Let the bells ring out, spreading harmony

An appropriately festive article of especial interest to me (as a bell-ringer, or “campanologist” if you like long words), entitled Ding dong measurement on high, swung into my in-box from ScienceDaily over the weekend and inspired me to think about my favourite news sources of 2015.

As they may also be of interest to you, if you’re looking for some really good science-cum-techy sources, here are my top five:

CB Insights news for start-ups and investment news, plus “the blurb” at the end which offers a selection of news from around the web, often worth a read, which comes with a hilariously informal style which often makes me smile (thanks, Anand)

(e) Science News which is an all round science news site powered by fully automated artificial intelligence, that is, it hasn’t got a human editor. Well, that’s different and seems to work quite well!

Gizmag for its coverage range, it doesn’t miss much. The articles have a good level of detail too (and there’s regular bicycle-tech news if you’re keen on cycling)

MIT Technology Review for the latest in high tech developments and another newsletter offering an interesting collection of selected stories from around the web.

And last, but not least, the aforementioned ScienceDaily, an excellent source for science news including research which may not always appear in the more main-stream publications.

May you have a merry and peaceful Christmas full of friendly harmonics, be it ‘Prime’, ‘Hum’ ‘Partials’, ‘Nominal’, or the variants Tierce (minor third), Quint (perfect Fifth) or Octave Nominal .



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Taylor & Francis offers free access to medical journals for 14 days

The title says it all really, all you have to do is to register on the Taylor & Francis website.

Then you will be able to enjoy 14 days of free access to all of their latest medical journal content published after 1997 across 30 key disciplines. Taylor & Francis is also offering access to their Expert Collection which they describe as the world’s largest series of review journals in research, development and clinical medicine.

Happy November!

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Financial Times content will be free to access on 9th September

Or, as the FT puts it: tomorrow (9th September), staying ahead of the game is even easier, with free FT.com content all day. So linger over the latest insightful articles, immerse yourself in thought-provoking comment and enjoy.

Worth taking the opportunity to have a browse around and see if they can lure you into taking out a subscription!

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Reading on-screen content: are you still with me or have you given up reading this?

Back in 2008 The Atlantic ran an article looking at what the internet is doing to our brains. The author wrote that he’d noticed that reading articles on-line was apparently affecting the way we take in information and was having a detrimental effect on our ability to read with sustained concentration. We were all becoming skim-readers.

Seven years later and it would seem that the scientists agree that there’s some truth in this. An interesting (and quite readable!) recent article on Fast Company, Everything Science Knows About Reading On Screens, reports on various pieces of research examining how technology has changed the way we read.

One study suggests that the tactile feedback of reading from paper, turning the pages and seeing how far you’ve got, may actually help the reader process the  information being read. Does that mean that even if the e-reader shows you the percentage of your progress, or number of pages this still isn’t the same? Maybe so – the “paper” readers remembered more about the plot of the story.

I’d be very interested to know if a similar study has been done comparing people’s navigational experiences via satnavs versus paper maps – surely there are related aspects? Like a paper book, a map also gives you a tactile perspective (turning pages, following along a route) and you can also see how far you’ve got, whereas the satnav – not unlike the digital book – has a small screen that restricts the “mental map” of the journey – our brains must work differently in these mediums too (…or not at all, in some cases).

But I digress. The article also points out how distracting reading on screen can be – this is certainly true, as articles tend to have a lot of window-dressing around them (links to related content, adverts and so on). However, it could be argued that this provides a different advantage as you may then wander on to a better article or find out something new. You can browse through a book or a website, but each is a different experience, and I’d also add, technique.

The thing for me is, when it comes to the news, I’ve always skimmed paper newspapers, rarely reading a full article, so perhaps it’s more to do with what type of information you’re reading and maybe there’s not quite so much difference after all?

Hot tip for how to check that you can still read in-depth: last year I read “Daniel Deronda” (in paper format), which I loved and highly recommend if you would like to test your ability to read at length and in depth. Or you can substitute any sizeable tome of good literary standing to get the same confirmation.

So I’m not too worried about my concentration being disrupted. Did you read to the end of this? Thank you so very much!

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I finally made it to one of Karen Blakeman’s searching courses and it was excellent

For quite a long time I’ve been meaning to attend one of RBA Information Services‘s business information searching courses which cover the nuances of Google and so much more beyond that. Last Thursday I finally did.

For a start, it was a very useful benchmarking excercise-cum-sanity check to see how much I already knew and an opportunity to hone my search techniques further.

