XAPHOO Search. is a fairly basic search engine, but it works well enough. It provides access to the web, images, video, news, sport, audio, wikis, PDFs and something called 'sweepstakes'. There's a basic advanced search function (limit to specific sites for example) and an option to limit a search to a specific country. The results are good enough, with a thumbnail option, an email link and a 'quick look' to load the site into the search engine window.
It does what it should do, but in all honesty I can't find anything particularly exciting about it.
CILIP has now had some time to consider how it wants to get involved with Web 2.0 technologies, and has produced a Draft Council Paper and is seeking comments and suggestions. I've taken a look at what they've send and it all looks very positive to me, so this is my take on what they've said, but it's certainly worth visiting the article directly.
It's pointed out that CILIP has been engaged in social networking for many years, and the 2009 Umbrella conference has been designed to be blog and twitter friendly.
The conclusions they have come up with are: Take the message to channels that are being used and glean information from them, instead of expecting all members and stakeholders to come to them. [I think it's absolutely crucial to do this - the mantra that I always use is 'Go to where the conversations are'.]
CILIP needs practical knowledge of a minimum set of technologies to include all the basics of Web 2.0 such as blogs, RSS and so on. [Again, vital to do this, but they also important to realise - which they may - that this list is going to be changing all the time, so I'm pleased to see the emphasis on technologies rather than tools.]
CILIP should try things out, and document what fails. [This is one of the delights of Web 2.0 stuff; trying is more important than failing and failing leads to useful information, particularly when it can be communicated to others.]
CILIP recognises that things will go out of fashion, and needs to work out how to 'decommission' CILIP presence when/if it's no longer being maintained.
CILIP should not be reluctant to try out services that are not perfect - this is now the world of perpetual prototypes. [Recognition of almost eternal beta is important, with an understanding that 'beta' now means something different.]
Utilise Twitter as the current hot topic and use CILIP hashtags to encourage use. [Hopefully not as long winded as #cilipumbrella however!]
Create a channel aggregating dashboard, rolled out to all CILIP staff. [I think this means something like Netvibes RSS feeds]
Encouragement of these technologies by enthusiasts, and developments of services on-the-fly.
I'm pleased to see all of these draft statements, which echoes and develops what both Brian Kelly and myself talked about at the April Council meeting. I'll be interested to see how this develops from words into actions next!
similar-site. is one of the new class of search engines that will find sites similar to one that you already know. Just type in an appropriate URL and it will go off and find new sites for you to view. This one provides a percentage figure of confidence. I played around with a few urls - my site, my weblog, BBC site, CILIP and so on. I was fairly impressed with the results that I got, and didn't find any howling errors - on the contrary I was getting really good stuff.
The interface is very basic and may well be offputting to some, but if it's quick results that you're after, this engine will do very well indeed.
I've mentioned the Bing meeting in my weblog, and Karen has now posted her views on the Bing UK Round Table Meeting. Our views of the product are very similar which isn't surprising given that we work in the same sector.
Watching people using Twitter is always interesting, and no more so than in the area of hashtags. For those of you who are going 'uh?' at the moment a hashtag is a way that people can follow a particular subject, event or conference report on Twitter by searching for a predefined hashtag such as #cilip2. As long as everyone uses the same hashtag then it doesn't matter if they're being followed by the searcher, since all their tweets will show up in a search.
The problem with a hashtag is that it takes up very important real estate in Twitter. There's only 140 characters to play with and the longer the hashtag the less space for the rest of the tweet. Consequently these things need to be as short as possible, but I'm seeing people using insanely long ones. What's interesting is that there does appear to be something of a difference in the way that they're used by different groups of people. For example, the hashtag for the CILIP Umbrella conference is #cilipumbrella. The American ALA conference 2009 uses #ala09 which is shorter. The Computers in Libraries conference used #cil2009. What these all have in common is an attempt to make it perfectly clear what the hashtag refers to, basically as a keyword or descriptor. Which is understandable, because that's what librarians do.
However, if we compare those tags to say, the one used for the Web 2.0 Expo which is #w2e there's something of a difference, because if I hadn't said upfront what #w2e related to you probably wouldn't have known. What's also interesting is that it's not #w2e2009 or even #w2e09. I'm slightly grasping at ideas here, but I think the major difference is that people who do technical stuff such as programming have a different approach to the concept of tags, because they'll use them just as an anchor; as long as they can remember what the tag or anchor is for that's fine.
All that a hashtag really needs to is to alert people, so that they can find appropriate tweets in a search - it doesn't have to *mean* anything at all, as long as everyone agrees on the use. That, after all, is what social media and Web 2 stuff is all about isn't it? A group of people agreeing on something. If that agreement isn't forthcoming, or it's too difficult (or long winded!) to impliment there's going to be something of a breakdown in use, and the hashtag fails. If you look on Twitter people are discussing the Umbrella hashtag, trying to decide for themselves if it should be reduced to #umb09 or #umbrella09. If people are tweeting using a mobile the less keystrokes the better. As a result, we're getting people using all three hashtags, which entirely defeats the point of the exercise!
