Wednesday, December 21, 2005


There's an interesting article in theguardian, The sparring and spin of the Google dance", which is trying to highlight the unscrupulous art of artificially enhancing your website's ranking on Google searches. However, the dilemma news organisations always face is that this kind of expose' often ends up providing the world with a "how to guide". And with the current popularity of Guardian Unlimited, it will give webmasters the knowhow that will surely exacerbate the problem.

Anyway here's the "Five ways to get to the top" as advised in the article:

Status on Google is determined by a number of factors, all of which can be faked

Key words

Good practitioners will make sure sites contain clear information that is relevant to a user search. Others will use misleading but popular keywords - such as "Britney Spears" - to try to capitalise on somebody else's fame. Some even attempt to hide fake keywords on a page so that they can be read by search engines but not by people


The more people that link to a site, the more popular it is in Google's mind. By carefully choosing who to link to and where to place those links, SEOs can push a target website up the rankings. Some shady operators even create a fake ecology of websites which all point at each other


Spamming is a tactic employed by unscrupulous SEOs, and attempts to raise profile and popularity by leaving fake messages pointing towards the target across thousands of other sites and weblogs. While unpopular with surfers, it often boosts the ranking of the site in question

Regular updates

Sites which seem new are often considered more important, because they are more likely to contain relevant information. Unscrupulous operators will often steal content from other pages to create the appearance of movement


Each web page carries a selection of unseen information that tells other programs what its contents are. While most SEOs simply include correct information about a given page, crooked operators will use unrelated terms to try to direct unwitting surfers

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Word police.

Great to see that the word Blog appears in the Lake Superior University 2005 list of Banished Words. How else though are we supposed to describe 'erectile dysfunction'? Floppy penis? Dear me, the things they get up to in Universities these days. Haven't they got better things to do like going on dates ( I think that's how they put it in the States).

Read more here

Monday, December 19, 2005

New kid on the blog.

Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has finally gotten round to starting his very own blog. So far it is pretty rubbish, but it's bound to get better.

TBL once said, ""The internet is certainly not mature, because so many things are missing. It's adolescent, because it thinks it's the bee's knees and can do so much. Whereas, in fact, it has just started."

Well at least one thing that was missing, isn't anymore . . .

Read a TBL profile here

Monday, December 12, 2005

Why mince words

Doing a review of the year and came across a story that reminded me of how subtle tabloid headlines can be.

In the Guardian (22/04/2005)

Mother stabbed on walk with young son: Teacher may be paralysed after daytime attack in quiet village

And same story in the Daily Star (22/04/2005)
Nutter stabs mum in neck

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Is theguardian trying to tell us something?

On a recent search for Tony Blair articles on Guardian Unlimited, I started to see a pattern forming.

Defeat at home for Blair
Guardian, Friday November 9 2001

Blair devastated' by England defeat
Guardian, Friday June 21 2002

Election defeat piles pressure on Blair
Guardian, Saturday September 20 2003

Defeat for Blair on foundation hospitals
Guardian, Wednesday October 1 2003

Defeat for Blair over compulsory pensions
Guardian, Thursday October 2 2003

Sharon's triumph is Blair's defeat
Guardian, Friday April 16 2004

Blair suffers first Europe defeat
Guardian, Tuesday April 20 2004

Get real, says Blair after NHS defeat
Guardian, Thursday September 29 2005

And then…...

After eight years in power Tony Blair hears a new word: Defeat
Guardian, Thursday November 10 2005

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Librarians have still got the look

This week, I was glad to see that the Mirror agreed with my earlier heralding of the Librarian Look:

"Feel the tweed: Once the preserve of librarians, tweed has been given a new lease of life and is the look every smart girl is wearing this winter"
Didi Danso, The Mirror, Dec 5 2005

Sadly no mention of tweed here, but you can learn how to dress in the "sexy librarian look" here.

