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Monday, October 31, 2005

 
At Internet Librarian International a couple of weeks ago the question arose - how is the name of the excellent search engine Exalead pronounced? I can't abide not knowing stuff, so I asked FranÁois Bourdoncle from the search engine, and was told that it is pronounced 'ExaLEED', not 'ExaLED'. This doesn't help you search it, nor will this knowledge enhance your life experience, but at least you now know.

 
Info.com is another meta search engine. It does all the usual things you'd expect, though I didn't find their ability to display results particularly good; they have a large list of sponsored results on the right hand side which cramps the organic listings quite badly. However, what's particularly interesting about this search engine is that you can run a search on it directly from the browser address bar. To get a result for the search country search engines simply go to the browser bar and type in country.search.engines.info.com click Go and you get taken directly to a list of results. Very nice - I like that functionality a lot.

 
Pingoat is one of many services that allows you to let various blog search engines know that you've updated your weblog, in order to get them to trot on over and index it again. Free and easy to use.

 
The latest version of Ariadne is now available. My article in this issue is on image search engines and I've tried to give a few examples of some of the best ways to get images off the net.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

 
My page on utilities that help you do the stuff you want to do has proved very popular, and I've already added another dozen utilities. Many thanks to all those people kind enough to make suggestions!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

 
This is a nice nifty little utility. Blummy is a bookmarklet manager. You add it to your link bar and configure it on the site by using a neat drag and drop interface. Mine currently has options for adding pages to Furl, Whois on Alexa, Subscribing with Bloglines, Google Page rank and a bunch of other stuff. It's one of those little tools that a bunch of people are going to make little applets for, so worth keeping an eye on. Thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick for this one.

Friday, October 28, 2005

 
I'm trying to get together a list of British Librarians who are blogging. I've got about 2 dozen so far, but I'm sure that there must be many more than that. I'm keen to find anyone who:

* Wants to be in such a list
* Is a librarian/information professional
* Working in any library related profession
* Writes about things related to being a British librarian
* Has a weblog that they maintain regularly (once a week +)

If that describes you, please email me or leave a comment here, and I'll add you to the list. When I've got a reasonable number I'll put together a webpage or some such.

 
Has anyone else noticed that the Google Mail filter isn't really doing its job very well at the moment. In the last couple of days I've had several bits of spam that have made it directly into my inbox (note: not my spam folder). The title of the latest piece is HAVE A THICKER & LONGER D!CK IN 1-2 MONTH sugar which should actually be fairly easy to pick up. Let's hope it sorts itself out soon.

 
An item from CILIP that deserves to be widely publicised. Police access to library user records is a legal position addressing the issues under English and Welsh law. I'm not going to cut and paste bits, since it's not an area that I feel qualified to, so I suggest that you read it in full if it's an area that interests you. I'd be very interested to see any comparisons between this and the American Patriot Act.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

 
The Internet resources Newsletter: Issue 134 November 2005 is now available. Full of useful stuff as always.

 
I want to - a page of utilities that help you do stuff you want to. "I want to..." or "I need to" or "How do I?" These are all questions we all ask all the time. This is a small collection of resources that will help to answer those questions. It is not complete, nor will it ever be. I will be adding to this on a regular basis, so feel free to bookmark it and come back and visit. I've tried to include a variety of useful resources, some of which you'll already know, some you probably won't. If you've ever thought 'I'd like to be able to...' check out this list and see if there's something there that will help you do it!

 
I few days ago I mentioned that Jux2 was up for sale. I checked back on the auction this morning and it's been sold after 116 bids for $101,100.00 which I think is an absolute bargain. Let's hope that the new owners have it up and running again shortly.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

 
BURL does the same kind of thing that TinyURL does, but it leaves some context to the shorter URL it creates.

 
TagCloud is a very clever little utility. It allows you to make tag clouds, similar to those that you find at places like Flickr. Just pop in an RSS feed (or several, or an OPML file) and it'll create a cloud for you. You can tailor it to exclude stop words as well. I created one from my own weblog - feel free to take a look at it!

