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Friday, December 31, 2004

I've been informed of another spam experiment; this one includes the spam that is sent to the address. You can take a look by following the link: The Spam Experiment

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Bill Thompson, a technology analyst in the article BBC NEWS | Technology | Why the web is often woeful is complaining about how bad search engines are. He's complaining that he can't find the information that he wants, particularly in this instance what the five tastes are - sweet sour and so on. Quite why he's having a problem I'm not sure... I did a search for "five tastes" and I got them all listed in the second hit without even having to go to the site. This is something that annoys me - it's one thing to complain about a search engine - I do it all the time, and it's a different matter when it's not the fault of the search engine, but the basic incompetence of the searcher. Inside of whining on, perhaps Thompson should start by looking at himself, since that's where (in this instance) the problem lies. A search engine is only as good as a) the data it indexes and b) the abilities of the searcher to get what they want, and that's where he's sadly lacking.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

This looks useful: Dropload allows you to drop off files, up to 100MB each for collection later by a friend or colleague. Maximum wait is 7 days. Nice idea.

Friday, December 24, 2004

I wrote Phil Bradley's Great SPAM Experiment. How do we get spam? several years ago and have never updated it, though I always meant to. However, a library school student has decided to undertake a project and expand on what I'd originally done.

One of the things we're both interested in is seeing if email addresses in weblogs gets spam, so I'm including several below. Unless you're a spam bot, please don't click on them!

On a related issue, Ben Fitts has started a weblog The Spam Experiment and he's also attempting to get as much spam as possible to create a realistic test environment for evaluating anti-spam software.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

A bit of fun from Alex Halavais Address bar knows all. Go up to the address bar and type in each letter of the alphabet in turn and record the resulting URL. What does it tell you about yourself?

A - Aardvarkbusiness
B - Bloglines
C - Copyscape
D - Daypop
E - eBay
F - Freepint
G - Gmail
H - Heriot Watt Internet Resources Newsletter
I - Image search at Google
J - Jigzone
K - Scoble's weblog archives.
L - Librarian in Black
M - Mozilla/Firefox
N - News from the BBC about Everton
O - Opera
P - Phil Bradley's website
Q - Quotes Database
R - Researchbuzz
S - School Library Association
T - The Automobile Association
U - Useit
V - Video search (Yahoo!)
W - Wendy Warr (Client)
X - None for X. What's wrong with X?
Y - Yahoo!
Z - Zazzle (Posters and t-shirts)

How sad am I!
From Pandia - Microsoft Internet Explorer rapidly loosing ground and it now has less than 90% (which is still a huge amount), but Firefox is gaining ground at 4.5%. Yay!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Nice overview from Pandia on Desktop Search Tools which provides a brief overview of the major ones.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Story from the BBC entitled: Gamer buys $26,500 virtual land. Yes, you read that correctly - some guy has spent £13,700 on buying an island that only exists in a role playing game. He's going to make money by renting out lots to other gamers. Apparently economists have worked out that these really large online roleplaying games have a gross economic impact equivalent to the GDP of Namibia. Yes it's wierd, but it does point to an interesting new trend.
The ever useful Gary Price pointed me towards: Gigablast Build Your Own Topic Search Engine This allows you to create your own search engine of specific websites, up to 200. So, if you're interested in a particular subject area, pick you sites and create your own search engine! Very nifty.
A new UK Search Engine - Seekport has just been launched in beta. It's fairly basic, very simple and clear interface, with an advanced search function, and it appears to do its job very well. Worth a 5 minute check out.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Yahoo! has produced a beta Video Search facility.
Desktop search wars continue, as Ask Jeeves Launches Desktop Search and the link goes to a review from Gary.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Firefox surpasses 10 million download mark which comes as no surprise. If you've not got a copy yet, why not? If you're still in doubt, read the article and get downloading!
I decided to link to the BBC for this story:BBC NEWS Google to scan famous libraries which is a nice summary of something lots of people have been talking about. Google is going to digitise the libraries of 5 of the most important academic institutions in the world, over the course of several years.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The official Microsoft announcement: Microsoft Introduces MSN Toolbar Suite Beta With Desktop Search
Various rumours have been going around the net about the Microsoft announcement due today, and most of them were correct; Microsoft has launched their own desktop search utility. The link goes to MSN Toolbar Suite.

I've had a chance to play around with it pre-release and I really like it a lot - it knocks spots off Google's offering. In no particular order are some of the things that I like/dislike about it.

Installation is good - it's a 4.5meg download and it starts by indexing email and My Documents first. However, there is an option to get it to search Email and all hard disks (only local however, nothing across a network yet), or just email and My Documents or Specific locations. You can also get it to index email attachments as well. I like the way that Microsoft is giving the user much more choice on what is indexed. Also, desktop search doesn't look at the cache of web pages in the way that Google does, due to security concerns - I think Microsoft has seen a lot of the flack that Google has come under with regards to security issues, and decided to just step right around them. The indexing takes place in the background while you're not using your computer, and I was very happy with the way that it worked.. there were no annoying delays while the indexer 'switched itself off' when you wanted to get on and do something; it's very polite in that way.

