Archive for the ‘search engines’ Category


Google instant and search confidence

In search engines,Uncategorized on September 29, 2010 by Danielle Tagged: , ,

This post is an excuse to give props to a lovely, visual analysis of Google Instant and its early impact on how people search. The author found that nine out of the eleven sites analysed had increases in usage of 6-7+ word terms. The data bore this out- there were decreases in shorter, 2-3 word search phrases.

Does having several similar phrases flash up as soon as you enter text into Google (the purpose of Google Instant) act as a prompt or encouragement to lengthen your search phrase? I think it does, simply for the reason that I find it comforting to know that a series of word exists as a bona fide phrase and that I’m not typing in a bunch of gibberish (which does occasionally happen). I bet some people find it annoying and will plead with Google to give us an option to turn it off. Seriously- if it starts to maybe seem a bit irritating at this point (which it does to me), it will be agony after a few months. I realise it can’t be avoided by using the search bar embedded in Safari at least…

Speaking of presumed pleading- Gmail now gives us the option to not show emails as threads. Good news for some, but I’ve gotten used to it.


Excellence and equity – google in action

In Blogging on Blogging,search engines on July 13, 2010 by africker Tagged: ,

Intrigued to spot how a post on my work blog about the new NHS white paper was a) immediately picked up by Google b) given a time stamp of roughly when I started writing the blog post rather than when I published it and c) given massive prominence.

The post is currently (10am 13 July) first result from Google (above the white paper itself) for a search on  – excellence and equity nhs and the only relevant hit in the first ten for “Excellence and equity” with or without quotes – it seems education already used this particular tag line!  I am sure this will wash out in the next couple of days but nice to be at the top of things.

Much of the content was taken (with permission) from a Bulletin prepared by David Nicholls at East London and the City Alliance Health Intelligence Unit. His posting of the bulletin predated my post by some time (he was obviously in bright and early this morning!) but it is not coming up in Google.  I know their blog is relatively new (my work one started in Aug 2007 – with a trad Hello World post).  We also got a lot of traffic and links when we created a similar update post around the release of the Darzi report.


Similar sites and related articles

In search engines,Web 2.0 & all that,Website reviews on March 29, 2010 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , , ,

I like “similar sites/related articles” or whatever it might be called from one site to the next – in Google, Google Scholar, PubMed, Scirus etc – as I find it a useful way to develop and “flesh-out” a search. I was therefore happy to hear about It does what you would expect it to do. You tell it the web address of the site you’re interested in, click the relevant button, and it gives you a list of similar sites; should you like you can install the Firefox extension. The “don’t get it confused with” website does something very similar, but looks nicer; should you like you can install the Chrome extension. (I’m writing this in Chrome as we speak, though I do like the themes in the new Firefox).

The trouble is, and it’s a shame to report it, but Google’s similar sites feature seems to give better results. and can get rather surreal at times. Mind you, if you like living on the edge this could be considered an advantage; you never know where you might end up.

It would be nice if Bing could try their hand at this, now that they’re hoping to be taken seriously.


Google irks health librarians

In search engines on November 5, 2009 by Danielle Tagged: , , , ,

An article published not too recently on HCPlive has irked a few health librarians on LIS-Medical. This excerpt in particular seems designed to rub us the wrong way:

Forget your local medical library and PubMed and use Google Scholar to search for scholarly literature published in the form of peer-reviewed pieces, theses, books, and abstracts from any number of scholarly organizations, including professional societies, universities, and academic publishers.

One librarian has responded to the piece with enthusiasm, suggesting she had become fed up with PubMed. The Krafty Librarian has sounded off about PubMed recently, to say while PubMed had always hidden the controlled vocabulary, the MeSH, it had become even more hidden with the recent revamp. Is this a full-on backlash against PubMed, or a few disgruntled individuals?

I find myself not wanting to agree with the librarians who slated the HCPlive article. I would like to think that the words ‘forget your local medical library’ are indeed fighting words (to light a fire under our sometimes complacent bums). Can our local medical libraries not compete with Google Scholar, seeing as they have must have full access to this free search engine, and many more databases and resources that may not be free or as ‘user friendly’?

I disagree with the librarian who insists that doctors are at danger of ‘wasting their time’ by engaging with new web technologies such as apps. This is downright patronising to doctors-why should they not be allowed to keep up to date on their own, if they want?

He also stated that to miss out the apostrophe in ‘Crohn’s disease’ was a calamity in Google Scholar. No it isn’t-check out the ‘Did you mean’ suggestion at the top of the results. Google is great for spell-checking!


The curse of IE6

In search engines on November 3, 2009 by africker Tagged: , ,

So NHS Evidence has been upgraded?  Lets have a look.

The first thing that leaps to the eye (ahem) is that the site is broken in IE6.  Navigation menus are not aligned, the search box has drifted off to the right and the results display is variously squashed or overflowing into the wrong section of the page.  This is something of an issue given that most of the NHS still lives in a retro world of IE6 (Copyright Microsoft 1995-2004).  I am sure it will be resolved soon (and it works fine with Chrome) but testing against IE6 must be an essential for any site deployment aimed at NHS users. 

What about the changes that were actually desired?

The accreditated sources of guidance have started to come on stream and have a slightly stretched mini eye to advertise themselves in the results.  This is visually clear but practically confusing (see the widely distributed quote from the Minister which only adds to the potential confusion).  A search for diabetes reveals lots of accredited source hits – but down at number 25 is Sign Publication No55 Management of Diabetes.  This does not carry the logo even though SIGN is one of the three bodies currently authorised to use it.  Why?  It might be the age of the item (2001) or some other factor.  Certainly it will be confusing to the end user.

