Tag Archives: training

Does price guarantee quality of information?

I recently co-presented a webinar on researching legal information. The event was organised by TFPL, and Alan Blanchard and myself reviewed free and paid for resources together with key search techniques.

Throughout the session we polled the audience on a number of issues, the first question being “Does price guarantee quality when you are purchasing information?”. Surprisingly, given the topic of the webinar, 70% voted ‘No’ with the remaining 30% opting for ‘I don’t know’ rather than ‘Yes’. When we asked about their opinions on free information, though, 79% said they would need a result from a free source to be validated with a paid resource.

The audience could not qualify their answers – it was a simple yes/no/don’t know – but there were some interesting discussions on the issues after the event. The priced services certainly have to work hard to prove value for money and they cannot assume that their users will automatically renew each year. Free information has a big part to play in legal and business research but it is vital that one is aware of the limitations of free. For example, do you know how up to date legislation.gov.uk is and if it carries revised legislation? (See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/help#aboutRevDate for the answer). And then there is the issue of making Google run your search the way you want it run, without personalisation or deviation.

I am running two public access workshops this autumn for TFPL that look at free versus fee resources for business and legal information. The first, on 19th September 2013, is Business information: key web resources and covers:

  • Portals and key starting points
  • Company information
  • Industry information
  • Official statistics, market research
  • News sources, RSS and alerting services
  • Social media and professional networks

The second is Free resources and search techniques for EU and UK legislation and is on 13th November 2013. It will be looking at:

  • How to use advanced search commands to find news and information on legislation
  • How to use reading level and date ranges to focus the search
  • Searching foreign language pages
  • Options for searching journals, research information, grey literature
  • Alternatives to Google, specialist tools and sites
  • Assessing quality and relevance

Both days include practical sessions and places on the workshops are limited. Contact TFPL for further information and bookings.

Workshops on business information

Zanran search on UK beef imports

A reminder that I am running two business information workshops in London in April.

The first is “Introduction to Business Research” on Thursday, 18th April. This workshop provides an introduction to many areas of business research including statistics, official company information, market information, news sources and how to build search strategies. It will cover explanations of the jargon and terminology, regulatory issues, assessing the quality of information, primary and secondary sources. Further information is available on the TFPL website.

The second is “Business information: key web resources”, which is being held the day after on Friday 19th April. This workshop looks in more detail at the resources that are available for different types of information, alerting services and free vs. fee. It also covers search strategies for tracking down industry, market and corporate reports. Details are on the TFPL website.

Both workshops include practical sessions during which you can follow the exercises provided, try out some of the enquiries you’ve recently had to tackle, or just generally explore. I am on hand during the practicals to help out with searches or advise on how to approach a particularly difficult piece of research. Be warned, though, you will be asked at the end of day to nominate, as a group, your top 10 search tips and tips. That’s when the arguments get serious!

Last year’s London workshop Top Tips are at http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2012/11/25/top-tips-for-business-information/. More recently a group in Manchester came up with a very interesting combination of search techniques and business resources (see http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2013/03/07/top-tips-on-search-and-business-information/).

Advanced Google workshop – change of venue

The advanced Google workshop that I am running for UKeiG (How to make Google behave) has a new venue. It is still being held in Manchester but will now be in the 4th Floor Teaching Suite, Main Library, University of Manchester M13 9PP. The date remains unchanged (April 30th, 2013).

We shall be looking at what goes on “underneath the bonnet” and covering Google’s advanced commands and search options in detail. We’ll also be reviewing Google’s specialist tools including the Public Data Explorer, Scholar and many more. As usual with my workshops there will be time allocated for practical sessions so that you can try out the techniques for yourself. Further details and booking information are available on the UKeiG website at http://www.ukeig.org.uk/trainingevent/make-google-behave-techniques-better-results-karen-blakeman

Forthcoming workshops

I am running three workshops in April on business information and search. All three have a practical element so that you can try out resources and techniques for yourself.

Introduction to Business Research

This is being organised by TFPL and will be held in London on Thursday, 18th April. This course provides an introduction to many areas of business research including statistics, official company information, market information, biographical information and news sources. It will cover explanations of the jargon and terminology, regulatory issues, assessing the quality of information, primary and secondary sources. Further information is available on the TFPL web site at http://www.tfpl.com/services/coursedesc.cfm?id=TR1116&pageid=-9&cs1=&cs2=f

Business information: key web resources

This is also being organised by TFPL in London and is being held on Friday, 19th April. This workshop looks in more detail at the resources that are available for different types of information, alerting services and free vs. fee. It also covers search strategies for tracking down industry, market and corporate reports. Further information is available at http://www.tfpl.com/services/coursedesc.cfm?id=TR945&pageid=-9&cs1=&cs2=f

Make Google behave: techniques for better results

This is a very popular workshop and is being organised by UKeiG. It is being held in Manchester on Tuesday, 30th April.