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Kids only Metasearch Engine: Ithaki is a new one on me, probably because I don't have children. It searches DmozKids, Yahooligans, FactMonster, ArtKIDSRule, AolKIDS and a couple of others. There's a nice review of it at About.com

 
Microsoft to Start Online Book Searches according to SFGate.com. They're apparently going to try and circumnavigate the problems that Google are having by focusing on books, academic material and other data that is in the public domain.

 
The rumours are flying around at the moment regarding what Google is going to do next, such as this one at Information Week. Apparently Google is testing a new way for content owners to submit their content to Google, such as used cars, a party planning service of a database of protein structures. I find the description interesting, as given by a Google spokeswoman 'we'll host your content and make it searchable online for free'. Does that imply that the content itself isn't going to be free, or does it mean something else? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

 
OK, I've had a good relationship with Blogger over the years - I started using it back in Feb 2003 and even had a Pro account before it got eaten up by Google. Now however I'm thinking it's time for a change; the Blogger functionality is increasingly limited, and I'm not impressed with their lack of innovation. Consequently, I've been looking around for something else, but I'd be really interested in any comments as to what I should consider. The following is my wishlist:

MUST be able to blog directly from the page I want to blog about, which means a bookmarklet or similar on my Firefox links bar. One of the reasons that I've always liked Blogger was the ability to blog directly via the Google toolbar.

MUST be able to add things into different categories easily and quickly. I don't deal with much other than searching and web design, but I'd like to be able to categorise simply.

MUST allow for the easy option of podcasting. I'm not yet, but may do soon.

MUST allow for easy posting of images. (OK, most of them do both of these things, so I'm really keen on *quick* and *simple*.)

MUST archive and allow ease of searching

MUST allow the addition of a blog roll as easily as possible.

SHOULD allow for easy catching of comments, so comment verification or a captcha is important. Again, most do, so easy and simple is important.

SHOULD be an online tool - I'm not interested in faffing about downloading stuff.

Nice to have but not important - the ability to list what I'm reading, listening to, favourite flickr photographs, that sort of stuff.

I'd like to be able to import my blogger posts/archives as well, for the sake of continuity.

Hosting on my own site would be nice, but it's not a big deal.

I'm not bothered about having to pay for a service - if it's a good service, that does what I want, then I'm quite happy to pay a fair sum for it.

OK, doubtless there are a bunch of other things I should want, but those are key for me. And of course, lots of blog software will do most/all of those things, so my emphasis there is on simple and easy and most of all quick! I'd be really interested in comments and opinions as to what I should use, or any other important things you think I've missed out. (It's fair to say I've already got a candidate in mind, but I'm keeping quiet on that for now, don't want to influence your thoughts or opinions!)



 
Helpers looks to be a great site if you're interested in tracing your family history. From the site: 'Helpers is intended to be used as a second line of attack in your research. If you've exhausted all the possibilities in your local library or with the census data and you've come up against a brick wall, or you want to deepen your understanding of your family history, then this may be the place that can help you. If you are just starting out tracing your family or investigating the history of where you live, then this is probably not the place to start.'

It's jam packed full of useful resources with dozens of collections available to you. An absolute must for family historians!

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Interesting article in the Guardian Unlimited Technology section today - 'Can you trust Wikipedia?' Basically they got a number of experts in different areas to look at Wikipedia entries and comment on them. I won't go into great detail, since that's what the article is for, but the various experts rated the entries as:

7/10
0/10
7/10
6/10
6/10
8/10
5/10

Not exactly a great batting average. The article is worth reading as a bit of background to the whole trust issue.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

 
I've updated my article on comparing search engines. The current version does a comparison of features between AltaVista, Exalead, Google, Icerocket, MSN, Teoma, Wisenut and Yahoo! You can find the article at: Phil Bradley: Comparing major search engines Interestingly, Google isn't in the top three, according to my very non scientific measurements.

 
I'll be at Online this year doing some speaking and moderating. I'm also running a masterclass on 'designing effective web pages'. This is a free session, so if you're interested do come along. My talk is on Wednesday 30th at 2.30. If you want a list of all the free classes taking place click on the link! Online Information 2005 :: 29 November - 1 December 2005

 
There's a new multi/meta search engine called Ipselon out. Does the usual things that you'd expect. Web, Images, Directory and Wikipedia searches (though not news or blogs). Doesn't tell you where it gets its results from though, which is a bit annoying. Of particular note you can cluster results (though you have to set this as a preference), but you can also see the clusters as a category listing. For example, we've got "phil bradley">Search Engines>Ariadne which I thought was quite clever. I'd really like to know where it pulls the results from though.

