Or more accurately a search engine (although it’s really a discovery engine). It’s powered using a Google Custom Search and works by allowing users to add a random word to their search term based on a topic of their choice. Simply:

1. Enter your search term in the window
2. Select a category for your random word
3. That’s it!

The categories are somewhat random (as you’d hope from such a site I expect) including Shakespearean themes, first and last names, great ideas and the major arcana and suits of the Tarot (?!). From these you’ll be given a random search term which you have no control over.

I had a go with the gentleman of the day Barack Obama and tried a few categories:

  • “Barack Obama” and Great Ideas gave me “Education” as my random term and gave me SERPs about the President’s education, his policies on education and the like.
  • “Barack Obama” and Tarot Arcana and Suits gave me “Chariots” as my random term and gave me a whole host of Obama related horseless chariot metaphors.

It’s a great idea and a good way of discovering some of the weird and wonderful things on the web that you just wouldn’t find using conventional search engines.

Mabel's a bit of a super lady

Another day, another niche search engine. This time, from our very shores it would seem. The market: over 50s. The search engine AskMabel (presumably AskJeeves grandma? Or maybe mother, his age is somewhat ambiguous)

This search engine deliberately filters results to cater for the more silvery surfer.Presumably it ranks results with  keywords associated with the more mature user higher than others.

Having a quick go by searching for ‘London transport’ it does appear to work quite well. Transport for London appears top as one would expect but then it presents results on disabled access and travel costs for older travellers. It also offers search facets such as ‘health’, ‘finance’, ‘retirement’ and leisure.

The ultimate test of course is whether I could see my mum using this and the answer is ‘yes’! I could!

Nice work Mabel!

via New Search Engine Launches This Month Designed For Older Internet Users – Yahoo! News.

Google revolutionised search over a decade ago by letting site popularity determine where a site appeared in rankings. The wisdom behind this was ‘the wisdom of crowds’ in that the most popular sites would by virtue be the best – not infallible logic but certainly a strong argument.

Liverpool FC crowd

Would you trust this crowd?

But who is to say that sites that are popular are necessarily the best? I mean an average Saturday night on ITV surely exposes debunks that idea.

And now a search engine has emerged called Million Short which removes the top million (or however many you decide) search results from your search and gives you very different search results. Why not give it a go and see what you find? There may be some gems on page 100,000…

canoe river jungle

I now use a canoe to shop on Amazon…but it’s not convenient

I got a Kindle a few months back. It’s pretty good even though I have to wrestle with the moral conflicts of fueling the Amazon Empire which some commentators than me are ceasing to do.

I got one mainly because I have a quite hideous 1 hour 40 minute commute which involves sitting on a very old, very slow train for most of that time. Having a collection of books, magazines, blog posts and journal articles at my finger tips is therefore a godsend.

Choosing what to read via Amazon however is proving a difficult and frustrating process. Previously upon browsing for a non-specific book I’d generally visit a bookshop or a library and have a mooch. In fact it’s one of my favourite pastimes. Browsing say detective fiction in a bookshop is pretty easy to do you just look at the sides of books and make an informed decision.

Not so easy when browsing Amazon’s site. Even with it’s category breakdowns you can be slowly trudging through page after page of millions of books at a time. It’s fine if you’re looking specifically for something but browsing is difficult.

I am increasingly reliant on Amazon’s recommendations which whilst pretty accurate do rather reinforce what I’ve already read and remove that joy of finding something totally new or rare in a bookshop.

The latest crazy technology from Google towers are the augmented reality glasses which will allow users to define what they are looking at using image recognition technology and Google’s own extensive image base (well they don’t own it but they use it anyway…different story).

Xray glasses

What next? X-ray glasses...that actually work?! Now that I'd like to see...

This seems like a great idea, if you’ll get past the absurdity of people wearing computers on their heads to identify things, rather than say looking it up or asking someone (god forbid!). I don’t think I’ll bother with a pair myself however because I rather like finding things out in the said tried and tested ways of asking and researching. Also for anyone that hasn’t tried to identify an image using the drag and drop technique on Google Image Search – expect to be disappointed.

It has been suggested that Google is making people dumb, or at least search engines in general. Whilst I disagree that the medium itself is literally eating up the braincells of those who use it I do think that the quick-fix world of Google and its ilk are eroding basic and important and nuanced skills such as researching, communicating and exploring the world – and that just ain’t right in my book.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve recently developed a Facebook page where I work and some of the discussions I’ve had with colleagues have prompted me to write this post.

It’s very easy to just jump on a bandwagon as an academic library and start-up a Facebook page, Twitter feed, Youtube site, Flickr page etc etc and before long you’ll need a dedicated Social Media professional to keep it all up-to-date. Actually I don’t think it’ll be long before this is a familiar role for academic libraries, it’s already the case in many commercial companies.

But what’s the point? What’s it all for? And do students really want you invading their social spaces with details on the latest books and resources you have?

Well my response to it would simply be adapt or die. Facebook is the most visited site on the internet. End of. Anyone who works in an academic library will be used to seeing students log-in to a machine and then, almost by way of habit, log-in to Facebook. If you can at least put something about your services into that omnipresent medium you are improving your promotion of library resources and improving student’s access to information – which is surely what we’re here to do?

Other social media sites like Twitter and Youtube are worth considering but I would say Facebook is the one you need to nail first.


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