Topics include:

  • How Google works
  • Recent developments and their impact on search results
  • How Google personalises your results and can you stop it?
  • How to use existing and new features to focus your search and control Google
  • How and when to use Google’s specialist tools and databases
  • What Google is good at and when you should consider alternatives

The workshop will be repeated in London on Wednesday, 30th October. Details and booking information are on the UKeiG website at http://www.ukeig.org.uk/trainingevent/make-google-behave-techniques-better-results-karen-blakeman

Beating Google into submission – top tips

Oh what fun we had beating Google into submission on June 28th! This advanced Google workshop was held at Reading University and covered some of the new goings on at Google (no more ‘ANDing’ for search terms, personalisation of results) as well as the some of the established techniques for making Google behave itself. The following is what the group came up with at the end of the day as their collaborative top tips for persuading Google to run your search the way you want it run.

1. Search settings

Use the search settings to:

  • alter the level of the safe search
  • switch on/off Google Instant. This is the feature that changes and displays results as your type in your search. Some people find it useful whilst others find it extremely irritating. A big disadvantage of it is that it only displays 10 results per page.
  • increase the number of results per page from 10 to up to 100. Since you can no longer guarantee that you will find the most relevant page in the first 10 results this enables you to view more without having to click through to the next page. Google Instant, which allows only 10 results per page, must be switched off.
  • open results in a new browser window or tab. This allows you to view results while leaving your search page intact in a separate tab or window.
  • switch on/off or edit your search history. Search history is used by Google to customise your results and some people prefer to switch it off. It can, though, provide a useful record of the searches you have carried out and the pages that you have visited from that search.

Search settings is hidden under the cog wheel which appears in the upper right hand area of your results page. In some browser versions it appears in the top right hand corner of the Google home page. The Advanced Search screen link is also hidden under the cog wheel.

Search Settings

2. Sign out of all social media and search engine accounts

Both Google and Bing are experimenting with including content from your social media connections in your search results when you are signed in to your networks. For Google, the Google.com version is where it is happening at the moment and it pulls in content from members of your Google+ circles. to see Bing’s new social sidebar, which includes content from Facebook friends and Twitter,  you have to use the US version of Bing.  The Google+ results are intermingled with the main results whereas Bing displays then in a separate sidebar on the right of the results page. For more details see Danny Sullivan’s article Bing Relaunches, Features New Social Sidebar http://searchengineland.com/the-new-bing-microsoft-tries-again-with-search-meets-social-120728

Including posts from your social network friends in your results is not always a bad thing. You may uncover valuable information and gain a different perspective on the subject of your research. There is, though, the issue of privacy. A contact in one of your Google+ circles may have posted a comment and restricted it to a circle of which you happen to be a member, so it is not public. If you want to include the information in a print out or report for a client you will have to seek permission first. Even if you try and anonymise the information there may still be enough clues to identify the source.

3. Check out Google.com as well as Google.co.uk

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 the future direction of Google search.

4. Limit by date.

Use the date options in the menu on the left hand side of the results page to limit your results to the last day, week, month, year or within a custom date range. This tends to work best with blogs and news sources. With ordinary web pages Google looks at the time stamp that is assigned to a page when it is uploaded, or reloaded, to the web site. This can be very different from the date on which  it was written. If you are looking for recent material it will, though, exclude pages that have been languishing untouched on a web site for years. To see the date option you have to click on the ‘More search tools’ options at the bottom of the menu.

5. Verbatim.

The essential tool for taming Google. Google automatically looks for variations of your terms, which is not always helpful. Prefixing a term with the ‘+’ sign to force an exact match no longer works in web search, but confusingly still does  in Google Scholar, and Google has suggested using double quote marks around terms or phrases instead. This does not always work.  And now Google 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 click on Verbatim at the bottom. Unfortunately, Verbatim does not work with the date options but there is a solution….see number 6 below.

6. Combining with Verbatim with date limits.

There are two ways to do this: the hard way and the easy way.

First of all the hard way. This uses the ‘daterange:’ operator and Julian dates. Daterange does not understand the mm/dd/yyyy or dd/mm/yyyy date formats. You have to convert your dates to Julian date format. This is explained on the Julian Date Converter page at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/JulianDate.php and there is a handy tool that will do the date conversion for you. You then copy the Julian date omitting the fraction and paste it into your search. For example if you are looking for  pages mentioning housing benefits Cameron between June 20th and June 26th 2012:

daterange:2456098-2456104 housing benefits Cameron

Once the results are displayed use the Verbatim option to force Google to look for exactly what you’ve asked for.