Friday, October 21, 2005

 
The Times (of London) has published an open letter from Shane Smith, Chairman and CEO of Independent International Investment Research PLC, which is the company involved in the gmail trademark dispute. Basically he's saying that Google didn't act at all, then acted irratically, then broke off negotiations. He says that IIIR wanted $500,000 a year licencing and $500,000 a year free credits to rebrand; not an unreasonable figure.

So it continues!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

 
Flash and search engines: How do search engines index Flash sites and files? This is a really useful website which really brings you up to date with what you can, and cannot do, with Flash. You can also test your own Flash out as well.

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Just noticed that my friendIan Snowley has finally got around to setting up a weblog. He's the Director of Information Services at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. Welcome to the wonderful world of weblogs Ian!

 
Bibliomysteries is a fun site. Bibliomysteries 'have settings, plots, or substantial characters in them related to the world of books, writers, archives and libraries'. If you like books with libraries or librarians as central characters this is a site for you. As well as a bibliography there are links to short stories, juvenile books, media, references, eCards, murder weapons and quotations. Worth stopping by!

 
The People's Network is a suite of online services - Enquire, Discover and Read. It's managed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. It's designed to be a single, national website for public libraries with 24/7 answering services. Thanks to Peter Scott for the heads up.

I've taken a brief look at it, and I'd like to be enthusiastic, really I would. I think the concept is great, and should be encouraged. It's great to see a system like this in operation, even if it should have been here 3 years ago. So I fully applaud the effort. However, the substance of the thing is another matter entirely. There are 3 main elements to the page - Enquire, Discover, Read. The home page is very simple (which is good), but it uses lots of primary colours, which gives it a slight childlike quality to it.

The Enquire service looks easy enough, with very clear instructions. I didn't try it out (librarians are busy people, and I didn't want to bother them for the sake of it), but I'm happy to assume that it works well. It has both a real time and an email facility.

The Discover service (a personal guide through the web's hidden treasures) was awful. It doesn't provide any indication on how to search at all. The 'detailed' or advanced search function is very limited; any/all words, subject/title search. The 'Who?' function is very strange - creator/author, rights holder or publisher. Who exactly is the 'rights holder' and what am I supposed to be searching for? I have no clue. There's a filter search, which allows you to filter by source, and it's only at this point that you realise that you're searching a very small dataset. And what a strange dataset it is as well - Dorset Coast Digital Archive, Fitzwilliam Museum, Devon Etched - I'm sure these are all good solid resources, but very niche. Consequently the results are not really the best, to be honest. It needs to be made much clearer right at the outset.

There is a personalisation option, which works easily, once you register. You can personalise by adding content from a number of resources - I chose BBC UK News, and had 3 headlines (I didn't see any way to change this) and the 24 hour Museum. This is an RSS feed, with 17 items. If I was new to the internet (and this site does seem to have a focus on this) I'd be wondering what an RSS feed was. I could add in some 'quick links' to places like Time Team and the English Heritage, which is fine, but that's what bookmarks are for - nothing exciting there. I didn't see any way of saving search histories, I couldn't see any way of adding my own links, or my own RSS feeds, and it doesn't look like I can share these with anyone else either.

Of course, the site is new, and so is it unfair to criticise like this? Yes, I think that it is fair to criticise. There are plenty of other sites out there that have been doing this stuff for quite some time now, and it's not particularly new or difficult. One could argue that they want to start slowly, see what takes off and then move up a gear, and I can see the point of that. However, not to provide basic stuff like this (and I think by now it has become basic) is not going to impress, and leads to user expectation being dashed. I'm very disappointed that this section is, quite frankly very poor indeed. Nothing noteworthy, interesting or particularly exciting, other than the fact that it's new.

