Google RSS Reader Revamped

Thank Heavens! Google has totally redesigned its RSS feed reader. The old interface was a disaster: hideous, confusing and non-intuitive. I suspect that many users who were new to RSS feeds have given up on the technology forever as a result.

Having got that whinge out of the way how does the new reader compare with what is already out there? For starters, the default display will now be familiar to existing RSS junkies like me. The left hand side of the screen lists your feeds, and in folders if you have decided to organise them in that way. The individual items are displayed in the central area of the screen, and there is a tips and tricks box on the right hand side of the “Home” page.

Google Reader now allows you to view just new items, all items in a single list, all items by folder or items by individual feed. For me, a variety of viewing options is essential. I need to view individual, priority feeds as soon as I fire up my reader in the morning but I am then quite happy to scan through all the UK news feeds, for example, as one long “folder” list. The only serious gripe I have with the display of the items and feeds is that Google Reader does not include the feeds own icons. It may seem a minor point but it is a quick way of identifying the feed source when scanning through a combined list of all your new items. One point to watch is that the default in Expanded View is to mark items read as you scroll through them. This is a feature that I find extremely irritating but is easily put right by going to Settings, Preferences.

There are two ‘views’ for items: Expanded View gives you the title, source and as much of the article that the publisher has decided to include in the item. The List View gives you the title, the first few words of the article and the date in just one line. To view the original or source document just click on the title or the double chevron next to the title.

For each item you can Star, Share, Email, Mark as read and Edit tags. When I tried these out only the Email and Mark as read options worked: the others gave an “error has occurred message”. But it is early days with the new interface so hopefully these glitches will be addressed soon. The email option defaulted to my Googlemail account so there could be a problem if you want to send headlines or stories to colleagues and clients using your corporate email account. Other web based readers such as Newsgator use your default email reader. Also, you cannot send more than one headline or item per email – a failing with many web based RSS readers. Another notable omission is that you cannot keyword search your feeds or set up alerts, again a non-feature of most web based readers.

You can easily import and export your existing list of feeds and adding a subscription is straightforward. Google Reader, though, does not support user authentication so if you have Factiva feeds, for example, it is back to your PC based reader or Newsgator.com.

Overall, I am impressed. Until now I have been telling RSS newbies who want to just dip a toe in the RSS stream to avoid Google’s reader like the plague. It is still not perfect, and I shall continue to use Omea on my laptop, but I have now added Google Reader to my list of recommended web based readers.

Before the revamp..

After…

Tech Talk: The Laptop Battery Recall Scorecard

If you have bought a new laptop, and are wondering if yours is affected by the latest series of battery recalls, this posting on Tech Talk gives links to the relevant pages on manufacturers’ web sites. My particular model of Toshiba seems unaffected but I shall be monitoring the Toshiba page in case that changes. For the Tosh machines the batteries do not burst into flames – they just stop working.

Tech Talk also has information on Dell’s free recycling programme, an inititiative that Dell have completely forgotten to tell me about in the numerous emails and newsletters that they send me. The link in Tech Talk takes you to the US site but a quick check on the UK Dell pages revealed that it is available over on this side of The Pond as well. You can use the service to recycle defunct Dell equipment, or if you have just bought a Dell you can recycle your old equipment regardless of manufacturer. Looks promising. In my location one has to pay for computers to be collected for recycling so I have filled in the form and am awaiting further instructions.

Investing in Eastern Europe Conference

Investing in Eastern Europe: Focus on Assets, Ownership & Governance
6th International Conference on Commercial Information Gathering & Analysis
Thursday 19th October 2006, Strand Palace Hotel, London
Registration Fee: GBP 250, EURO 375 per person

The former state controlled economies of Central and Eastern Europe all face a challenge to build full market economies based on private ownership. Whilst legislation can be put in place to act as a guide for ownership structures what is actually needed is the political will to ensure that commercial advancement is not impeded. This specialist one-day conference will examine some of the influences and factors relating to this issue and provide an insight into how the problems are slowly being addressed.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Effective Technology Marketing are, once again, co-hosting the conference at the Strand Palace Hotel, London to discuss the practical identification, acquisition and analysis of commercial information in the region and its application.