A hashtag needs to be as short as possible. Is there any need to include the year or number of a conference in the tag? In my opinion, not at all. If I see people tweeting in numbers about something I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I'll presume they're doing so about something happening this year, not last year or last decade. To include 2009 in a tag is insanity surely? We KNOW it's happening now, this year, this month, this day, this minute because that's when people are tweeting about it!
Does the tag need to include the name of the conference? Again, in my opinion I don't think it's necessary to include the entire thing. Take the CILIP Umbrella conference - is anyone else running a conference at the same time, also called Umbrella? I'd guess not. Maybe the tag could be cut down to #umbrella then? Well it could, but the case could be made that some people might use that tag to refer to the item as in 'damn, it's raining. Forgot my #umbrella'. Kinda pointless to turn that into a hashtag (anyone who wants to search for umbrella could just do so), but it's possible. So how about making it shorter again? #umb works quite well and most importantly a search for #umb shows that no-one is using it. (Sorry, I'm not trying to knock CILIP at all, but it's a very useful example)
It could be argued, and I'm sure is, that people wouldn't necessarily think to search for that on Twitter. Absolutely right. That's not the point however. If I want to find the hashtag for an event I'm likely to ask the organisers, or visit the webpage or do a general search on Twitter for the name of the conference. Either that or I'll see people that I'm following use a tag and I'll then explore what the tag is for - maybe even asking the person what the tag is; given that it's Twitter I should get an answer back almost at once. People who aren't used to the concept of hashtags are not going to care, be interested, or search on a tag.
What is needed is for an organiser to stop thinking of a hashtag as a keyword or descriptor, and start thinking of it as a simple marker. True, there are times when hashtags are valuable, such as #iranelection and they're fairly obvious, because they relate to naturally occuring events. Conferences are not like that - they're artifical, names are chosen for a wide variety of reasons, why should the hashtag be any different? Keep the tag as short as possible - and anything longer than 3 characters is too long in my opinion and make it clear on the website what the tag is. They should also tweet it, and now and then use the full name of the conference in the tweet along with the hashtag, for those people who are wondering what a hashtag means. That way everyone is clear on the tag, can find and use it easily and leave more room for the rest of the tweet.
Google has announced that it's now possible to search for images that you can re-use under Creative Commons. If you visit Image search and choose the Advanced search function there's the following option:
Simply choose the option that you want, and the job is done. Except of course that it isn't. You're relying on the author to identify work as their own in the first instance. Then you've got to double check to find out if you can actually use the image in the way that you want. You've also got to make sure that the Creative Commons option actually links to *images* rather than say the text on the page. Even Google themselves say "We can help you take the first step towards finding these images, but
we can't guarantee that the content we linked to is actually in the
public domain, or available under the license."
So that's alright then! If you're not that impressed I link to a few dozen other image search engines on my website.
It's often quite instructive to look at the adverts that Google pops onto pages. As a web author it gives you a very quick feel for what Google thinks your page is about, and they're useful when you're hunting around looking for the information that you need. However sometimes they do get it fantastically wrong. I was recently hunting around for book images, and Google took me to the Chalet School Books webpage which is a fan webpage for information about (I presume) a series of books for children about a boarding school. All well and good until you look at the advert that Google has placed on the page: 'Sexual Abuse victims' indeed!
Tinker. is a new search engine that promises to provide us with the latest news on what people are Twittering. It's got a nice feature in that you can embed a widget on your site and allow people to tweet in your event stream. That's quite good. However, as a search tool it's pretty dire to be honest. Let's take a look at what information Tinker is giving me and compare it to a direct Twitter search for the same subject:
Most recent tweet from Tinker on Chrome OS: 20 minutes ago Most recent tweet from Twitter on Chrome OS: 10 seconds ago
Most recent tweet from Tinker on Arctic Monkeys: 22 minutes ago Most recent tweet from Twitter on Arctic Monkeys: 30 seconds ago
Most recent tweet from Tinker on the Getty Center: 26 minutes ago Most recent tweet from Twitter on the Getty Center: 20 seconds ago
Moreover, in order to use this thing I have to sign up for it; I can't see any way of doing a search without this step, and they also want my Twitter details, which don't get verified with Twitter.
I hope that you appreciate that I've just wasted 5 minutes of my life looking at this thing so that you don't have to!
Budding poet, but you can't find words that rhyme? Can't think of a two syllable word that rhymes with book? Then look no further, because Write Rhymes is a nifty resource (don't think it quite qualifies as a searche engine really) that will do the job for you.
Great if you're in a school environment, or working with members of the public, or setting up some sort of literary event, it's a nice resource to point to.
I had a few minutes available to me, so I created some little bookmarks that you can print out and use. There are 5 large and 5 small and they work for both hardback and paperback. Simply slip them over the corner of a page or two and they work perfectly. Here's a couple of images of them in action:
The full set of ten is available at my bookmarks page. Feel free to take copies, and why not create your own? You can also see the image over at Flickr as well. Hope that you enjoy them!