So, lets move on.. The last section is 'Read'. Here I have problems with the terminology used - for example 'Read is a great way to start to get into books and reading online and helps bring readers together, either to meet up face to face or on the web.' It could be argued that uses non technical, non threatening language. However, it also looks patronising, dumbed down and meant for children. The content is limited (again) to links to other sides, without a great deal of meaningful home grown content. The whole style seems to take the approach that people don't like reading and have to be encouraged to do so; 'Reading links ... help turn everyone onto books and reading.' Well actually, a lot of are already 'turned on' to reading books and those who are not will probably be out playing football or visiting nightclubs and won't be visiting this site anyway!

I really don't want to come across as crabby and overly critical of the site, but I can't hide my disappointment - this could have been a really good site, but as it stands it's pretty mediocre. Hopefully it will improve in time, and when it does, I shall be more than happy to laud it to the skies.

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Exalead has had a makeover. If you've been to any of my training sessions or listened to my talks, you'll know that I'm very much in favour of this search engine; it's far superior to Google in a lot of different ways (such as phonetic search and reordering results and proximity). Proximity still seems to be automatically limited to situations where the terms are within 16 words of each other, and you can't do anything about that.

On the home page there's room to add up to 18 short cuts to favourite sites (each with a nice little thumbnail), and this also has the advantage that it pushes the rather ugly 'About us' and 'News' (by which they mean Exalead news) down the screen and hopefully below the fold; it's the one part of the page that I really dislike, since it's very ugly. Having said that, the page is otherwise nice and neat and tidy, with lots of white space, which is much more friendly than the heavier, darker version they used to have. The advanced search page is also improved and you don't need to squint at it anymore!

Hidden down at the bottom is the legend that it's now searching 2,027,698,928 pages. Clearly they're still playing the size game that Google has given up on. This in itself isn't great - it's not actually a lot of pages in comparative terms, but it does indicate that they're still trying to keep up, which is a good positive sign.

Exalead is also trying to get into the Desktop search arena (who isn't?) with their One: desktop offering, and they also have a professional version as well (which means commercial).

Glad to see the update, and it's certainly an engine I'm continuing to use, and if you've not tried it yourself, give it a whirl. Gary has more on it over at SearchEngineWatch.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

 
Nice listing of disposable email address services that you can use, thanks to TipMonkies weblog. Brief descriptions, and he's left out commercial versions and services he thinks have weak privacy policies. Oh yes, and Pookmail appears to be back again.

 
Google Indicateur is an index/directory search engine all about... Google! Lots of links to 'All about Google', the API, Gmail, white papers, statistics and so on. It's a great site if you want to research the search engine.

 
An item I noticed when I logged into my gmail account this morning: Google Mail in the UK. Because of an ongoing dispute regarding the Gmail trademark in the UK, which has now gone to court, UK users of the system will now have @googlemail.com addresses. The good news is that the service remains the same. The bad news is that Google can't promise this. They don't know if the address will always stay the same. Slightly unsettling.

 
We've had 'ask a librarian' and now we have Ask Philosophers - you ask, philosophers answer. This runs out of Amherst, and they've gathered together a bunch of philisophers to answer questions that the public ask - from Art to Knowledge to Value. It's a great little site and it can keep you busy for hours.

 
T Mobile, a UK mobile phone company has been running some ads recently trumpeting the latest innovation on the Internet. It's called Web'n'walk. It may come as a surprise, but apparently you can actually search the internet on a mobile phone! This is clearly revolutionary news, and one wonders where it will end.

On a serious and less sarcastic/ironic tone I think it's rather sad that mobile phone companies in the UK have only just cottoned onto the fact that mobile access is important. Of course, I've been able to do it for a couple of years now, thanks to my XDA II (as have many others), but I think it shows how far behind the US the UK is. Ah well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

 
Interesting article in the Education Guardian Print is not dead - but it is fast fading away. The subtitle tells the story in a nutshell 'Young people are heading towards a world in which books and other traditional media have almost no place. The article doesn't go into huge detail, and is short on fact, but it's an interesting viewpoint worth considering.

 
Just in from Matt Cutts - he thinks that a new set of backlinks and possibly pagerank will be visible 'relatively soon', which means the next few days.

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You may have noticed that I've started to add Technorati tags at the end of my posts. There's some good information on the reasoning behind this at: Marshall Kirkpatrick: Following Up on the Bookmarklet. However, the short answer is that it makes finding my weblog entries a bit easier - particularly for me! If you're not currently tagging your weblog entries this is a very easy way to do it - you have a little bookmarklet in your links bar, click on it, add the tags you want, cut and paste the code and drop it at the bottom of your entry. Simple and effective.