Programme

Chairman – Paul Byfield, Legal Information Specialist, EBRD

Keynote Address
The role of the Russian judicial system in protection of shareholders’ rights in Russia
Olga Anisimova, Partner, Solicitor, Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe and former Russian Judge

Politics and the Bankruptcy of Russia’s Richest Company:
Analysis of the Yukos affair
Alan Rousso, Lead Counsellor, Office of the Chief Economist, EBRD

Corporate Governance in Action.
The situation in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans
Gian Piero Cigna, Counsel, Office of the General Counsel, EBRD

Has eastern Europe benefited from privatisation?
speaker to be confirmed

Overview of the investment climate in The Caucasus
Anna Walker, Senior Editor & Economist for Eastern Europe, Economist Intelligence Unit.

The BIG THREE and others – commercial online east European business information services
Dr Frank Ryan, Manager, Business Information Centre, EBRD

Overview of free sources on the Internet relating to company ownership
in central and eastern Europe
Karen Blakeman, Consultant, Rhodes–Blakeman Associates

The conference is supported by a focused exhibition of leading commercial information providers.

Details and registration forms at http://www.dataresources.co.uk/confintro.htm
PDF brochure download http://www.dataresources.co.uk/EEBIC%202006.pdf

Top 10 Search Tips

Delegates on the recent Advanced Internet Search Strategies workshop held at Manchester Business School came from the commercial sector, charities and the NHS. It was a lively day and the group came up with a very interesting list of Top 10 Tips:

1. It isn’t you!
You run your search a second time in Google and you get a completely different set of results despite having run the same search a mere 20 minutes before. Or you run a site search in Google but the results come from here, there and everywhere. Or your results bear no resemblance whatsoever to your search strategy. Don’t worry – it isn’t you. Google does play up at times and results are rarely consistent or reproducible from one moment to the next. If you are having serious difficulties getting any sense out of Google, don’t struggle. Try another search engine (Yahoo, AlltheWeb Livesearch, Ask, Exalead, Windows Live).

2. Google.
OK – we slagged off Google in Tip 1 but it can still deliver the goods a lot of the time and is the first port of call for most of us. Make sure, though, that you are using the advanced search features to the full and that you are using the right part of Google for example News for current headlines, Images, Blogsearch etc.

3. AlltheWeb Livesearchhttp://livesearch.alltheweb.com/
Start typing in your search and AlltheWeb Livesearch immediately displays results and alternative search strategies that change as you type. The changing results help you spot when you are starting to go wrong with your search and the suggested alternative searches can be useful if you are unsure of how to tackle a subject.

4. Google Maps/Localhttp://maps.google.co.uk/.
Great maps combining ordinary street maps with satellite images. (The business search option is not always reliable, though, and Google does not seem to want to tell you where railway stations are).

5. Use the Wayback Machine (http://www.archive.org/) to see what was being said on a web site in the past or to track down “lost” documents and pages.

6. Remember that you are searching an out of date index of the web when you are using Google et al. Google is the least up to date: Yahoo and MSN/Windows Live seem to be the most frequently updated.

7. Explore Blogs as potential sources of information opinions on industry events, products etc and RSS feeds as a means of delivering search alerts and current news headlines. You will need a feed reader for RSS feeds: try Newsgator.com (web based reader) or Omea (http://www.jetbrains.com/omea/reader/) if you are looking for a PC based reader.

8. Trovandohttp://www.trovando.it/
Enables you enter your search strategy once and run it in different types of search tools one by one for example web, images, news, blogs, audio, video.

9. Repeat the most important terms or terms in your search one or more times. This will often change the order in which your results are sorted and give you different results.

10. If your search involves numbers, distances, weights, prices or measurements of any sort use the numeric range search in Google. For example:

toblerone 1..5 kg

to find online shops selling large(!) bars of toblerone

or

TV advertising spend forecasts 2005..2012

to look for forecasts mentioning years from 2005 to 2012.

Market Research on the Web – Top 10 Tips

Information professionals from the commercial sector, universities and government agencies attended the workshop Market Research on the Web, held at Manchester Business School on September 6th. A regular feature of the courses that I run is the Top 10 tips, sites and tricks that I ask the participants to compile at the end of the day. This time, they came up with an interesting mix of sites and search techniques.