However, I can’t know everything about search, it’s a fast-moving world and this course was a source for new ideas, new sources and sites and offered different ways to search, techniques and tips. There was also plenty of time for discussion.

In short, it was a wonderful indulgence to be able to wallow in all things “searchy” for a whole day. It helped to pull me out of those searching-ruts that we fall into and refreshed and revitalised both the exploratory and specific nature of my searching.

How could your searching ever be disruptive otherwise? Highly recommended – thank you, Karen!

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UK company accounts become freely available

Today’s money-saving tip: you no longer have to pay to access UK company filings.

Companies House has launched a Companies House beta site, with free registration through which you can access UK company filings without charge. They are asking for feedback, so don’t expect everything to be perfect.

I clicked on the pdf document link and up came a blank document – until I launched it properly in Adobe – then the text appeared. For one company, the latest accounts didn’t appear to be there, although I’d found them offered elsewhere.

So, when you search for UK companies you will also start to notice search results popping up from other UK company data sites offering this data. For example,  CompaniesintheUK came up in one general company search I carried out and provided its latest accounts free.

However, it’s worth checking that these other sites really are offering the full and latest accounts and that they are taken from Companies House, but you shouldn’t need to pay for this data any more.

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Tip of the day: a neat ebook on Google search tips and tricks

Gizmag, which itself is an interesting read for anyone of techy-mindedness, is currently offering a free download to A Guide to Google Tools, Tips & Tricks You Can’t Live Without

You can fill in a form to download the book (62 pages), or access it directly from the first link above (you have to skip around the ads a bit). The book starts by pointing out that behind the simple front page of Google hides a wealth of search options and functionality that isn’t obvious to the user unless you take time to go exploring.

The continual simplifying of Google’s search page has been much criticised over the years by search gurus (such as Karen Blakeman and Phil Bradley), and not without justification. For example, the act of burying the “verbatim” command and the Advanced search, even though they’re not that deeply buried, still hides them from a good percentage of people who will never know to use these (or perhaps even what they’re for in the case of Verbatim) unless guided to use them by this blog or other search advisers.

Hence the existence of useful guides such as the one above. Knowing more about a search engine such as Google really will help your searching and I also find it speeds me up (yep, I’m always in a hurry to find stuff). Efficiency, bring on efficiency!

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Google news manoeuvers with a European flavour

News is a ubiquitous free and fee-based commodity on the web. There’s always a lot of it out there, with many duplicate and similar versions of the same story doing the rounds giving the appearance of even more news than there really is, contrasting with those more obscure hard-to-find items that are occasionally required.

This is also coupled with the near-impossibility for the poor journalist to enjoy a nice scoop for any length of time before rivals find out and jump on the same story.

It can seem quite overwhelming, trying to keep up with your areas of interest. Some people swear by Twitter for keeping up to speed (some just swear at it), others prefer in-depth reporting, staying loyal to the premium sources such as the FT or The Economist. Very many do both using social media for alerting and specific sources for in-depth.

Google has decided that its news service can do better and has announced its Digital News Initiative which may see Google consider a move to micropayments for access to premium sources that its news search picks up.

From reading some of the reporting: the FT article (you can register for free to access) Ars Technica’s version, The Guardian’s version (no doubt you can find more via a Google News search!), the emphasis is mostly on helping the press “find sustainable models” in order to preserve high quality journalism in this internet-age. Ah, that familiar challenge for all web-based businesses where so much of the content is free.

It’s also interesting to have a development driven from a European perspective, when so much tends to start out in the US and then ripple over to Europe after some time. The Guardian article cautions that, while this European perspective is all very well, the initiative will ultimately need to be adopted by Google in the US too.

We, us, the end-user-news-searchers barely get a mention in all of this. This is partly because Google is focusing on the news industry, having been criticised over the years by newspapers for robbing news sites of direct traffic and being unhelpful for subscription news sites. We come in where Google insists that it will be the consumer who ultimately influences the direction they go as regards payment models. So if we end up having to pay, it’s all our fault. Cynicism aside, anything that introduces more flexible payment models is probably a good thing – I would reckon that being able to access the FT on a pay-as-you-go basis via Google News for instance, could prove a popular option with many.

So, could this signal a move away from a free news service from Google or a move to the best of both: both free and pay-as-you-go to access the premium results? Should the premium news aggregators such as Factiva and LexisNexis also be worried? No doubt they’ll be watching carefully. I think they should be a little concerned as this initiative could, over time, result in a further erosion of their customer-base.

Disruptive to news searching? I hope so, I love a bit of disruption. Especially if it brings with it another choice in how we can search, access and pay for the news.

