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Monday, November 29, 2004

 
I'm going to be at Online 2004 Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday I'm running a masterclass on writing effective webpages and moderating the Eureka questions and answers seminar, with Karen Blakeman, Gary Price, Gary Sherman and Mary Ellen Bates. If you see me, come up and say 'hi!'

 
Since Microsoft opened the new hotmail.co.uk email address scores of people have been registering and then selling them on ebayEbay - hotmail accounts is a link to take you to the current items for sale; there are about 1,500 of them. Top dollar at the moment is JamesBond@hotmail.co.uk going for over 2,000.

 
GoFish is a beta music search engine, and it will search audio (music, audiobooks, comedy), Mobile (ringtones), Video (movies, news, music videos, tv) and Games (PC, Demos, Trailers).

Friday, November 26, 2004

 
An interesting article from the Revolution Web Site which goes into lots of detail about the new functionality provided by Ask Jeeves.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

 
CNET have reviewed 7 different toolbars from A9, AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, Google, HotBot, MSN and Yahoo. Yahoo and Google come out on top, Ask Jeeves brings up the rear.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

 
The 123rd issue of Internet Resources Newsletter is now available, with lots of interesting news, links to good sites and weblog information.

 
This is a nice little utility that allows you to set Dynamic phrases for visitors to your website. You simply need to cut and paste a small piece of script onto your page. It's fairly basic, but quite fun if you want to make things a little bit more personal.

 
I've had a mixed bag of responses to my comment aboutMultimap - some people have experienced the same problems that I've been having (both on Firefox and Internet Explorer), but others have reported that it's working fine. Thanks to everyone who took the time to email me; it's a bit of an oddity this one, and I've tried it again, and sometimes it works... and sometimes it doesn't!

 
Don Busca is a new multi search engine, which searches all the key engines, clusters results, provides Wikipedia entries, gives thumbnails of the pages it returns, and gives links to cached versions, an archive, site information, and also allows users to Furl the page as well. Worth taking a look at.

 
There is now a Google Scholar weblog. All the postings seem to be pretty spot on so far.

Monday, November 22, 2004

 
I've been using Multimap.com - Online Maps to Everywhere for years, but it seems to have totally died recently. Can't complete searches, features missing, pages not displaying properly. Oh dear, maybe it's time to move elsewhere.

 
No update tomorrow (at least not early) because I'll be at the CILIP - East of England Branch course speaking about Google and Weblogs.

Friday, November 19, 2004

 
Super resource called How Much is That? which allows you to find the relative value of the $ and over several hundred years, the price of gold, purchasing power and much more.

 
Google has now added a new search service called Google Scholar that won't be linked from the main search page. Data contained relates to academic papers and also provides a very useful list of citations. Gary Price over at ResourceShelf has a very good overview.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

 
I've put together a ppt presentation for a course I'm running next week entitled: Getting the most out of Google. It's a short(ish) presentation of 17 slides that take people through the basics, to advanced search and some of the other goodies that you can do with Google.

 
Lots of interesting Firefox Extensions from Search Engine Roundtable.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

 
Yahoo! have a new front page. They've 'streamlined' their directory, by removing most of the subheadings off the first page. If you'd never been to Yahoo! before, you'd never guess it was once a directory search engine.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

 
Neowin.net is showing a preview of the MSN Toolbar Suite, including MSN Desktop search, with several screenshots. Being under an NDA I can't really say much more.

Friday, November 12, 2004

 
The Guardian Online has given mixed reactions to the beta MSN search. In general they like it, but are not impressed with the limited usability. It's summed up by the closing paragraph which says "In sum, I'd suggest you forget about MSN Search until version three, next year. However, Microsoft has at least shown it has the potential to blow a serious hole in the good ship Google - if ever it gets the usability issues sorted out." I think this is reasonably fair comment - though I like it, it's got a way to go before it's a search engine of choice, and it's still in beta as well. In my opinion, the main problem that Microsoft have got is that they can't just do everything other search engines can do, they've got to do it better. And even then, that's not going to get them the market share they want. It's more a question of user perception - for many people search IS Google. I can't see anyone saying 'MSN it' the way they say 'Google it'. Until they can make inroads into the minds of users, they're going to come off second best, however good the engine.

