The Google Generation’ – no good at researching on the web

The launch of the British Library and JISC commissioned report ‘Information behaviour of the researcher of the future’ has sparked significant debate in cyberspace, which is excellent news. Here is a link to a 35 page pdf of the full report: ‘Information Behavior of the Researcher of the Future’

Here are links to a selection of comments:

Globe and Mail – 24 January

The Observer, 27/01/2008, p.12, John Naughton

Joanne Jacobs


The Keyword blog

Intelligent Agent

Jimmy Wales talks Wikis at Online Information 2007

I am just starting to catch up from the week that was Online Information 2007 and will be creating a few blogs from my notes.

First of all was the keynote speech ‘Web 2.0 in action:free culture and community on the move’, from Jimmy Wales of the Wiki Foundation on Tuesday 4 December

Jimmy WalesWikipedia is a registered charity which cost $1 million in 2007 and forecasted to cost $2-3 million in 2008 which is amazing considering it is now the 8th most popular website in the world. Even in Iran it is the 14 most popular.

It has expanded to over two million articles in English, but has over six million in total.  It has 14,000 articles in Hindi. But when you consider that there are 280 million Hindi speakers, it still has a long way to go.

Jimmy said that Wikipedia will remain true to encyclopaedia base and not include articles which you would not expect to find in a general purpose publication.

Minority interests are covered through the development of Wikis such as the Muppet Wiki with 15,000 articles and Wookieepedia (yes, Star Wars is the topic here).

For me the big story is the development of Search Wiki – an open source search engine will all decisions in the public domain. Fast Company Magazine in the U.S. described it as “Google’s worst nightmare”

Spam lovely spam

Actually, I find the original edible version of spam as indigestible as the electronic kind, although I do love the Monty Python song that the term is derived from.

However, I am still surprised how many people still complain about how their lives are blighted by this curse of the Internet age, when there are solutions so readily to hand.

Although there are many products to choose from, I have been using Cloudmark Spamnet (now Desktop) for a couple of years now and consider myself a satisfied customer. I get about 50 spam messages a day on my home email account and with this software I have seen very few false negatives – or false positives for that matter.

What I like best about the product is that in addition to some very clever analytics it also relies on good old human brain power shared via the Internet. On the rare occasions a piece of shiny new rogue spam makes it through to your inbox, you tag it and the information goes back to a central database. Once an email gets enough tags it will be marked as spam for everyone else. The same works in reverse for non-spam such as e-mail newsletters which are often mistakenly identified as unwanted.

Even better all contributors are rated on how reliable their tagging is. This is a very effective way of stopping the spammers from hi-jacking the system by tagging their spam as clean.

If you don’t believe me, have a read of respected IT journalist Jon Honeyball’s article. “Since installing Cloudmark for Exchange Server a few months ago, my inbox has received 15,619 emails, of which 11,512 were killed off as spam. I can’t remember a good email being incorrectly marked as spam, and it has probably let a few dozen spams through into my inbox by mistake.”

Needles to say these services come with a cost, but for me it at around £20 a year at current exchange rates it is money well spent.

I apologise if this sounds like an advert, but I don’t think enough people are aware how easily they can remove this unpleasantness from their lives.

Finally a consumer rating site with real information

I can’t understand why this has taken so long because it is such an obvious use of the interactive power of the Internet.

For years we have had shopping comparison sites such as Kelkoo and PriceRunner, but the consumer rating sites such as Ciao! and reviewcentre have been blighted by a lack of opinions. But now there is a new kid on the block in the shape of It is still in beta and is rather U.S. biased but the sheer number of opinions puts it head and shoulders above the competition.

For instance the Toshiba Satellite A135 PC Notebook has 39 reviews, and the Apple Nano has over 3,000 reviews.

Toshiba laptop Apple Nano

A really simple dictionary

File this one under ‘why didn’t they think of that before’, or under the ‘less is more’ category.

Finally someone (Phil Crosby to be precise) has come up with a really clean and simple dictionary using content from Wiktionary and Princeton WordNet.

The only issue I have with this marvel is the name Ninjawords which makes it sound dangerous and Japanese. Despite that it is going to the top of my favourites list.


Making a noise on the Net

Today I saw (heard would be a more appropriate description) a free program that can turn a PC into a talking computer.

Thunder software is produced by a CIC (Community Interest Company)  run by Roger Wilson-Hinds and Tim Carrington. It has already been downloaded by 16,000 blind and partially sighted web surfers and is only just a year old.

It was fascinating to watch and listen as Roger navigated the web using the reader to guide him. It made me appreciate just some of the challenges blind web surfers face. Especially when one considers how much information is now only available through the web.

Roger also has a blog The Blind Blogger where he sounds off about internet issues for the blind and partially sighted.

How flaky are your pages?

According to Amber MacArthur and Leo Laporte, the gurus of all things web related via their net@nite show, the next big thing in social networking is sharing your home page.

Google already allows you to create a personalised home page using iGoogle which allows you to “Add stuff to your homepage”. These little windows of information are often referred to as widgets, and I have been using them for a while.


However Pageflakes goes one stage further and allows you to share and rate sets of ‘home pages’. I have already imported a brilliant page called Gadgets & Gizmos created by jennyzuko.


Pure Text does it for me

For me, one of the greatest benefits of computers is their ability to copy and paste content from a wide range of sources (particularly web pages) into one document.

However advantage this is almost entirely negated by the amount of faffing around required to get the text all in the same format.

Luckily, I discovered the wonders of Steve Miller’s PureText. This simple and free application must have saved me tens of thousands of key-strokes over the years, as well as significantly reducing the frustration of trying to achieve something which should have been straightforward in the first place.


A rival to Google Answers?

Sunday 5 November

Wikipedia Reference Desk has six subsections: Humanities, Science, Mathematics, Computing/IT, Language and Miscellaneous. In true wiki style, answers are provided by editing the question and answer page.

Almost a hundred questions a day are being asked. The tone is predominantly civilised, and many of the questions get good answers. You might say it’s like Yahoo Answers without the yahoos.