Well, the proverbial has hit the fan with Google search getting really personal (Official Google Blog: Search, plus Your World http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/search-plus-your-world.html). Good news or bad news? A bit of both. It’s great for tracking down information or a comment made by someone within your personal social networks but a disaster if you are conducting serious, global research. And Google has made so many other changes: dumping the ‘+’ symbol as a way to enforce an exact match search and no longer ‘ANDing’ terms are just two. The results are here, there and everywhere but not necessarily where you want them. Changing your default search engine is one solution but there are times when Google’s extensive coverage is required. There are ways of switching off Google’s improvements and options that you can use to improve results.
I am running a workshop for UKeiG on how to make Google behave – at least some of the time! – in Birmingham on February 8th. The areas we’ll be covering 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 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
There will be time 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.
There is also an addendum to the presentation that summarises some of the questions and answers covered throughout the day together with “top tips” and sites that the participants themselves suggested. This is also available at http://www.rba.co.uk/as/.
Several people said they will investigate setting up a custom search engine for their preferred sources and frequently used web sites. Google’s custom search engine is at http://www.google.com/cse/ and Blekko.com lets you set up ‘slashtags’ to create lists of sites for searching. One person said that they are going to try both and compare ease of use and results.
What can one do when the link to the Google’s advanced search screen disappears altogether?
The link to Google’s advanced search screen has been moved to the drop down menu underneath the cogwheel in the upper right hand corner of your screen, but several reported that it had even vanished from there for a couple of days last week. Next time you use the screen bookmark its URL so that you can go directly to it (of course Google can always change that!). Also learn the advanced search commands e.g. filetype: site: etc. so that you can type them into the standard search box.
Are there still some directories alive and updated e.g. DMOZ? Or is the war of directories vs search engines over?
The Yahoo directory is still online although it is not easy to find and it has not been updated for several years. Similarly, some sections of DMOZ appear not to have been updated for at least a year and the entries under some headings look like advertising. The day of the mega-directory may be over but specialist and subject specific listings are still being developed. They do, though, require considerable time and effort to maintain and inevitably some are forced to close because of a lack of funding e.g. Intute.
Are there good tools for events search by subject, region, date?
The events databases that some of us accessed via services such as DataStar have long gone so it is not possible for example to search for events on nanotechnology taking place next year between June and September in Europe. Possible alternative search strategies include:
– identifying major events venues and their calendars
– locating relevant trade and industry newsletters, portals, magazines that may list events in their sectors
– relevant trade and professional bodies and associations
Are there tools that search the live web rather than using indexes of cached pages?
Biznar.com, Mednar.com and some social media search tools search the “live” web but they are limited to searching a small number of sites and are slower than Google and Bing in returning results. There are no free public search tools that search the entire web live – it would take far too long – and by the time the search engine would have finished the information would be out of date!
Searching for scientific publications that are not published in major English language journals
Google and Google Scholar are still a good starting point for this type of search, but it was suggested by several of the workshop participants that Open Access journals could also be investigated as well as national digitised collections and subject specific listing and portals.
Searching news in other languages (alternatives to Google News)
Country versions of Google News give priority to local content but you can identify news sources in individual countries at the Newspaper & News Media Guide http://www.abyznewslinks.com/. You cannot search the publications from this site but it will tell you what is available and the language of publication.
What will be the trend of the next 5 years? More competition? More takeovers of the smaller search engines? More specialist tools?
All of that! Many smaller specialist search tools continually emerge and many of them quickly disappear or are bought up by the competition. It is impossible to predict exactly what will happen, or even if Google will remain the dominant search tool on the web. If Google’s popularity starts to wane it probably will not be because a “Google-killer” arrives on the scene but because Google goes too far in trying to take control and automatically “improve” results for users. Many of us feel that it is already going in that direction.
Top tips and tools to try back at work
Custom Search Engines – use Google CSE (http://www.google.com/cse/) or set up a ‘slashtag’ on Blekko.com so that you can quickly and easily search those sites you regularly use. Note: they will not include password protected sites or sites where you need to conduct a database search
Biznar.com – real time federated search of selected key business resources
Chemspider.com – brings together chemical information from a wide range of resources. Maintained by the Royal Society of Chemistry
I am running a series of hands-on workshops this autumn in London, and the first is on Advanced Google Searching. It is being held on September 23rd at Just IT, 7 Sandy’s Row, which is near Liverpool Street.