 
Firefox, the browser that I've been extolling the virtues of recently has now been downloaded 2.1 million times since the release on the 9th. I'm not at all surprised.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

 
Well now, here's a thing. There's the MSN Search UK interface and there's the US Version. The UK version has the option to limit to the UK, and the US version allows you to limit by country (although confusingly, when you add in the qualifier it comes up with loc:GB - I've asked for a clarification of this, since GB and UK are not exactly the same thing, but that's just a pedantic point.)

Now, logically you would think that searching the UK version, without limiting to UK results would give the same result as the US version. Not so. I ran 3 different searches, with the US result first, and the UK result second:

country search engines 2,394,769 (US) 2,011,145 (UK)
internet 579,702,679 (US) 579,702,679 (UK)
microsoft 86,763,477 (US) 86,558,833 (UK)

Only in the second instance did the results tally, which is what I'd expect. The other two were out, not by a lot agreed, but they were out.

I then decided to run the same searches again, this time limiting the US version of GB results only, and limiting the UK version to UK results only.

country search engines 148,654 (US) 145,500 (UK)
internet 17,565,196 (US) 155,178,867 (UK)
microsoft 4,081,657 (US) 3,981,060 (UK)

In this case all the results were entirely different, most startlingly the 'internet' search with a difference of over 137 million results! In most cases it would seem sensible to totally ignore the UK version in preference to the US version, and just put the loc:GB limit on if you need to find UK based material. MSN isn't the only search engine that does this however, I've seen it happen with others. Still interesting though; perhaps it's just down to all the excitement of its first day in beta, who can say?

 
Gary has more of his usual words of wisdom about the MSN beta over at: Testing the New MSN Search

 
Comments from MediaGuardian.co.uk | Media | Microsoft targets Google search market on the beta launch.

 
Information on the increased size of the Google database is available in the Google Blog and the news is that they have almost doubled the size of their index up to 8 billion pages. This is obviously in direct response to the launch of the MSN Search beta (more on that below), which has 5 billion pages, so we're into Macho Search Posturing at the moment. 8 billion pages is nice, but does it actually mean a lot? For many people it simply means that they're going to get even more results from the searches that they run. What's more important in my view is that the search engine provides accurate responses that give the enquirer what they're looking for. I want a good top ten results, and I don't care about the rest, however many there are.

Doubling the size of the index simply means that there's a lot more that I won't be looking at. Of course, if this means that I do get better results in the top ten that's fine, but if that's the case it would have been nice if Google could have provided these earlier; quite clearly doubling the size of the database and making it available today is clearly designed to try and draw attention away from the MSN Beta Search launch (it isn't going to work!), so they've been working on this for some time. Their interest is (obviously) in battling it out with Microsoft, with users of their engine coming in very second place.

 
Microsoft has today launched their BETA version of MSN Search and the link takes you to the UK version. The US version is at http://beta.search.msn.com but when I tried the UK version it was temporarily unavailable!

They have also launched a weblog as well, although there's only one entry, but it does have comments enabled.

As you'll know if you read my weblog regularly, I'm one of the 'MSN Search Champs' so I've been playing around with the search engine for a while already. The emphasis is on providing more useful answers more quickly. The index has over 5 billion pages indexed. It has a location based search function 'Search near me' which is based on (oddly enough) where you happen to be located. There's an option in settings that allows you to state specifically where you are, and the engine will pull results that are appropriate to that location. Image and News search is also integrated in this.

There's a 'Settings' option which is very straightforward; Display, Showing Results, Safe search, Search language, and an option for stating where you are located, although this isn't in the local versions (at least it's not in the UK version!), it is in the US/global version.

There is also a 'Search Builder' which allows you to define your search more closely, with all the usual things that you would expect - limit by site/domain, links: for particular sites, Country or Regional search (though you cannot as yet do any searches for what I would call regions, such as 'Europe'), Language options (quite limited at the moment), and a results ranking slide bar. This slide bar has 3 ways of narrowing in on your results: an Exact/Approximate match, Very popular/Less popular and Updated Recently/Static page option. I'm personally not quite so sure as to the value of this, since I can't imagine many times when I'm going to want to search in roughly the right area for unpopular pages that haven't been updated in a long while, but I can see where Microsoft is coming with this. The Search Builder replaces the concept of an Advanced Search Interface (you won't find any option for advanced search at all), which may encourage more people to do advanced searching without realising it.