Over on the Indy, the sexual appetite of their librarians was called into question:

"Would Philip Larkin have had sex at all if he hadn't been a poet? Fat, balding librarians tied to their mum's apron strings don't usually run three lovers."
Rowan Pelling, So poets and artists have more sex. Tell me something I didn't know..., Independent on Sunday, Dec 4 2005

Evidently Rowan Pelling in the Indy hadn't read the Express list of famous librarians (I guess their readers don't know librarians can be interesting)

More famous librarians here

"Philip Larkin died 20 years ago on Friday. As well as being a poet, he was also a librarian. Here are some other former librarians...

Lynne Truss, Mao Tse-Tung, Sir Ludovic Kennedy, Casanova, Laurie Taylor, Anthea Turner, August Strindberg, John Braine, David Hockney, J Edgar Hoover, Laura Bush."

Mitchell Symons, Things you didn't know you didn't know!, Sunday Express, Nov 27 2005

Weekly cliche count: a healthy 3


Now that Jimbo, as I believe we are to call Jimmy Wales, has decided to tighten Wikipedia's submission rules, according to the BBC, librarians can now get all hot and bothered about Uncylopedia

Can't wait for some newspaper to lift an entry and print the info. Just wait for the, 'they should employ comedians' rants on the newslists.

Top of the blogs

Here's a list of the most influential librarian blogs based on LinkRank. Very good, apart from the accidental omission of gaolhouseblog . . .

Monday, December 05, 2005

Online greenhorns

As trainees who claim to know very little about the information world the online exhibition served as an overwhelming introduction into the world of technological data management. Taking advantage of the fantastic jellybeans available and the free postcards from the British Library we attempted to gain some understanding of the mindboogling number of information services that seem to be available to the humble librarian. However, our foray into alternative careers showed us that we are no longer 'humble librarians', but 'instead information brokers' or indeed 'digital assets managers'. This was a far cry from Holly's expectation of joss sticks and yoghurt weaving. The speaker failed to encourage us in our hunt for the glamourous side of records management - but we believe, we really do. Our belief was overwhelmingly restored by Sue Hill's pink champagne driven recruitment fest. In conclusion, although as beginners in this world the technological side was a bit of a bafflement it was an interesting introduction and encouraged us to develop a better understanding of the tools of our trade.

And they're already advertising for Online 2006 . . .

More on the Wikipedia debate

This is getting interesting. In response to all the Wikipedia themed stuff on NewsLib, co-founder, Jimmy Wales, has replied to Newslib.
Not really surprising when confronted with this sort of comment:

> I think if you held a gun to Jimmy Wales and demanded that he choose
> either community or accuracy, he'd opt for the former, not the latter.
> And therein lies the issue.

Jimmy replied

Absolutely not. I'll choose accuracy every single time. Period.
Although, I don't really relish the thought of being held at gunpoint by
anyone, thanks. :-)

The mission I have set for myself in life is to give a freely licensed
high quality encyclopedia to every single person on the planet in their
own language. The core community shares with me this value, and indeed
this is ultimately the definition of what it means to be a part of the
core community. Therefore in a very real sense the supposed choice between "community"
and "accuracy" is a bit premature: since the community is incredibly
passionate about accuracy, getting rid of them isn't going to help at all.

It was this figure though that really caught my eye:

"I have reason to think that our error rate as
judged by experts is in some domains now only about 30% worse than
Britannica's. With the forthcoming review process and the ongoing
improvements in quality that we're seeing across the board, I think in a
year or two we'll be able to come "out of alpha" into "beta" stage at a
level where our quality essentially matches them (but unevenly, i.e.
we'll be better than them in some clearly definable areas and worse than
them in other clearly definable areas)."

But will the "beta" stage be achieved with the help of librarians? Had to chuckle at Jimmy's reply

"I would encourage library administrators to view occassional staff time
spent working on Wikipedia as being a part of the general culture of
public service that libraries embody."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Taking the Wiki . . .