Google is the first port of call for many of us when it comes to searching the Internet, and with more data and services being added all the time it seems the obvious place to start. More information, more search features but not necessarily more relevant results. This hands-on workshop will look at the latest developments in Google and how to focus your search to obtain better results.
Topics covered include:
recent developments and new services from Google
how Google personalises your results
how Google is incorporating social media
essential advanced search commands
how to use the new options to narrow down your search for more relevant results
how to access and use the specialist tools
image, video and news search
build your own Google Custom Search Engine
This workshop is suitable for all levels of experience. The techniques and approaches covered can be applied to all subject areas.
Please note: this workshop concentrates on Google and does not cover the same topics as my recent UKeiG “Changing Landscape of Search” session.
I recently ran a version of my social media workshop for a group of health care librarians and information professionals in Liverpool. The group were LIHNN (Library and Information Health Network North West) and HCLU (Health Care Libraries Unit). (For further information about them see their web site at http://www.lihnn.nhs.uk/). I was forewarned that many of them have limited access to social media. Several confirmed that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs were all blocked in their workplace, yet most of them came from organisations who had set up YouTube channels, Twitter streams and Facebook pages! This raises an interesting question: if they receive a query about, for example, an event listed on their Facebook page or the content of a video on YouTube how are they supposed to respond if they are not able to check the content at the time of the enquiry? I find this mass blocking of social media web sites by organisations totally bizarre and ludicrous. The blocking is not even consistent. Slideshare may be blocked but other presentation sharing sites are often accessible. Add to this the antediluvian technology most of them are forced to use – in particular IE6 – and we end up with organisations that are out of touch with their users and communities, and have no idea what is being discussed or said about them.
But health care librarians and information professionals, and health care practitioners are an inventive lot. There is plenty of evidence of them having circumvented the barriers put in their way. The excellent Liz Azyan published a series of blog postings on social media and health care just before the workshop took place and they provide plenty of examples and support for those putting together a case for access to social media.
The Liverpool workshop participants were equally innovative. During the practical sessions they were able to test out social media for providing up to date information on their services and current awareness to their users. The winners were wikis for creating mini-websites and Netvibes for presenting RSS feeds and current awareness. The NHS Bolton Library wiki at http://boltonpct.pbworks.com/ and Shrewsbury and Telford Health Libraries Netvibes Team Knowledge Update at http://www.netvibes.com/sathlibraries are just two examples. There was also a great deal of interest in Twitter and blogs for at least monitoring “conversations” on health related topics and their own organisations, and word clouds for analysing the content of documents.
Facebook did not win any converts, nor did Second Life.
My PowerPoint presentation for the day is available in several places, and you should be able to view or download it from at least one of them:
I have now uploaded the slides for my workshop at the Information for Energy Group (IFEG). As usual, I have uploaded them to several different web sites in case one or more are blocked by corporate firewalls. If you have problems accessing any of the locations, let me know and I’ll sort out some other means of getting the presentation to you.
Workshop: Advanced Internet Searching for Energy Information & Market Research
Organised for: Information for Energy Group Venue: The Energy Institute, New Cavendish Street, London. Date: Thursday 13 May 2010
If you need to track down statistics and market research via the web I am running a hands-on workshop under the UKeiG banner in Newcastle on Wednesday 21st April. The venue is the Netskills Training Suite, University of Newcastle. Further details of the workshop and a booking form are available on the UKeiG web site at http://www.ukeig.org.uk/training/2010/StatsApril.html
If you have booked a place on my advanced search workshop taking place this week in London on the 29th, you should by now have received confirmation, joining instructions etc. via post, fax, or email (or all three!). If you have not yet received anything from me contact me straight away via email, phone or fax. Details are at http://www.rba.co.uk/about/contactkb.htm
The presentations that I gave at PATLIB 2009 in Sofia, Bulgaria lastweek are now available at http://www.rba.co.uk/patlib2009. There are two: a 25 minute presentation that was given as part of the main conference and the longer half day pre-conference workshop. As usual, many of the slides will probably not make sense without my commentary but you are welcome to email or Twitter DM me if you want more information.
A quick update on this full day workshop that is taking place in London on Wednesday, 18th February. I can confirm that the workshop is indeed going ahead, barring a repeat of the Arctic blizzards we recently suffered! If you have not yet received confirmation of your booking (some letters appear to have gone astray) or would like to book a place please contact me at email@example.com .