Debunking Euromyths

Those of us living in the UK have become accustomed to sensational headlines in the British press warning us that the European Union (EU) is about to ban British cucumbers, sausages, cheese, church bells, street acrobats [insert food or activity of your choice]. Tracking down the relevant EU legislation to find out whether or not there is any truth in the stories is a nightmare, and they are not the easiest of documents to read and understand when you do find them. But help is at hand from an EU blog called “European Commission in the UK – Euromyths and Letters to the Editor” at http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK/.

The blog covers scare stories that have appeared in the UK press, some of which go back to 1992, and explains what the situation really is and the relevant legislation.

Euromyths A-Z

There is a neat A-Z index at ? http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK/euromyths-a-z-index/ so you can quickly check, for example, if the EU is about to ban bagpipes:

As for banning bagpipes, Scots can rest assured that their favourite musical instrument is not under threat from EU proposals on noise pollution … they are designed primarily for those who work with loud machinery for a sustained period – more than 87 decibels for eight hours in a row. The law … will apply only to workers rather than audiences. ?If, in the highly unlikely event a bagpipe player is hired to play continuously for eight hours, and the noise created averaged more than 87 decibels, the employer would be obliged to carry out a risk assessment to see where changes can be made – tinkering with the acoustics in a hall to reduce echoes, for example. If that fails, personal protection such as earmuffs will need to be considered, but only as a last resort. Banning musical instruments is not an option.

The blog is just one of many on the Europa website. A list can be found at?Blogs of the European Commission.

Flickr pulls out all the stops with automatic tagging

Flickr really went to town with its automatically generated tags for my photo today. The photo was of star anise, which I took?for the Challenge Friday Group; this week’s challenge is stars. A straightforward, simple photo of the spice, I thought but Flickr read a lot more into it.

This is the photo:

Star_Anise_20160311_Signed

And these are the tags:

Flickr_Star_Anise_TagsThe ones at the top with the grey background are the tags that I assigned to the photo. The rest are Flickr’s.

I deleted several of them before I thought of taking a screenshot for posterity but what is left gives ?you a flavour of the range of concepts that Flickr feels are relevant. ?Some of them I agree with (pattern, star shape, symmetry). Others I shall delete ?as they are of no help to anyone searching on them (foliage, leaf, landscape, tree, forest, blossom, ?pastel).

I do, though, rather like “minimalism” even though the structure and complexity of flavour and aroma ?of star anise is far from minimalist. It ?stays.

Business information key resources and search strategies – Top 10

The participants ?of the business information workshop I ran on March 8th ?had a variety of interests: search strategies and commands for Google et al, ?UK government information, statistics, open data, social media, companies, locating scientific research. ?So it was quite tough limiting the Top Tips that I asked them to nominate at the end of the day to just 10.

This is what they came up with.

  1. Get to know the key resources and starting points for different types of business information e.g. Companies House, OFFSTATS and go direct to those rather than Google. It will save you time in the long run.
  2. ?Verbatim. An invaluable tool for research when Google insists on rewriting your search and dropping terms. To make Google search for all of your terms without variation, but in any order, first run your search. Then click on ‘Search tools’ in the line of options above your results. In the second line of options that appears click on ‘All results’ and from the drop down menu select Verbatim. If you are carrying out in-depth research it is worth using Verbatim even if your “normal” Google results seem to be OK. You may see very different content in the Verbatim list.
  3. Combine advanced search commands such as site: and filteype: to focus your search on types of information (PDF reports, PPT presentations, spreadsheets containing data) and websites (government, academic, individual sites). Also try using the minus sign to exclude documents containing specific terms or sites that are irrelevant.
  4. Phil Bradley’s UK Newspapers Google Custom Search Engine. http://www.philb.com/nationaluknewspapers.htmlPhilB_News_Search
    A relatively new tool that enables you to search all of the major national UK newspapers and regional newspapers. A real time saver if you are searching for local information on a local business or entrepreneur and don’t want to have to track down all the local papers and search them one by one.
  5. OFFSTATS – The University of Auckland Library http://www.offstats.auckland.ac.nz/ A good starting point for official statistical sources by country, region subject or combination of categories.?All of the content in the database has been chosen and quality assessed by staff at The University of Auckland Library.
  6. Zanran http://zanran.com/ A tool for searching information contained in charts, graphs and tables of data. Enter your search terms and optionally limit your search by date and/or format type. Zanran comes up with a list of documents that match your criteria with thumbnails to the left of each entry. Hover over the thumbnail to see a preview of the page containing your data and further information on the document.
  7. Advanced Twitter Search. http://twitter.com/search-advanced Essential tool if you are using Twitter to look for news on product developments, announcements, conferences, discussions on technologies/companies, or how companies interact with customers.
  8. Wayback Machine http://www.archive.org/ Want to see what was on a website a few years ago or trying to track down a document that seems to have vanished from the web? Try the Internet Archive Wayback Machine at http://www.archive.org/. Enter the URL of the website or document and you should then see a calendar of the snapshots that the archive has. Choose a date from the calendar to view the page. The archive does not have everything but it is worth a try. See also the UK National Archives of old government websites and pages at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/webarchive/
  9. OUsefulInfo, http://blog.ouseful.info/ “Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education and data journalism”. Maintained by Tony Hirst, this blog has useful information and descriptions of what can be involved when dealing with and manipulating open data.
  10. DuckDuckGo ?http://duckduckgo.com/ This was not covered in the workshop but one of the participants recommended it as a useful alternative to Google. Aside from the absence of tracking and personalisation it provides different and a greater variety of results when compared with Google.

Edited highlights of the workshop slides can be found on authorSTREAM and Slideshare.

My next business information related workshop is Discover Open Data on ?the 7th April. ?The ?next advanced Google workshop (New Google, New Challenges) is on the 13th April and the Essential non-Google search tools is on ?the 12th April.

Business information resources and search strategies

Statista_2I’ve finally finished “updating” my slides and notes for the first of this year’s workshops on business information, which takes place next week. It was not so much an update, more ?a rewrite. With all the changes at Google, UK government website transfers and disappearances, the “right to be forgotten” and the many website design changes by business resources to make them mobile friendly I was virtually starting from scratch.

Next week’s workshop is being organised by TFPL in central London on Tuesday 8th March. ?TFPL have made the event the “Course of the Week” and reduced the price to £249, but you have to book by??midnight on Friday 4th March to get the reduced price.

The topics I shall be covering include:

How the legal and regulatory environment is affecting search and the provision of information

Starting points, evaluated listings and government sources

Company information: share prices, financials, official data

Statistics, market and industry data, open data

News sources and alerting services

Essential search techniques for tracking down business information

How to use social media and professional networks for business intelligence

Where to find older, archived material

As usual, there will be practical sessions for people to try out resources and search techniques for themselves. ?If you are interested go to the TFPL website?or contact their learning time on?020 7378 5477.