  1. Use search tools’ Advanced Search screens and commands to help refine your search.For example restrict your search to PDFs for large reports, XLS for spreadsheets containing data. Use the site: option to limit your search to types of organisations or an individual site, for example site:gov.uk for UK government sites or site:statistics.gov.uk to search just the UK national statistics web site.

    Use the link commands to find pages that link to a document that you already have and which is highly relevant (pages that link to one another tend to have similar content). Use the Yahoo link command to find pages that link to a specific page (syntax – link:http://www.shugle.com/sources/stats.htm) or the linkdomain command to find pages that link to any page on a site (syntax – linkdomain:rba.co.uk)

  2. Use the Google define: command to locate definitions of acronyms, abbreviations and jargon terms, for example define:cpm. Alternatively, in any search tool use the search ‘what is….’, for example what is cpm.
  3. Wikipediawww.wikipedia.org – for quick overviews on topics. [Note: this site was not covered in the course but several of the participants mentioned it as one of their starting points on subjects that are new to them]
  4. Alacrawikiwww.alacrawiki.com – a guide to business information companies, publishers and databases. The Alacra Industry Spotlights in particular are extremely useful in providing reviews and commentary on industry specific web sites that have statistics, market research and news. Invaluable if you need to get up to speed on key resources in a sector or industry.
  5. Make sure that you are using the right keywords and jargon related to the industry that you are researching. These can also vary from country to country, for example clothes washers versus washing machines. Also be aware that different directories use different coding systems and categorisations, and that there are different national official coding systems.
  6. Fita: Import Export Business & International Trade Leadswww.fita.org. Good starting point for country and industry specific directories, market research sites, general information on trading in other countries and cultural differences in doing business.
  7. Bureau van Dijk Free Directorywww.bvdep.com – click on the Free Directory link. This can be a useful way of identifying companies active in a sector in a country or region. You can also limit your search to size of company (for example large, medium, small, very small). Free Information includes name of the company, town, country and official registration number. Results can be exported in a variety of formats.
  8. Use the free executive summaries and tables of contents provided by market research publishers for keywords and to identify major players in a market.
  9. For smaller companies export directories often provide more free information than the official company registries. Information may include names of sales, marketing, export directors; key export markets and the products involved; turnover band; employees band. Search on the phrase export directory combined with a country and/or industry sector. Also try fita.org for directories or Marketingfile.com for searchable mailing lists including exporters/importers.
  10. Try social bookmarking services, for example www.furl.net , to see what other people have identified as relevant in a particular area and to set up your own list of useful resources. The service is hosted on an external web site so you do not have to be at your own computer or at work to access your lists. Lists can be kept private, shared between colleagues or made completely public. [A participant on this course explained how her organisation uses FURL to share resources on topics between different groups and departments.]

Investing in Eastern Europe: Focus on Assets, Ownership & Governance

6th International Conference on Commercial Information Gathering & Analysis
Date: Thursday 19th October 2006,
Venue: Strand Palace Hotel, London
Registration Fee: £250, €375 per person

The former state controlled economies of Central and Eastern Europe all face a challenge to build full market economies based on private ownership. Whilst legislation can be put in place to act as a guide for ownership structures what is actually needed is the political will to ensure that commercial advancement is not impeded.

This specialist one-day conference will examine some of the influences and factors relating to this issue and provide an insight into how the problems are slowly being addressed.

The European Bank for reconstruction and development (EBRD) and Effective Technology Marketing are, once again, co-hosting the conference at the Strand Palace Hotel, London to discuss the practical identification, acquisition and analysis of commercial information in the region and its application.

Speakers include:

Chairman: Paul Byfield, Legal Information Specialist, EBRD
Keynote speaker: Olga Anisimova, Partner, Solicitor Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe
Alan Rousso, Lead Counsellor, Office of the Chief Economist, EBRD
Gian Piero Cigna, Counsel, Office of the General Counsel, EBRD
Dr Frank Ryan, Manager, Business Information Centre, EBRD
Karen Blakeman, Consultant, Rhodes-Blakeman Associates

Further details of the programme and registration forms are available at http://www.dataresources.co.uk/confintro.htm