Newslib has been buzzing the past few days with postings about a false Wikipedia entry. Last Tuesday in the USA Today, John Seigenthaler Sr. discussed his experiences of being the subject of a false biography on Wikipedia, which was copied also to and For four months he was depicted as a suspected assassin of President Kennedy. Much comment from the Newslib crew ranging from outrage to the general view that you should never take anything for granted from Wikipedia without checking against conventional sources as well. Sounds obvious to me, but Gary Price (a man worth listening to) makes the point that while Info pros know this, ordinary punters, "take what they can get and move on". One suggestion was that Wikipedia might like to start hiring librarians to weed out misinformation. Yeah, right, and who's going to pay for it and doesn't this go against the whole Wiki concept?

Anyway, plenty of discussion out there. In October, theguardian asked: "Can you trust Wikipedia?" The article had "experts" rate Wikipedia entries on subjects within their fields. Perhaps it would have been more productive, and in the spirit of the whole thing, if the "experts" just logged onto Wikipedia and corrected the articles rather than sneering at the whole concept of an open source encyclopedia in the national press.

More info here, here and here.

This one will go and on . . .

Thursday, December 01, 2005

. . . and all I got from it was a green pen.

Went to a work training session today hosted by The Mind Gym. I'm not usually into this sort of thing but have to say I enjoyed myself. Not sure if I learnt much on "Managing Expectations" though, but at least I got a great green pen as a souvenir. And is there possibly a better slogan to put on a pen than "mind gym - putting the ink into think".

(Trying to find a good list of other corporate slogans, I came across
this - I mean, would you buy a corporate Latin motto from these people??)

Anyway, here's a hall of fame of popular advertising slogans from recent years.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

City Information Group (Christmas) Hug

I popped into the Kensington Roof Gardens on Monday night for the 2005 Information Christmas Party the place to be for the creme de la creme of the UK information world.

OK, it was a load of librarians drinking and jiving with their information vendors but I didn't let that put me off. Everyone looked very nice in their smartest clothes and to begin with there was a real buzz about the place as we chatted with ex-bosses and business card-toting salesmen. A slightly shambolic raffle (gallon bottle of Baileys anyone?) added some excitement although it was a bit of a mystery as to who was actually allowed to enter. The drink flowed and the food - well it occasionaly appeared. The rumour was that the catering cost £12,000 so they must have been the most expensive ham butties in history, even if they were made with focaccia. As the night wore on though, the event began to feel like a certain kind of office party with some inventive movements on the dancefloor and the weary loitering around the edges. It's a shame that more didn't venture into the actual gardens as they were the true star of the party. One party veteran suggested that this year's wan't as raucous as 2004 although that may have been due to the fact that many people were heading to Online the next day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Online Information 2005

And so to Online information 2005at the cavernous Olympia Grand Hall. I went along on Tuesday, the first day of the event, so at least the exhibitors still had a bit of enthusiasm. That is apart from the people on the Information Today stand who seemed a bit jaded even by lunchtime. Or perhaps it was just me not looking like a potential customer. Anyway, there are two ways to approach the whole thing. You either select one or two vendors that you're interested in, speak to them and hopefully do the business, shake hands - then clear off asap. Or, you wander around aimlessly only visiting stands that grab your attention - you know, pretty colours, ladies dressed as fairies/men not wearing suits etc, tasteful bags full to tat. Ah yes, the giveaways. As far as I could see (and I may have missed something) the LexisNexis USB and the John Wiley bags were the best gifts on offer. Lots of useful magazines available.

The seminars are always worth checking out and I sat in on one about Succesful contract negotiation. One of the points made though was that you shouldn't waste vendors' time by showing an interest in a product that you've got no intention of getting. Well, hang on a minute. Surely you need to try and test something before making a decision and what about all the hours wasted by vendors hassling you to 'talk business'? I clapped at end of the talk anyway.

Librarians: all books and no looks?