Now the easy way. There are several tools that will carry out a date limited Google search and one of them can be found at http://gmacker.com/web/content/gDateRange/gdr.htm (many thanks to Richard Clauson who found this for us). Simply fill in the boxes and on the Google results page click on Verbatim at the bottom of the left hand menu.

Why have I detailed the hard way? Because the easy tools may stop working or disappear without trace.

7. Results page sidebar.

Use the sidebar on the left hand side of the results page to focus your search and extra search features. To see all of the options click on the ‘More’ and ‘More search tools’ links. The content of the sidebar changes with the type of search you are running, for example Image search has a colour option.

8. Google Art Project http://www.googleartproject.com/

This is a collaboration between Google and over 150 galleries from across the world.  You can take a virtual tour of a gallery and zoom in on a painting to see the brushstrokes. You can view paintings and drawings by gallery or by artist. Warning: this is highly addictive!

9. Numeric range.

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

10.  Repeat your search terms one or more times. 

Ideal for getting out of a search rut or forcing Google to give you different results. Repeat your main search term or terms to change the order of your results – sometimes radically.

Workshop: Beating Google into submission (Reading)

A reminder that I am running an advanced search workshop concentrating on Google on June 28th, venue Reading University.

Topics will include:

– how Google works – what Google tells us and what we have to guess
– latest developments at Google- what’s gone, what’s new, impact on search results
– how Google customises your results and can you stop it?
– how to focus your search and control Google
– Google’s specialist tools and databases
– what Google is good at and when you should consider alternatives

You will have ample opportunity to experiment and try out the techniques for yourself. Exercises are provided to help you test out the search features but you are free to explore and try out searches of your own.

This workshop is suitable for all levels of experience. The techniques and approaches covered can be applied to all subject areas.

Cost: £150 +VAT (Total £180). A limited number of places for unwaged and students are available; please contact karen.blakeman@rba.co.uk for further details.

Full details are at Beating Google into submission: how to get better search results http://www.rba.co.uk/training/Google.htm

Workshop: Getting the best out of Google (Reading)

Having problems with Google? Fed up with it ignoring your search terms and giving you something completely different? Or confused by irrelevant postings from complete strangers appearing in your results? Personalisation, localisation, social networks and semantic search are all being used by Google in an attempt to “enhance” your results but it can go horribly wrong. Austria suddenly becomes Australia and Google decides that buttercups are really goats! There are many tricks that we can use to make Google return better results and this workshop will look in detail at what is available.

Topics will include:

  • how Google works – what Google tells us and what we have to guess
  • recent developments and their impact on search results
  • how Google customises your results and can you stop it?
  • how to focus your search and control Google
  • Google’s specialist tools and databases
  • what Google is good at and when you should consider alternatives

You will have ample opportunity to experiment and try out the techniques for yourself. Exercises will be provided to help you test out the search features but you are free to explore and try out searches of your own.

This workshop is suitable for all levels of experience. The techniques and approaches covered can be applied to all subject areas.

The workshop leader is Karen Blakeman.

Date: Thursday, 28th June 2012, 9.30 – 16.30
Venue: Agriculture Building, Reading University, Reading, UK
Cost: £150 +VAT (Total £180). A limited number of places for unwaged and students are available; please contact karen.blakeman@rba.co.uk for further details.
Further details: http://www.rba.co.uk/training/Google.htm

Forthcoming workshop: Effective online search tools and techniques (Sheffield)

If you want to make Google behave or learn about alternative search tools, I am running a workshop for SINTO next week in Sheffield. It is a one day hands-on workshop to be held at Sheffield Hallam University on Tuseday 1st May (10 am – 4 pm).

This workshop will start with how Google works, important changes that are affecting search results, and how to make use of Google search features to improve and focus your search. It will then move on to other options for general web search and specialist tools for different types of information (for example statistics, social media, research) and subject areas. This workshop is suitable for all levels of experience and the techniques covered can be applied to all subject areas.

Cost: SINTO members £80 + £16 VAT= £96. Non-members £110 + £22 VAT = £132

Feel free to contact me if you require further information about the workshop content.