For those of us who like more advanced functionality it's also possible to do nested Boolean searches as well. There's a ten word limit on searching (same as Google) which is a bit of a shame, but perhaps that'll improve in time. The interface is clean and crisp and simple to use.

The results page is ok, but there are a lot of adverts, sponsored links at the top, adverts down the side and at the bottom, which I think is a little overkill, but I guess people will just learn to ignore them (the way you do). I'd have liked to have seen numbering of results and rather more by the way of providing a good summary of the page, but it's still in Beta mode, so perhaps that will change in time.

Microsoft is also going to open up APIs, thus allowing 3rd party developers to produce utilities and functionality that uses the engine, in the same way that Google has done very successfully in the past.

All told, it's looking good, and I'm pleased with what I'm seeing. There is still a long way to go with the product, but it's certainly an engine that I'll be using a lot myself in the coming months.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

 
Hysteria abounds on the net today, with this articleMicrosoft ready to launch search engine being but one of many. It's interesting to note that there's about a 50/50 split between articles that say Microsoft is releasing the full product, and those that state it's going to be another beta version.

 
Very nice article from Greg Notess entitled: On The Net - Dating the Web: The Confusion of Chronology which talks about the problems of dating web pages - even when they have a date!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

 
I've put up a new .ppt presentation entitledWeblogs; what, why, where & when. It covers what weblogs are, news aggregators, RSS, creating one, and using weblogs in a buisness environment.

 
Firefox (again) There's a really nice Introduction to Mozilla Firefox, from Nidelven IT which takes you through installation and basic use. Very helpful indeed.

 
An item from BBC NEWS | Technology | Firefox browser takes on Microsoft with some useful background if you've not yet explored this fantastic new browser.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

 
This is a fun site. World66 My World66 is a site that lets you list the countries that you've visited (both world, European and you can also do US states) and it will then provide you with a map of your world. Lots of amusement to be had!

 
New search engine appears - FyberSearch. The good news is that it has some interesting advanced settings, such as search inside various tags, keyword density, a large list of file types and all the usual good stuff. The bad news is that the database looks as though it's quite tiny as most of my usual results either returned 0 hits or very few. One to keep an eye on for when they start to increase the size of the database.

Friday, November 05, 2004

 
The Technical Advisory Service for Images (TASI) has updated their review of image search engines, as of October 2004. If you need to find images, this is an excellent resource to start you off in the right direction. It covers Google and Yahoo! as general search engines, specialised search engines, meta search engines, collection based image search engines and content based search engines.

 
Blog Search Engine - MoBlog & Blogs Search is, oddly enough, another search engine for blogs, though this one also searches for blog pictures as well, though this is powered by Icerocket.

 
Ziggs is a search engine that assists you in finding professionals on the web. Currently they have over 1 million profiles across 16,000 companies, and are adding 5,000 profiles every day. Of course it's heavily US biased (you've got a choice of searching America or The World), but may be useful if you need to track down data on a particular individual.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

 
I attending a very interesting seminar today on the subject of Link building and online marketing services. The link goes to the companion website, and provides a lot of useful information on linking strategies, and how to go from zero links to 1,000+ in 7 months. Well worth a visit!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

 
Not something that particularly interests me, but I thought that I'd mention the Artifact - Best of the Web in the Arts and Creative Industries site was brought to my attention. It covers Architecture, Art, Communications and Media, Design, Fashion and Beauty, the Performing Arts, Culture and General.

Monday, November 01, 2004

 
A new edition of the ever useful Internet resources Newsletter: Issue 122 has been published. Full of good stuff, as always.

 
I was fortunate enough to meet Anne at ONLINE a year or so ago, and she also kindly allowed me to use her weblog classification system for the Advanced Searcher's Handbook. I'm delighted to see her book Weblogs and libraries is now available.