How do you search?

Are you getting the most out of your searching? Mashable points out a few things that librarians have been telling their information literacy students for years on how to find what you really want, using the search giant Google as its search platform of choice. Need to find that needle in a haystack? You’re on!

How to use Google search more effectively via Mashable

BL and Google

Google announced a couple of weeks ago that it was ceasing digitising newspapers, due somewhat to copyright issues.

However, it has not ceased digitising books.

The British Library and Google today announced a partnership to digitise 250,000 out-of-copyright books from the Library’s collections. Opening up access to one of the greatest collections of books in the world, this demonstrates the Library’s commitment, as stated in its 2020 Vision, to increase access to anyone who wants to do research.

Selected by the British Library and digitised by Google, both organisations will work in partnership over the coming years to deliver this content free through Google Books ( and the British Library’s website ( Google will cover all digitisation costs.

This project will digitise a huge range of printed books, pamphlets and periodicals dated 1700 to 1870, the period that saw the French and Industrial Revolutions, The Battle of Trafalgar and the Crimean War, the invention of rail travel and of the telegraph, the beginning of UK income tax, and the end of slavery. It will include material in a variety of major European languages, and will focus on books that are not yet freely available in digital form online.

British Library press release

Google can be thought of as a supercharged, automated reference librarian for the web. Type in a few words in Google’s search box, and Google replies, in effect, “I don’t know the answer, but try these websites”. And it performs that service in fractions of a second, a billion times a day.

From the SMH

Nice article that talks about Google’s search algorithm. It is good to be reminded that Google is not just a search engine, but is using all its stored information and data to answer queries.

Google gets arty

One of the latest releases from those creative folks at Google, the Google Art Project combines some of Google’s well known technological favourites – high resolution digitisation and street view – for an interesting look at the insides of some of the major museums and galleries from around the world. The Google blog describes the project:

You’ll find a selection of super high-resolution images of famous works of art as well as more than a thousand other images, by more than 400 artists—all in one place. And with Street View technology, you can take a virtual tour inside 17 of the world’s most acclaimed art museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA in New York, The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Tate Britain & The National Gallery in London, Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The super high resolution images of featured items is very impressive, and zooming is as easy as clicking on the plus button. Take a look behind the scenes to see how Google approached the digitisation and street view capture at the museums and galleries – the time lapse photography is fun to watch! To get the most out of your Google Art Project experience, check out the visitor’s guide below.

What did your 2010 look like?

Google has the answer, at least in the form of what people wanted to find out more about, in their annual year in review – the Google zeitgeist. The Google zeitgeist 2010 website has a few nifty gadgets you might want to have a play with that let you narrow down the most searched for results by region and includes a timeline which graphs by global event as well as a range of statistics (in comparison to last year).

Google is polluting the Internet

Interesting article Google is polluting the Internet by Micah White

There is no system for organising knowledge that does not carry with it social, political and cultural consequences. Nor is an entirely unbiased organising principle possible. The trouble is that too few people realise this today. We’ve grown complacent as researchers; lazy as thinkers. We place too much trust in one company, a corporate advertising agency, and a single way of organising knowledge, automated keyword indexing.

The danger of allowing an advertising company to control the index of human knowledge is too obvious to ignore. The universal index is the shared heritage of humanity. It ought to be owned by us all. No corporation or nation has the right to privatise the index, commercialise the index, censor what they do not like or auction search ranking to the highest bidder. We have public libraries. We need a public search engine.

In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin made a promise: “We believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm.” Now it is up to us to realise the dream of a non-commercial paradigm for organising the internet. Only then will humanity find the wisdom it needs to deal with the many crises that threaten our shared future.

Why is it libraries didn’t develop a non-commercially driven search engine, I suppose it is because they were too busy at failed early attempts to manage it by adding Dewey’s to it, cataloguing it, portalise it, enforce metatags, PURLS etc. It is not too late though.

However while we have failed to provide search access to the Internet, and thus somewhat lost out our role as information brokers to commercial interests, we have still managed to archive a lot of it and have developed the tools to interrogate that archived content. So while we may not mediate the current Internet, we will the past, if that any consolation.

Google supports journalism

Google which has been blamed by some old media proprietors for destroying newspapers is now donating US$5 million to support journalism initiatives around the world. Hopefully some of this will find its way to citizen journalism.

Of course Google hasn’t really killed any newspapers. Where newspapers have closed overseas is because they did not attract readers.

Google, is many things, but is mainly a search engine and merely takes teaser text and aggregates it, so that you can easily find news articles and links to those article on the news source it is on. And by so doing actually drives users to newspaper or other news media websites.

What will kill newspapers online and in paper is continuing to try and use old and now failed business models.

The paywall erected by News Corp for The Times and Sunday Times Online (and other titles) was an attempt to move away from the free culture of the web. News Corp won’t say how many subscribers they now have to their newspapers but estimates say their readership figures have dropped by over 88%.

The print subscribers to these newspapers also get access to the online version, so they would make up a significant proportion of the readership. Otherwise institutional subscribers (which would have a large number of readers at work for whom the newspapers are seemingly free) would most likely make up the rest of the readership. Whether this is a sustainable model we are still yet to see.

Skype and facebook

After Google recently started offering users of their gmail (email) service free video calls and cheap international phone calls, we knew Skype would have to do something new.

It firstly reduced its already phone low fees, and is now hooking up with facebook to offer:

With Facebook integration, you can:

◦see your Facebook News Feed in Skype
◦post status updates that can be synced with your Skype mood message
◦comment and like friends’ updates and wall posts
◦call and SMS your Facebook friends on their mobile phones and landlines
◦make a free Skype-to-Skype call if your Facebook friend is also a Skype contact

Google image search

Getting the most out of your next Google image search is going to be easier when Google have finished rolling out their latest changes. New features include a more compact tiled grid of image results, as well as the ability to scroll between pages (instead of having to click between each one) and a hover (or mouse-over) function that shows an enlarged view of selected images. The changes are set to be rolled out worldwide over the next few days.

New Google image search results display

New Google image search results display

YouTube’s 5th birthday

YouTube is now 5 years old and has 2 billion visits a day.
To celebrate they have a page where people tell their YouTube story and some celebrity mentions.

Here is Pedro Aldomovar’s choice of favourite content.

If you are not a Spanish speaker this video will give you a chance to play with the new Captioning that YouTube has installed (to access and alter the settings you will see a little CC image on the bottom right of the video, click on it).
Google/YouTube is now closed captioning a number of videos, and also allowing users to create captioning on their or (with permission) other’s videos. This is being done for 2 reasons. Firstly, by creating captioning transcripts videos will become textually searchable by Google, thus incredibly more accessible and, secondly, because laws to make content accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing are in the offing in the US.

closed captioning on YouTube

The service is still in Beta form and many of the YouTube automatically created captions (using speech to text software) are not accurate, but it is getting there.
Closed captioning on YouTube

What does this mean for us in Australia, well as public servants we will also have to make accessibility for all Australians a priority as the Government has agreed to the WC3′s WCAG 2.0 (see

So if you are a librarian putting up videos on your Library website, you had better start captioning too. As usual Google has the tools to make captioning simple and the capacity to do it online see here

Google Wave says hello to the masses

As of yesterday, Google Wave has emerged from it’s beta coocoon. You no longer need an invitation to use it and start collaborating, just log in with your regular Google account! All you need to do is visit.

If you’re unsure where to get started, or need some tips on how to use it, you might like to check out The complete guide to Google Wave.