A booking form is available at http://extra.shu.ac.uk/sinto/Events/events.html or you can contact SINTO on Tel 0114 2255740, email sintoenquiry@shu.ac.uk

IFEG advanced search presentation now available

The presentation on advanced web searching that I gave to the Information for Energy Group on April 3rd, 2012 in London is now available. It can be found on:

authorSTREAM at http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/karenblakeman-1383280-ifeg-20120403/

and

Slideshare at http://www.slideshare.net/KarenBlakeman/advanced-web-searching-ifeg-3rd-april-2012

If you have problems accessing it on either of those sites it is temporarily available as a PowerPoint file on my web site at http://www.rba.co.uk/as/

Top search tips from UKeiG Google workshop

UKeiG organised a workshop on Google, which was held on 8th February 2012 and hosted by Birimngham University. (My slides for the day can be found on authorSTREAM and on Slideshare). Twenty-two people from a variety of backgrounds and sectors attended the event and their combined Top 10 Tips are listed below.

1. An understanding of how Google works and is messing up “improving” search is vital. Minor changes in functionality and ranking algorithms can cause havoc and are impossible to counter unless you know what is going on. Google’s various official blogs are a starting point but they don’t tell you everything. Identify and monitor blogs from searchers and organisations that monitor what Google and other search engines are up to. (A selection are listed on the final slide of the presentation).

2. “Google assumes that all searchers are stupid and don’t know how to search” said one workshop participant! It takes far too many decisions on their behalf: automatically corrects what it thinks are typographical errors, excludes and adds terms to the search without asking, changes results according to past searching behaviour, and gives priority to network connections. To bring Google to heel, learn how to use advanced search commands and the options available in the menus on the left hand side of the results pages.

3. If you have a Google account investigate your Dashboard (http://www.google.com/dashboard/). This contains all of the information you have given Google about yourself plus data that Google has collected from your various accounts such as Gmail and Google Reader. Clear out anything you don’t need or use (you won’t be able to do this for everything) and make sure you are not sharing anything that you want kept private, for example docs and maps.

4. Order matters. Changing the order in which you type in your search terms will change the order of your results. The pages that contain the terms in the order you specified in your search are usually given a higher weighting. Also keep an eye on any oddities when combining advanced search commands. For example the search allintitle:diabetic retinopathy site:ac.uk comes up with sensible results. Switch the order to site:ac.uk allintitle:diabetic retinopathy and Google totally loses the plot.

Site and Allintitle commands combined in the wrong order

 

5. Be aware that Google no longer searches for all of your terms all of the time. It now does what it calls a ‘soft AND’. See the first comment to my blog posting on this issue at http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2011/11/08/dear-google-stop-messing-with-my-search/#comments. If you want all of your terms to appear in your documents exactly as you typed them in then you have to use….

6. Verbatim. This tells Google to carry out an exact match search. Run your search as normal and then use Verbatim in the menu on the left hand side of your results page. It is normally hidden from view so click on ‘More search tools’ at the bottom of the menu and Verbatim is right at the bottom. It appears that you can use advanced search commands such as filetype:, site:, and the tilde (~) with Verbatim but it cannot be combined with the date options or ‘Pages from the UK’ in the results page menus.

7. Public Data Explorer is one of Google’s many well kept secrets. It can be found at http://www.google.com/publicdata/ and allows you to search data sets from organisations such as the IMF, OECD and World Bank. You can compare the data in various ways and there are several chart options.

8. Google has a habit of hiding and moving links to resources and tools such as the Public data Explorer, Advanced Search and Language Tools. Bookmark them so that you can always find them (unless, of course, Google decides to remove them altogether).

9. Three tools that are intended for people maintaining websites can also be useful to searchers in identifying trends, alternative search terms, and research into key players and competitors in a sector.

Google Trends http://www.google.com/trends/ – can be used to view search trends over time and to compare multiple search terms

Google Trends for Websites http://trends.google.com/websites – looks at search trends for individual websites or you can compare several websites. In addition it shows what people  ‘Also visited’ and ‘Also searched for’.

Google Insights for Search http://www.google.com/insights/search/ – advanced options for identifying search trends including countries and categories.

If you are responsible for content on your web pages these tools can help identify terms that could increase traffic to your site.

10. If you have had enough of Google and do not feel secure with the way it monitors your activity and personalises results try DuckDuckGo (http://duckduckgo.com/) as an alternative. DDG does not track, filter or personalise and several people found some of the results to be better than Google’s. Many of the workshop participants had tried Bing but there was little enthusiasm for it. They had found that the results were not as relevant as Google’s and there was concern over Bing’s links with Facebook, personalisation and what it calls “adaptive search”. Google is so often considered the bad guy because of the amount of personal information it gathers but it does at least show users a lot of what has been collected about them. The same cannot be said for Bing.