What do you think? Where do you go to find your news?

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Will Virtual Reality one day be the new way to search?

If you want to understand the virtual reality “landscape”, you could hardly do better than have a read of  a very interesting (and quite long) feature in The Verge which takes a look at the many worlds of virtual reality, from its very beginnings to the present-day situation.

It’s a fascinating read, and well-structured so that you can skip around the various sections of the feature. The feature is also chock full of comments and interviews with the VR inventors and start-up entrepreneurs, talking about their challenges and their view of what the future holds. But they also make a lot of thought-provoking comments.

These range from the cautionary and concerned to the inspiring, as well-illustrated on page 6 in the interview with  Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired magazine and Jaron Lanier, founder of VPL .

How will all this affect the way we search?

Perhaps one day we’ll use VR to “visit” the famous libraries of the world, browse their bookshelves and select books to borrow or click to read chapters. Or maybe we’ll just go directly into the environment we’re researching and bypass the printed word altogether – virtual interviews, immersive experiences. Want to know about the oceans? Go diving in the Mediterranean. Want to know how the Anglo-Saxons lived? Walk around a virtual Anglo-Saxon village. How about medical devices or a new surgical procedure? Maybe best not to eat your lunch just yet.

The above speculations may not be how it turns out, but I’ve little doubt that the way we search will radically change over the next 10-20 years. Unsurprisingly, Google is already involved having invested $542m in Magic Leap last year, and Facebook owns Oculus VR. The new may co-exist with the old, but the new will probably make our current browser-based search boxes look rather “yesterday”.

Posted in Digital books, Featured sites, Future views, Information literacy, Psychology of search, Scientific sites, Search engines, Social networking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Privacy as we’ve known it is ending”…really? Only for some

The following NY Times article floated into my in-box via CB Insights’ newsletter – CB Insights is one of the leading VC and start-up online sources, and has a very lively newsletter!

I hope CB Insights’ editor won’t mind me reproducing his brief description of the article, as his praise of the journalistic skill-set, which includes searching of course, is heart-warming:

“Unrelated to tech but if you missed the NY Times piece about wealthy foreign buyers buying up the Time Warner Center while trying their best to hide their identities, it is amazing journalism. I cannot get my head around the research, writing, editing, and design skills to do this. Mind blowing”.

The journalism referred to above demonstrates what I’d call disruptive searching skills in action. At least they would be disruptive if anyone was going to do anything about what the article reveals. Thus, the article itself illustrates a profound lack of disruptive searching as the property owners and legislation turn a blind-eye to whoever might be behind a “shell company” purchasing real estate. They don’t know where the money comes from, they don’t want to know and have no legal obligation to find out.

The Disruptive Searcher doesn’t often lose her rag, but all this seems thunderingly ironic to me when you have a front cover feature on Science magazine claiming “the end of privacy“. The oft-heard voice-of-doom continues: “Privacy as we have known it is ending, and we’re only beginning to fathom the consequences”. Well, perhaps, in some ways, for sure, but in reality privacy is selectively ending – greatly diminishing for the common man, but certainly not for everyone. The NY Times article makes it all too clear that privacy is nowhere near ending for those that need it to go about their dubious business. The laws just don’t touch them. And I’d bet my bottom dollar that the US isn’t the only place where this is happening.

We have a whole generation growing up being told that their digital footprint is vast and starts pretty much from day one. That our data profile is expanding all the time with little or no say from us – Science magazine cites examples such our entire genome being sequenced and shared by researchers around the world, our electronic medical records, flying cameras (aka drones) hovering over us, and facial recognition software coming to a store or an airport near you.

We have all this technology, some of which will spark new legislation, but for what end if none of it lands on the wealthy dodgy-dealers of organsied crime – where’s the disruptive data collection here? Where’s the disruptive searching followed by action that should expose them and stop their operations?

Why should we be expected to passively acccept/put up with all the data logging and monitoring, plus legislative changes (passed quickly on the back of the “national security” excuse) when there’s little clear evidence that “the ever-more borderless economy” will regain its borders or that legislation will be amended so that moving and hiding assets becomes subject to more scrutiny? It probably comes down to a very basic and ever-present reason – financial greed.

No point creating a huge compost heap of data unless you get the pichfork out, turn it over and do something with the steaming, festering, grubby stuff that’s quietly decomposing itself out of sight right at the bottom. Bring on disruptive searching that results in action for the common good.

Maybe one day, in the far off distant reaches of time…don’t hold your breath or your electronic medical record will tell everyone that you died of asphyxiation.

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