Love it or hate it (and I'm all for embracing it - tweed is very in this season), the cliched image of librarians is still alive and kicking. As well as Sharon Osbourne's (admittedly amusing) rant at Madonna (repeated below for those of you who missed it), I've spotted these librarian references in the press over the last month:

"Her outfit (another disappointment) is more librarian than vampire: a sharp white collar poking out of a neat blue tank top. I glimpse a striped purple cuff. The look is completed with a large, oval brooch, worn in the centre of her neck. I wonder if it is pinned directly into her flesh. She smiles. I think I see blood."
Anne Rice: Interview with the former vampire, Chris Ayres, The Times, Nov 5 2005

"It used to be the preserve of stuffy librarians but, thanks to a Marks & Sparks ad starring Twiggy, the humble cardie is back."
Amber Morales, The Mirror, Oct 28 2005

"Take away the ovation for Dado Prso and this Saturday afternoon Ibrox gathering could have been mistaken for a particularly quiet convention of librarians . Sshh..."
Rangers v Motherwell: Prso presence lifts the blues, John Greechan, Daily Mail, Oct 24 2005

"It's like dressing up with her. One day you're in fucking gun gear, then you're in horsing gear, then you dress like a fucking dyke, then you dress like a hooker, then you're in a flowery dress reading kids' poetry looking like a fucking librarian - then you're back looking like an old hooker again. For fuck's sake, who are you?"
Sharon Osborne, Word, Nov 10 2005

Of course, if you want to know what real librarians look like, then go here

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Drink? How about a deer? (or even an elk).

Forget about the gross misrepresentation of women as binge drinking jezebels, what about the poor elk?

Recently reported in the binge-watch section of The Guardian a drunken party of elks surrounded an old people's home in the town of Ostra Goinge, near Malmo, after devouring high numbers of fermented apples, Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter reports. Police with dogs had failed to scare them off, and the animals only ran away after hunters with guns arrived on the scene.
"It's not unusual for elks to get drunk," forester Fredrik Jonsson told the newspaper. "They don't recognise the difference between fermented and not fermented and stuff themselves down to the last apple."
There have been previous problems with elks: a female elk recently attacked three joggers in Norway. Last year another elk in Sweden stole a bicycle from a garden, which it regularly visited to eat the roses. An elderly couple had used the bike to fence off their garden; the elk disappeared with the bike hanging round its neck. The bike was later found bent and damaged beyond repair.

Incidently please note that the only elk referred to by gender was a female.

Patrol music . . .

A shop in South Wales, reports icwales, is using a new alarm system called Mosquito, “which is only clearly audible to under 20s”. It emits a noise that annoys the kids so much that they stop hanging around the shop. Fantastic news! Unless of course you’re an innocent youngster who’s been sent round the shop for milk by your parents, because then it'll just piss you off.

It’s only a matter of time before the technology is usurped by a bored, computer-adept, Spar employee. Then the kids will have a way to communicate at frequencies that the elderly can’t hear. Then they can cause some real trouble...

Reminds me of a story on the bbc back in January. Tyne and Wear Public Transport installed speakers in their bus stops and train stations to belt out classical music. However, not just for the overall enjoyment of their passengers –but to stop young hoodie wearing hoodlums from hanging about and intimidating people. And guess what? It worked.

Studies proved that trying to show off you latest Jamster ring-tone to your mates, and generally acting like an arse just isn’t cool when accompanied by Mozart or Beethoven. So the kids left, deciding to intimidate people in the park instead.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Warning: Smoking can cause lack of cabin pressure.

With the government considering a total smoking ban across Britain, it’s interesting to note how Australia deals the problem of people smoking on public transport.

A BBC news story tells how a French tourist recently admitted that she tried to open an aeroplane door during her flight to Brisbane, to have a cigarette. The 34 year-old woman, who suffers fear of flying, had drank alcohol with sleeping pills to cope, and could not remember the incident.

Fortunately, the memory was still fresh in the minds of her fellow passengers (who I suspect now also have a fear of flying ) leading the Brisbane Magistrates Court to issue her with a £429 good behaviour bond - which she will only have to pay if she commits another offence. I wonder what the penalty would have been if she had actually lit the cigarette.

It seems that on a holiday to Australia you can be drugged up to the eyeballs and endanger the lives of a plane full of people and pretty much get away scott free. If anyone can find the name of the tour operator she was using, I’d love to give them a go.

