritative reports”. There are two parts to the service: the Public Reports, which “provides easy access to 1.2 million market reports and industry statistics” that are free of charge and the Premium Reports, which cover priced market research. The Public Reports section includes reports from governments, embassies, investment promotion agencies, national statistics agencies and trade unions .
You can search both sections free of charge and it is no surprise that when it comes to viewing reports in the Premium Reports section you have to pay. But you also have to pay if want to view the details of articles in Public Reports and download them. Why pay for articles and reports that you can find free on the web? Because Reportlinker indexes them and enables you to narrow down your search by industry, location and language and that requires human effort – at least I assume that there are real people doing this. Reportlinker seems to concentrate on formatted files such as PDF and DOC and so misses many HTML pages with data that are picked up by Google. I found that one of my standard searches – gin vodka sales UK – picked up one useful government document on Reportlinker but failed to retrieve web pages from the UK Gin and Vodka Association that gave me far more up to date information. Looking at alternatives to Google, I found that iSeek also performed better than Reportlinker in both its Web and Educational search on my test searches. See my review of iSeek at http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2009/02/24/iseek/
Now to the pricing. There are two rates: a day rate at 39 Euros + 19.6% VAT and a monthly rate at 55 Euros + 19.6% VAT. I first tested the full service with a day rate but then decided to go for a month’s worth as I wanted to demonstrate the service at several workshops and to clients. I skimmed through the terms & conditions and did not register that the monthly subscription was not for just 1 month but a recurring subscription. And there are no refunds when you’ve realised your mistake after spotting the next debit on your monthly credit card statement! Yes you can cancel, but you have paid out for that month and that is it.
I accept the blame for this. I always check the terms and conditions of a subscription and I did manage to find a link to them at the bottom of the subscription page. I did look at them, but obviously not carefully enough. However, at no point in the subscription process is there a box that you have to tick saying that you have read and accepted the terms & conditions with an adjacent link to those T&Cs. By the time you have entered your credit card details it is too late to start wondering where the T&Cs are.
In conclusion, I am not impressed with Reportlinker. If you are a total novice in searching for business information, it may come up with some good reports but you can do a lot better by using the advanced search features of the standard search engines. On top of that, the monthly subscription option is not clearly worded and the T&Cs not explicitly offered to you for acceptance on the payment page. The best I can say about that is “sneaky”, the worst – well, perhaps best not to say what I really think.
iSEEK is a new, neat search engine that as well as coming up with good results also clusters results into topics on the left hand side of your results screen. Clustering is not new: Clusty, for example, is just one of many search tools that have been doing this for several years. For my test searches, though, iSEEK comes up with more meaningful topics and clusters. These include places, people, organisations and date and time.
It passed with flying colours on my first test search – gin vodka sales uk. My “ego-search” on Karen Blakeman also came up with good results and listed my various profiles on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn on the first page. The results from more test searches on other people’s names suggest that iSEEK gives priority to biographies and social media profiles. All of my test searches came up with relevant sites and in an order that was different from Google’s, so this could be a good Google alternative.
As well as the default “Web” search there is an “Education” option that appears to give priority to more research oriented pages. For some searches, for example “peak oil”, the topics on the left of the screen included US school grade level.
To search you can type in a natural language question or keywords, and use quotation marks around phrases, but that is it. There is no advanced search for searching by filetype for example. Nevertheless, I would recommend that you give it a try.
Hat tip to Peter Guillaume for recommending iSEEK.