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The Register slams into the Wikipedia in its usual gently vicious way. For example: '... the project appears ill-equipped to respond to the new challenge. Its philosophical approach deters subjective judgements about quality, and it's political mindset deters outside experts from helping. This isn't promising.'

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Jux2 was an excellent little utility - it allowed people to see the overlap in results from different search engines - Google, Yahoo! and Ask Jeeves. Unfortunately the owners got interested in other projects and lost interest. However, they've decided to make some cash by selling it on eBay. Bidding started at a 1 cent and it's now at $1,026.00 with 8 days to go. So if you're interested in buying your own search engine, throw your hat in the ring and try your luck in the auction!

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The dinky little utility in the following link - Calendar allows you to create a nice little calendar from a Flickr photograph. All you have to do is type in the URL for your picture and then you're done. Michael has an example on his blog, so go take a peek.

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Monday, October 17, 2005

 
If you were unable to make the Internet Librarian International conference last week (or even if you did) the presentations are all available online at this link: Internet Librarian International 2005: Presentation Links

 
In common with a few other people such as Chris Pirillo I've noticed a huge increase in splogs - spam weblogs in the last few days. I have an RSS feed from Blogpulse that digs out references to me, and I've had a large number of totally bogus hits recently. For those of you unfamiliar with these things, they are set up by people who think a blog is the way to get traffic, but they're too bone idle to do it properly. They'll find existing links and copy them into their own blogs, throw in some linking text and they're off and away.

These are almost exclusively created using Blogger.com software and they're a real pain. Chris seems to be getting somewhere with Google - at least they've responded to his email (which is more than they've done with mine about the Google Librarian Center!), but they really need to do something rather more than whitter.

I like Google, and I like using Blogger, but Google really needs to act on this, sooner rather than later.

 
The Nameboy site is a free domain name generator, search, creation, domain name lookup and domain registration service. It creates possible domain names for you, checks to see if they are available and you can register via their service as well. Makes it easier to come up with different names.

 
Useful site if you're just setting out to design a site. 5 Search Engine Mistakes Not to Make has some useful information in it. In short, the mistakes are:

Insufficient content
Use of frames
Graphics that include text
Dynamic content
Low link popularity

Follow the link to read about all these in more detail.

 
There may be times when you don't want someone to know that you're visiting their site; if you're doing competitive intelligence research on the company for example. If that's the case, you could try this little utility, provided by TheStrongestLInks.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

 
This is a very cool utility, I really like this. Slogger is a product that allows you to download pages to your hard disk, so you can store and keep them locally. Nothing particularly new about this of course. However, it's a Firefox extension, which makes it really easy to use, and it also adds the page that you've added to your Furl, Spurl or My Yahoo! collection. It's very easy to configure, but Lifehacker has a really easy to follow install guide. Not only does it mean I can quickly and easily access my stored pages locally, it means that I'm not locked into any particular service.

If you like storing pages, this is definately worth having!

Friday, October 14, 2005

 
Greg Linden, over at Findory (a very fine company) suggests using Mailinator as another disposable email service. I'll add it to my list and give it a whirl. Thanks Greg!

 
Interesting report from Hitwise, referred to in the Netimperative article "Netimperative - Google powers 7 in 10 UK searches" shows that the top 4 engines power 94% of UK searches, with Google powering 70% of UK internet searches. I can't say that I'm surprised; this is the kind of figure that I get on the courses that I run. However, having said that, at Internet Librarian International this week there was a higher proportion of non-Googlers among the librarians. That's a figure I'd really like to be able to explore in more detail. Further comment is also available, of course, from Gary over at SearchEngineWatch.

 
Pookmail seems to have died, which is a shame. If you're looking for disposable email addresses though, try out SpamBob.com

 
I had a bit of time available today, so decided to try out Pluck, which styles itself as the #1 browser-based RSS reader. Clearly some people like it - it's ZDNet and c|net editors choices for example. I'm trying to get my head around why they think so, since I thought it was one of the worst bits of junk I've ever put onto my PC. The installation was poor, the instructions were almost meaningless, and it took up a huge amount of space in the IE browser window. It replicated stuff that's already there, it has a poor to useless search interface (it certainly didn't work when I tried using it), it was slow (and I've got a fast pc) and I absolutely loathed it.