The story finishes off by saying that the woman was travelling with her husband, who was obviously too busy reading the instructions on the vomit bag to keep an eye on what she was doing.

So nearly a candidate for an esteemed Darwin Award - where the most stupid smoking-related death seems to be when a group of soldiers in the Ukraine decided to take a fag break while guarding a, wait for it, ammunition dump. The result was a series of explosions that lasted a week, debris tossed 25 miles away and amazingly only one fatality. Read more here.

I drink therefore I am . . . a woman.

Over the past few weeks we've noticed a real misogyny attached to the reporting on extended drinking hours. Almost every article you see, even in the more liberal press, is accompanied by a photograph of a woman lying down in the street, looking the worse for wear. Pretty lazy journalism, aside from anything else.

I picked up the Standard on the tube last week and spotted another little trick - juxtaposition. An article on licensing hours was placed next to a small piece about an elderly man killed by a "drunken yob" who had drunk "at least seven pints of lager". The suggestion presumably being that if pubs are allowed to serve alcohol 24 hours a day, lots of little old ladies will be stabbed to death. Not very subtle but can be effective.

Here's some examples from The bbc, The Mail on Sunday and The Daily Mail.

Women are criticised in the press for their drinking habits much more often than men. Recent stories have included health warnings "Epidemic of liver disease hits women drinkers", and suggestions that women are to blame for being sexually assaulted "Third of young women assaulted while drunk". And true to form, The Sun stated its position clearly on October 3 with the headline 'Women drink hell'. And finally, an article in the Observer "Bingeing women fuel crime" even suggested that women were to blame for male violence: "The days of women exerting a civilising influence in pubs may be fading...".

Here's a bit of analysis:

Number of articles about alcohol and women in the UK nationals (not FT) over the past year: 162
Number of articles about alcohol and men in the UK nationals (not FT) over the past year: 102

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

World's most visited blog site

Modestly described as a "directory of wonderful things." - has become the
world's most visited blog site - it get's more hits than - below, an entry from today's front page:

.......The Fretboard Journal: debut issue
I just received issue no. 1 of The Fretboard Journal, "A magazine for musical instrument players, collectors, and builders." It's lavishly produced with full color photos throughout

The crazy frog and the crazy 80s

During the Falklands conflict, Mrs 'bonkers' T coerces Mr Mitterand to give him secret codes of French made missiles sold to Argentinians, by threatening to drop an atomic bomb on Argentina. Mr ' bonkers' Mitterand comforts himself with the thought that he will get his revenge by building a tunnel under the Channel which will destroy Britain's island status.

Fuller blog treatment here.

If you hate the French, find friends here.

If you hate Thatcher, find solidarity here.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Obesity is getting bigger

Looking into how obesity was reported 10 years ago I discovered that there wasn't much of it about, in the UK newspapers anyway. It seems that as are our bodies getting bigger, column inches expanding at an unhealthy rate too:

Number of UK national newspaper headlines with the words "obese" or "obesity" in 1994 = 6
Number of UK national newspaper headlines with the words "obese" or "obesity" in 2004 = 465

Number of UK national newspaper articles containing the words "obese" or "obesity" in 1994 = 157
Number of UK national newspaper articles containing the words "obese" or "obesity" in 2004 = 4557

(* Excludes FT and Scottich titles)

Monday, January 10, 2005

Unorgastic experiences

Whilst looking for Germaine Greer quotes, I came across the following:

"Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. The pleasure they give is steady, unorgastic, reliable, deep and long-lasting."
(Daddy, We Hardly Knew You, 1989)

Fine words, although it's hardly surprising that a famous academic should have such respect for libraries. What caught my eye was the word 'unorgastic'. The OED has orgastic down as "Of, pertaining to, or charaterized by orgasm" so I suppose she was spot on in describing libraries as the opposite. My interest in the word had been aroused though, so I did a search to see who else had used it. As far as I can tell, 'unoragstic' has not appeared in any of the publications on Lexis Nexis (apart from a couple of reviews of Greer's book) and Google only throws up rather a lot people repeating the quote. Can't wait to see how she describes the Big Brother house.