A facility to rate results has been added with a Likert scale followed by a free text box for opinions.   You do not have to be logged in with the new My Evidence section to use this so there is no mechanism for feeding back to those who contribute comments in this way.  I wonder how much use this will receive?  It is definitely worth a try as developers and may garner some useful feedback.

The final obvious major change (there may be some subtle ones I have missed) is My Evidence. 

It will be interesting to see the level of take up of this facility (and to consider the levels of usage that the old MyLibrary facility on NLH attracted).  James Robertson in his excellent book “What every Intranet team should know” advances that experience shows only 5-10% of users will make use of personalisation features. 

My Evidence offers a means to save NHS Evidence searches and  set up alerts from those searches.  This seems to work OK.  My test search generated an enormous and unrealistic number of hits for the first week but I guess this might be expected.  My Evidence also offers the ability to save a result which is a welcome addition.  This currently lacks the means to subsequently manage these results (folders, tags etc?) which will be necessary for this function to remain useful as more documents are added.

Less convincing is the My News Feeds feature.  This is a fairly locked down RSS reader.  You can only add feeds from a very limited directory (most categories were empty when I had a look).  When you do add them you have no control over how many entries are displayed or how much content you see initially.  You also cannot save any of the results that are particularly interesting for later reference.  In  many ways it is a more limited version of the similarly unconvincing offer included in MyLibrary on NLH.

You can also add an optional profile.  There is however no justification given at present as to why you would want to.  Perhaps social tools will follow that will make this a more worthwhile feature?

My Evidence use a widget model so it is to be hoped that more options and control will be progressively given to the user.  If the iGoogle model is followed you could create a useful alternative starting point for people.  Hopefully the next iteration of NHS Evidence will see the addition of a HLISD widget that would allow end users to find their closest library or information service. 

The final thing of note is the authentication route.  NHS Evidence have chosen to require a new registration from users.  It is to be hoped that Athens will also be enabled in a future version.  Across the NHS the push is to reduce the number of logins required.  By linking to Athens the route to paid for content could be smoothed.  Athens also links people to organisations and roles which would be a useful way to potentially segment and tailor features on the site.  Not using Athens does have the advantage of allowing anyone to register and is no doubt administratively less burdensome.  One way forward might be the model adopted by BMJLearning where you can link your site login to your Athens login.


Adding NHS Evidence Search to Google Toolbar

In search engines on September 24, 2009 by africker Tagged: , , ,

For some reason I have held out till now against installing Google Toolbar – more fool me.  It really is very handy.

On starting to play with it I immediately thought – I wish I could use this to launch a search on resource of the moment – NHS Evidence.  And what do you know – you can add new search targets.

Once you have Google Toolbar installed you just go to the search engine you want to add – right click in the search box and select “Generate Custom Search”. 

Well – that is the theory.  In practice my first run at it added a button to my toolbar but all it did was send me to NHS Evidence and add my search terms in the box ready to hit search.  I wasn’t satisfied with that so I bodged about with the code a bit and got this.

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″?>
<custombuttons xmlns=”“>
    <search method=”post” charset=”utf-8″>{query}</search>
    <title>NHS Evidence</title>
    <description>NHS Evidence</description>

So once you have added your initial (not quite right) search button – right click on it – select NHS Evidence Button Options – click on advanced – and replace the code with the above and save to the toolbar.

Bingo.  It still isn’t perfect by any means – if you try and do a subsequent search from the box at the top of your results you get sent back to the NHS Evidence home page.  And the icon is just a blob – though as a blue blob it looks a little like the Liquorice Allsort of doom that is the NHS Evidence logo.

I know NHSE are planning to create a smart Google style tool bar but in the mean time this does the job fine.  If they like they could set up a button that works properly (I am sure this would actually be pretty easy) and host an “add this to my Google Toolbar” link.

If anyone can fix my bodge to work better (or hosts an “add this to my Toolbar link” – let me know and I will update this post accordingly.


NHS Evidence; Google without the good bits

In Evidence-Based Medicine,search engines,Web 2.0 & all that,Website reviews on September 24, 2009 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Our other Alan wrote a piece a couple of posts ago on, amongst other things, this article in the Nursing Times. Basically it’s a press release for NICE, written by an implementation advisor for said large, powerful organisation. It describes how NHS Evidence will be so very useful for nurses, and I suppose it could be argued that it’s useful because the odd nurse (not literally you understand) may be flicking through the magazine, scan the article, and go and try out a bit of evidence hunting themselves. Surely a happy outcome.

But I fear that our odd nurse will only try out NHS Evidence once, maybe even twice, but probably not a third time. Why? Well, according to an issue of the Eyes on Evidence Newsletter (more PR from NICE) the top five most frequently used search terms were 1) asthma; 2) prostate AND cancer; 3) evidence; 4) flu OR influenza; 5) breastfeeding, so we get an idea of the level of sophistication behind most searches. Let’s try the top one, asthma. 5026 hits, including 516 guidelines and 1627 drug information pieces. You get the general idea. The first ‘guideline’ is  “Guidelines for the prevention, identification and management of occupational asthma: evidence review and recommendations”, a pretty hardcore 88 page PDF of an evidence review, complete with evidence tables, from the British Occupational Health Research Foundation. Not at all helpful, I would’ve thought, to our odd yet eager nurse. If s/he wanted a good review of what to with someone with asthma surely they’d just go to an evidence synthesis product, such as Clinical Evidence, CKS, Dynamed or the Map of Medicine.

The problem is that NHS Evidence’s obsession with Google means that their search engine suffers exactly the same problem as Google (too many hits) but does not have the same saving grace (that the one you really want is at the top). Plus, and this is still really the crux of my problem, I still don’t have a clue who NHS Evidence is meant to be for – neither, I think, do the people behind NHS Evidence. “All things to all people” often ends up as nothing to no-one.