Of course, that's just my opinion, and yours may well differ. It came off my system almost as quickly as it went on, and I most certainly won't be going back to it again.

 
FeedTier is little utility that will create an RSS feed from a page that doesn't have one. It performs content analysis, picks up clusters of hyperlinks (I didn't think people used that term any more!) and generates RSS. Could be useful if you want to syndicate your own page without generating your own RSS, or a good way of keeping up to date with other pages. Hat tip to Library Clips for this one.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

 
This is a very cool presentation. Start by viewing the Milky Way at 10 million light years from Earth, zoom in until you're looking at quarks on the leaf of a tree. I remember seeing something similar to this when I was a child and being fascinated by it. And having run this presentation a few times, clearly I still am.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

 
Google Librarian Center is a new one to me. Google is going to be launching a quarterly newsletter *just for librarians* (although it seems that anyone can subscribe). They've started by asking for lesson plans/presentations/handouts to help others use Google. (I'd have thought they could find them themselves, but never mind). I shall subscribe and let you know what the outcome is.

 
Over at SearchEngineWatch Gary has some speculation (and he's very precise about that) to suggest that the launch of the Google Wallet might not be too far off.

 
Nicholas Carr's Blog includes a fascinating piece on Web 2.0 and the main focus of much of the current flurry of comments relates to his description of the Wikipedia as factually unreliable with often appalling writing. He goes on to really take it to pieces with a couple of examples. A flavour of what he says: "this is garbage, an incoherent hodge-podge of dubious factoids", "the slipshod quality of much of Wikipedia". It's a very thought provoking piece, and I agree with much of what he says. However, it's worth reading the contrary opinion, as posted on Wikipedia itself.

I use Wikipedia a little bit, if I want to get an overview of a subject, or to generally read up on something that I don't know much about. However, while I might (if I'm doing a poor citation) say 'The Encyclopaedia Britannica says that...' I'd never dream of doing that with Wikipedia. I'd be more likely to say 'Some unidentified source that may or may not know what they're talking about at Wikipedia says that...'. I simply don't trust for anything important - sorry, but there it is.

 
Gada is designed to be a mobile search engine. Very sparse home page, with options to search various types of data, such as entertainment, health, shopping, research and so on. It pulls answers from places such as Yahoo! News, Flickr, Google News, blogs, IceRocket, MSN and so on. The results returned are simple titles, just what you want with a mobile search. Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

 
Kudos to Esteban Kozak from SearchFox for replying so quickly to my grumpy rant of last night. He left a very helpful comment that assisted me in moving my subscriptions from Bloglines across to SearchFox. That there was a problem isn't the issue - there often is with new resources - the fact that he was right on the ball with it, polite and helpful really is. Just that alone defuses all my irritation and gets me back on side again. It's a perfect example of how a company can respond to a customer complaint in a positive manner and turn the whole thing around literally overnight. Moreover, it's one that I'm going to be using in the future. Excellent stuff, and many thanks Esteban!

 
Inquisitor is branding itself as 'instant search'. The idea, as seen at Google Suggest, is that as soon as you start typing your search it comes up with suggestions for you, together with the number of results. It does the job it's intended to do, but doesn't fill me with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Monday, October 10, 2005

 
OK, so maybe it's late and I'm tired, and I'm probably being really stupid, but I'm usually reasonably clued up about stuff. Besides, isn't it supposed to be simple these days? Anyway, I got a subscription to SearchFox the new RSS reader and I thought I'd give it a whirl. Logged myself in, didn't like the look of the subscriptions that were set up so thought that I'd delete those and add my own. Now, I've got 130+ feeds over at Bloglines, so it should be simple to import them.

Visiting the 'My world' section of SearchFox, and manage feeds. Looks easy - 1. Choose the type of Feed. Hmmm, not an option there for Bloglines.