The application itself is available in various places - in the users Start bar, and in the MSN toolbar along with various other applications for checking Hotmail for example, or getting straight into Messenger. It will also appear in Outlook as well, if you're interested in searching emails, always assuming of course that you use Outlook for email!

Desktop search is very tightly incorporated into the whole suite of Microsoft products, so you can get it to find files for you and open them there and then, or drag them to make a shortcut. If you want, you can set up a whole series of command line type shortcuts by typing @ which then brings up a whole shortcut desktop help function. This is actually very powerful indeed, since you could (if you wished) just start Word with a single character command. It's also possible to make a shortcut out of a specific search URL, so you could set up a search for MSN and then the actual search string you want to search on - I liked that a lot. Desktop search will, as you might expect, recognise default run commands.

Another feature that I liked was that when you start to search, the searchbar will automatically start to work out what you're interested in and will begin to refine the search down for you, breaking it down into different types of result. A search for MSN on my system for example immediately gave me access to various programs such as MSN Explorer or MSN Messenger, Mail and Communications, Files, and All other items. In theory therefore, I could pretty much get rid of the desktop icons that I've become so used to over the years, and use Desktop search as an enhanced Start/AllPrograms/ function.

This is obviously just a brief overview, but I'll add more later, and see if I can get a few screenshots too. In summary however, I think it's a far superior product to the Google offering, and I really like the way it's integrated into the Microsoft suite, which is power that Google can't offer.

Friday, December 10, 2004

OK, this is very neat indeed. Google has now come up with Google Suggest. It's basically predictive search - you start to type in what you're looking for, and up pops a window that gives you various suggestions, with an indication of the number of results you'll get. I like this a lot. Over to you, Microsoft and Yahoo.
People often ask me why spammers bother. The article: One in five buy their software via spam explains why.
The UK School Library Association now has their own SLA Weblog which will be of interest to school librarians. Nice to see that UK library organisations are starting to take weblogs seriously!
Friday amusement: How popular are you (and your friends)? Simply type in your name, and see how popular it's been over the last century. I suspect that it's relating to American popularity, but interesting nonetheless.
Interesting article from which says that Yahoo is going to be producing their own desktop search tool to attempt to rival Google. FT seems to think that Yahoo is going to beat Microsoft to the punch, so watch this space!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The always useful ResearchBuzz carries a story that LexisNexis has launched LexisNexis AlaCarte, which allows users to search free of charge and pay only for documents that have been received. The article is fairly short and worth reading, though not entirely enthusiastic.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Prog is an interesting search engine - it allows you to search and order by relevance or by page rank. Useful for seeing who is where in the ranking league.
Accoona arrived yesterday; it's a search engine that focusses on business. Gary Price over at SearchEngineWatch doesn't think it's quite ready yet though.
Interesting article from the MSN search blog on how they've worked to improve searches for poorly spelled words.
The Origins Network - Genealogy Research online specializing in British & Irish genealogy search is quoted as being an absolutely central resource for all genealogists. Looks pretty good to me!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

This is an odd one, I have to say. The Who2 site has an option to find famous people fast. They have a search function, which doesn't actually work very well, since you cannot phrase search, so 'John Major' brings back results about various Johns who have done major things, and they have a bizarre category system which includes such wonderful things as:

American Taliban Member,
Ancient Human,
Attempted Assassin (4 of them),
Cartoon Character (2, but not Micky Mouse!) and my favourite
Fictional Talking Horse.

I know it's in beta but are these people actually serious?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

OK, I've now created my Phil Bradley's space at MSN space, and it was reasonably easy to do. I doubt that I'm going to make much use of it though, but I'll see how it goes.
Microsoft have just (of a few hours ago) launched MSN Spaces which is essentially a new blogging tool. It's clearly an attempt to rival Google/Blogger in the blog area. The link takes you to their site which allows you to set up your own blog. I've not started one myself, but here's more on the deal with my comments in italics:

It’s an easy-to-use service that is more like a dynamic online scrapbook, giving people a place to create and update a Web log.

Rich layout. Fifteen custom backgrounds and five layout template choices allow consumers to customize their MSN Spaces quickly.

Web logs. The MSN Spaces blogging tool allows people to publish and maintain online personal journals and enables them to link to photos and other Web sites.

Photo albums. Consumers can upload up to 10 MB of photos (250 images after compression) to their Spaces sites and display them to others in slide shows. (I'm interested in the word 'consumers' here, rather than clients or bloggers or users or patrons.)

E-mail uploads. Consumers can upload photos or blog postings to their Spaces from virtually any e-mail service or e-mail-enabled mobile device. This is going to be an essential item, much like the Blogger icon on the Google toolbar, and of course it helps tie users into the MSN world.

Music favorites and lists. Consumers can create and manage lists of information that is important to them, such as their favorite music, books or travel destinations.

Contact Cards. When a person clicks on a Contact Card in a MSN Messenger or Hotmail® Contact list, the card pops up and gives a sneak peek at that contact’s Space – from its look and feel to the person’s most recent postings. The Contact Card includes links to the Space and those entries for easy access. This is a very neat idea, and I like it a lot, *if* you're a user of Messenger or Hotmail.