OK, move to 2. Copy and paste the URL of your feed. Clearly I can't put in the URL that I use, www.bloglines.com/my blogs so lets move over to Bloglines and see what's occuring there. OK, I can see an option to export my subscription as an OPML file. Lets try that then. Well, that gives me a framed version of a page, and yes, my OPML file is there. And I have a URL that makes sense - www.bloglines.com/public/PhilBradley so lets try that. SearchFox tells me that the URL doesn't point to a valid RSS or ATOM feed. Maybe it would have helped if SearchFox had been more precise at the outset.

3. Back to Bloglines. Click on 'export subscriptions'. Right, that gives me a framed OPML page. Still no useful URL, now I know what I'm looking for. Does Bloglines actually tell me what I'm supposed to do with this thing now? The help tells me I can export it. How? Lets open the framed page as a new page. Nope, that still doesn't help either.

4. Ok, back to SearchFox. Ah ha! There's an option to import a file.

5. Back to Bloglines, cut and paste the OPML, save it as a file.

6. Back to SearchFox. Click on Import OPML, select the file to import, give it the details. Fatal error: Cannot use string offset as an array blah blah blah. Really helpful.

So, as I say, it's late and I'm probably being stupid. But really, this just isn't good enough. Even if I *am* being stupid, a whole bunch of other people are as well. Just not good enough. Not good enough by Bloglines, since they're simply not explicit enough to tell people what to do with the damn file once they see it on the screen, and not good enough by SearchFox. It's not as if Bloglines is some unknown bit of software for heavens sake!

Bah. I'm going to bed. Maybe it'll all make sense tomorrow.

 
Item from the BBC regarding Yahoo's interest in Podcasts. Useful little with a link to the Yahoo podcast search engine.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

 
Mario Weiss has told me about his new search engineFindelio (UK and Global) and the US/Global version. It's a free text search engine, and from the looks of it so far it's only got a very small database (a search for 'internet' pulled back 6,570 matches), so I'll leave it a while before commenting on it, but if you want to try it out, have a go!

 
A story from Net4Now says that Google powers over 70% of UK internet searches. Google, Ask, Yahoo! and MSN Search power 94% of UK internet searches. More details by following the link.

 
Google has introduced Google Reader (link takes you to the tour) which is a new feed reader. I've listed a few sites from those offered and I'll let you know how I get on.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

 
If you want a sneak peek at my presentation called "Philís Picks" which I'm giving at Internet Librarian International 2005 follow the link. It won't necessarily make a great deal of sense, since it's supposed to be viewed with me talking, but if you're interested, why not come along to the conference?

 
Kebberfegg has an odd name, but it's a useful tool. It allows you to type in a search query, match it to various categories of RSS Feeds from things such as Web Search Engines, Weblog Search Engines, Press Release Wires and such like. The output is then generated for you as an XML link ready to add to news aggregators, specifically My Yahoo. It'll be really helpful when there's an automatic 'add feed to Bloglines though', since that's the one that I use. (Yes, self interest strikes again!)

 
Nice article from Chris Sherman over at SearchEngineWatch that points to the fact that a lot of useful information can still be found by using resources other than the web - that is to say forum postings, bulletin boards and USENET groups. (Does anyone still use USENET these days, or is it only people who have been around for a decade or so?). I agree with everything he says, and I still make a point of mentioning them in my training courses. One useful tool that he didn't mention though is JISCmail which is a mailing list for UK academics and I've often found that a helpful resource when trying to track something down.

 
I found Redzee today. It seems to have popped up fully fledged. It has everything that you would expect - web search, audio, video, directory, news, and people. It also has a (basic) advanced search function. Results of searches give thumnails (if you want them - they're the default but you can turn them off) a link to the Wayback Machine archive, a quick look function, opening results in new windows - all good stuff. Oh yes, they also have a toolbar as well. I did a search for me which worked fine, but I was slightly surprised to see that my site was listed in the column 'Sponsored Results' which is news to me! I suspect that they're looking to get advertising asap, and so are seeding this section with whatever they can find until they get real money.

I kept getting an annoying Javascript error when using Firefox, but when I switched to IE I was able to see the RedZeePedia, which gives me a nice little snapshot of appropriate information. My Robert E Lee search brought up a useful little box full of information. They don't say where they get this information from, but at least some of it comes direct from the Wikipedia.

The image search function worked well; in fact I got useful material from all the different search functions, though it was a slight irritation that I didn't get numbers of results.