Gleaming. When a Spaces site is updated or content is added, the MSN Messenger Contact icon of the Space’s owner will light up, making it easy for friends and family to know when there have been changes. This facilitates more visits to a Space, faster responses to new postings and closer bonds between Space owners and their contacts.

RSS. MSN Spaces also supports RSS 2.0, so consumers can publish their Space to others by way of RSS viewers and aggregators, including My MSN, scheduled to come soon. Well, that's an obvious thing to do.

Permissions. Consumers have three permission control settings on their MSN Spaces site, enabling them to decide just how widely they want to share their content. This is a nice idea, and it looks like it's going to be very easy to make it work.

Some MSN Spaces weblogs have already been set up by MS staff, so you can take a look at how they work and what they look like:

Carnage4life Please.. black and dark blue on a black background just *does not work*!!

MC's space

Mike's Space

Scott's Place This is probably the best one for learning more about the service; very informative.

Channel9 has some more information about MSN spaces, including video clips if you want to find out more.

First couple of questions that I've got (which I'll be asking Microsoft shortly) are: Can you use it with Firefox (and if not, why not?) and Can I use it to create a blog on my own site, rather than being tied into their own space (which I suspect I can't, and that's a shame if it's the case.)
This is nifty, and something that I've been expecting for a while; the MSN Search Beta search plugin for Mozilla which allows you to search the database from the Firefox search bar.
Nice little utility for checking your MSN Beta Rankings. Very much the same as Googlerankings, you can type in your site, and then your keywords and see where you are in the listings.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

As I mentioned, I've been spending time at Online this week. There are several blogs about it already such as InfoToday. I moderated a session called Eureka! which is a questions and answers session, and I thought it might be interesting to blog the questions asked and answers given.

On the panel were: Chris Sherman, Mary Ellen Bates, Karen Blakeman and Gary Price.

What's the most important development in internet search in 2004?
CS: True alternatives to Google are now becoming apparent, with smaller niche players getting more involved.
MEB: Slider bars!
KB: RSS Feeds, and the website for business information.
GP: Sliders, search shortcuts and a new search engine called Exalead

How have your search strategies changed over the last year?
MEB: I don't start with general search engines now; I'm doing more resource discovery. I don't look for the answer, I look for where it can be found, and I'll be searching blogs more often.
KB: I use evaluated listings more often, and when I use search engines I've found that using file format based searching is more effective.
GP: I go to source when possible, and use non commercial resources such as the Resource Discovery Network, Infomine and the Librarian's Index to the Internet.
CS: Searching has changed dramatically because of the Google Desktop function.

What do the panel think of the Google Desktop function?
CS: Users have very little control over it, which is a legitimate concern, but it works well in a personal context. Although there are security concerns, the Desktop is just enabling functionality; it's down to individual companies to properly protect data and improve the security of their own products.

KB: If you're a Microsoft junkie that's great, but since I use a lot of non-Microsoft products, it's not much use. Copernic is a good alternative.
GP: I use both Google and Copernic, and Google is good for storing and delivering different versions of the same document.
MEB: I like Google Desktop, and use it, but since I use Eudora as my email client, it's not much use for that.

What do the panel think of the new Google Scholar?
KB: Disappointing. There is no proper listing of what is covered, it's not sophisticated and there is limited search capabilities.
GP: Credit to Google for doing it, and it's maybe a bit of a wakeup call for librarians. It's poorly named though; better would have been Google Library.
CS: It's a promising start.
MEB: It's great for librarians, if they can introduce their clients to it, and frame it in a proper context.

Any views on clustering search engines?
GP: Clusty is a good example. They're good for providing some extra value and helping with information discovery.
KB: Vivisimo is an excellent tool, and the one that I generally use when using a clustering engine.
MEB: I find them really useful when a search is going astray and I need to rethink my search strategy.
CS: Grokker is a good visualisation tool.

What are your favourite new search engines?
GP: Exalead is very good indeed, and I've also found that is worth using as well.
KB: Not a new search engine, but Yahoo, and the use of their RSS feeds are really excellent.
MEB: A9 is very useful and has a lot of functionality.
CS: The Yahoo! directory function has been reworked this year and is very valuable.

Any strategies or views on searching the invisible web?
CS: There are a lot of people who are working on this problem at the moment, and the invisible is still between 2-50 times larger than the visible web, and I wonder if it is actually a good idea to increase that visibility?
GP: Many people are still doing very simple searches, and one could argue that the invisible web is actually anything that is outside the top 5 results in a search engine! A good resource to use is
MEB: People have to have a different mindset, and to start thinking laterally. Teoma is useful for resources and providing access to link rich pages that lead to useful invisible web sites.
KB: I find using the link: function is a really good way of finding who is linking to a site, and that often leads me to very good sites with invisible content.

Well, that's a very brief summary of what we talked about; my apologies to the panel if I've summarised and cut short all their useful comments, and I hope that I've kept them in context. Any omissions or inacuracies are mine.