RedZee looks like a good engine, and I'd be happy to use it, but I think for most people it will fall into the category of 'file away and forget until Google falls over'.

 
According to Firstlistings the August rankings are now available. No real surprise - Google completed 37.3% of searches, Yahoo! 29.7%, MSN 15.8% with AOL and Ask Jeeves as the also rans. (For all the figures, follow the link).

 
There's an interesting discussion going on between Dave Winer, and Philipp Lenssen regarding what Google is or is not doing, with regards search. Dave's viewpoint is 'Google is repeating Alta Vista's mistake that allowed Google to become number one in search, they're diversifying into everything, and neglecting search. Philipp's viewpoint is rather different, characterised with the quote 'So is Google losing focus on search? No, clearly not.'

I think as with most things, the truth is somewhere in between. Google is doing a lot with search - personalization, suggest, blog search, Google local, Google maps and so on. Clearly they still have an interest in search, and they have introduced a lot of interesting syntax that can be used (such as synonym search, define and so on) that their competition doesn't have. However, if you look at their competition, such as Exalead who have introduced things such as phonetic search, Google isn't doing as much as it could. Search functionality is still very limited, and there are a lot of things that I'd like to see *all* search engines (not just Google) doing that they're currently not. Given their resources it wouldn't be hard for Google to continue to improve search, and to improve it much more quickly than they're doing at the moment. However they can't do that because they're concentrating on a whole bunch of other things instead. I think Google is now in a position where they feel they can juggle things around, and sometimes search gets put on the back burner for a while. We always need to remember that Google is NOT about search, Google is about making money for their shareholders, and if you view it in that light what they're doing makes perfect sense.

So, is Google doing enough with search? Clearly not - they could do more than they are doing right now. Is Google ignoring search? Clearly not, given the innovations they bring in. In my opinion, Google is doing what they think they need to, and when they've done that, they look at other stuff. I'd like Google to concentrate even more on search, but then I'm not a shareholder looking to get a return on my money. I think they'll do what they need to when they need to, and this is, I think the important point. Google is becoming reactive rather than proactive, and doing things when they need to in order to consolidate their position. And search is just one of those things.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

 
Now, this is a useful little tool: Neat-O Free Backlink Check Tool. Simply type in your domain name, and this tool checks your backlinks AND tells you what text was used for the link. Very useful indeed.

 
An article from WebWatch tells us that .travel is now available for those organisations that do well, travel. Utterly pointless. No company that has invested time effort and money building up their brand with a .com or .co.uk is going to be interested in this at all - at the most they'll register a domain and link from it to their main site. I'm all in favour of good domain extensions (such as .xxx) but this? Just a money making exercise and a waste of time.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

 
Internet Librarian International 2005 unofficial Wiki does exactly what it says on the tin. If you're interested in the conference (I'm doing a sunday workshop and talk on tuesday) take a peek.

 
Oh, this is unusual - Gary Price has a rant! Gary is one of the most sane stable people that I know, and it takes a lot to rile him. However, Ann Harrison in her article 'UnGoogleables' Hide From Search' seems to have done that. The article on about making sure that search engines know as little about you as possible. Gary points out in 'Keeping Yourself Out of Web And Other Databases' that it's not just Google you need to worry about, it's a whole host of them. Both articles are worth reading.

 
Mandatory reading if you design sites (or use them!) is the Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 2005 (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox). Full of good sense, and something we all need to take into account. Top mistake - legibility problems. For the rest, follow the link!

 
If you've heard about something called Web 2.0 but wondered what it means, wonder no longer. Tim O'Reilly has done a really interesting paper on it, with everything you need to know.

 
Goshme is potentially useful since it doesn't give results, but identifies search engines. Simple interface, and type in the subject area that you're interested in. (More general and less specific seems to help), then tick a box or two in the subject area field such as Home and Garden, Science, Reference and so on, and you then get a list of results that show you what coverage various different resources have for that subject. Great for deep web searching and finding something different to Google.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

 
Woogle is an application waiting for a purpose. Basically it allows you to input some words or a phrase perhaps and it will then show you images that match it. I tried 'Confederate States of America' and was returned pictures of the Confederate Flag, a map of US states and an image of America. I guess it could make a fun game for Christmas, but not sure what else it's good for!