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Newsletter No.8

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                             Free Pint
          Helping you find quality information on the Web

ISSN 1460-7239                                    19 February 1998 #8
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                Welcome to Free Pint Number Eight!

We have another fact-packed issue for you. We start off with a look
at one of the newest search engines "Northern Light" which as well
as searching the Web also offers a Special Collection of other
valuable documents.  Then in the Feature Article we tell you how to
keep up-to-date with all that is happening on the Web and how to avoid
suffering from the dreaded "information overload". Then in the Letters
section I review some of the great digital birthday cards I received
following the mention in the last issue of the mini competition.

In issue number seven we mentioned that we want to build up an
overview of our subscribers based on their country. We sent an email
to all subscribers whose email address ends in ".com" or ".net" and
over 60% of those replied (what other survey could boast that reply
rate?!). The information has been collated on the Web site
automatically, and an up-to-the-minute breakdown of our subscriber
base can now be found at

We now have over 6000 subscribers, but we still need your help. Please
do forward the newsletter to anyone who you think may find it useful.
We can only continue to provide Free Pint with your support, and
telling other people is the best way you can help.

William Hann
Editor, Free Pint

PS: If you do not already automatically receive your free copy of
Free Pint, or would like to see past issues, then please visit our
Web site at  You may also find this issue
easier to read and use if you print it out first.

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                           IN THIS ISSUE

                        TIPS AND TECHNIQUES
                   "A New Light on the Horizon"
                         by Tracy Griffin

                          FEATURE ARTICLE
           "Current Awareness Research on the Internet"
                         by Alison McNab


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TFPL, the premier training organisation in business information,
presents the following courses :
      Intranet & Groupware Re-visited             3 March
      Write & Design WWW Pages - the Basics      12 March
      Legal Issues for the Information Dept      25 March
For further details please contact, visit our
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       Full details at
       Email or phone +44 (0)171 681 1653

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                        TIPS AND TECHNIQUES

                   "A New Light on the Horizon"
                         by Tracy Griffin

Northern Light ( is an exciting new search
engine which manages to search both the internet and its own Special
Collection of over 1,800 premium sources of information not freely
available  elsewhere on the net. Northern Light started in September
1995 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and employs over 40 people who are a
mixture of engineers, librarians, editors, and content experts.

Using people skilled in traditional online searching and information
retrieval means that, unlike other search engines, results are a lot
more accurate.  Northern Light is named after a clipper ship built in
1851 which was designed and engineered differently from any previous
ship. The original Northern Light easily out-raced other clipper
ships of its day, and the search engine's new approach to web
information means that the search engine is also pulling way ahead
of the competition.

What is the Special Collection?

Unsurprisingly, it's a collection of special information from 1800
journals, reviews, books, magazines and news-wires either not
available on the web or hidden away somewhere deep in another site.
The Special Collection is listed both alphabetically and by subject,
including health & fitness, investing, careers, arts & entertainment,
politics, travel, consumer purchasing, and literature - very useful
when looking for specific or specialist information.  One feature
which I would like to see introduced would be the ability to search
by source - for example, to only search travel publications when
planning a holiday.

What does it look like?

I liked Northern Light as soon as I entered the site. Unlike other
search engines it looks incredibly professional - no day-glo colours
or gaudy flashing adverts here (Hotbot, take note).  It loads up very
quickly so I can get on with my search without having to wait for
other bits of the page to appear.

How do I look for information?

The home page gives the option of 3 different sources to search - All
Sources, World Wide Web only and the Special Collection.  The default
is All Sources which I think would be acceptable to most users. I
can't see why I would go on the site to only search their Special
Collection - unless I'd used another search engine already and not
found any information for free.

Typing several words in the search box will return results in which
all terms occur. This is unlike other search engines which list sites
even if they contain only one of the search terms. Phrases can be
identified using quotation marks, and the Boolean operators OR and
NOT can be used to refine searches (AND will be available shortly).
As an experienced user of online databases, the ability to use either
basic word searching or advanced Boolean for more accurate results is
one of my favourite features of Northern Light

How do I see the results of my search?

If the novelty of being able to search simultaneously both the net
and the Special Collection hasn't impressed you, then the way search
results are presented definitely will.  The 25 most relevant sites
are listed with an accuracy rating to give an indication of how
relevant they will be.  Next to each reference is either WWW or
Special Collection to show whether the document is free of charge or
will cost money.  The influence of Northern Light's retrieval experts
shines through brightly here in the way results are automatically
organised into a series of Custom Search Folders.  These group sites
into broad subject categories, some of which are constant (such as
Special Collection, Commercial Sites, Personal Pages) but the rest
are purely subject-driven. For example, a search for pharmaceuticals
gave Vitamins, Back Pain and Vaccines. As someone who searches the
internet for business information, I particularly love the way the
personal home pages are stripped out by these folders.

How do I look at a Special Collection document?

Simple answer is "by paying for it".  Double clicking on the search
result link takes you to a citation of the article/paper/etc giving
details such as title, summary, source, date and, most importantly,
price.  The price depends on the length and source of the article,
ranging from $1 to $4. Articles can be purchased either on a one-off
basis, paying  by credit card, or a subscription account can be set
up.  The latter costs $4.95 per month, for which you get 50 articles
from selected titles only (a quick check of these titles suggests
they're not necessarily the best ones!) - all other articles are
charged to your credit card in the usual way.  For those still wary
of using credit cards over the net, Northern Light boasts of their
"significant effort"  in ensuring the security and privacy of these

What if I don't get what I thought I paid for?

Another real beauty of Northern Light is it's "money back guarantee".
If not completely happy with your purchase, simply click on the
"request a refund" button and the money will be re-credited to your
account - no questions asked! I wonder when the commercial online
databases will start offering this service!

Is it worth the money?

Depends very much on what you have access to already.  If, like me,
you're in a corporate environment with subscriptions to traditional
online services such as Reuters, FT Profile, Dialog etc, then the
answer is probably "no".  However, if you do not have access to these
services the then it may well be a very quick and effective way of
getting information at very low cost.

What do the "experts" think?

If I haven't done enough to convince you that Northern Light is worth
a try, PC Magazine Online made it Search Engine of the Year 1997,
calling it "an invaluable research tool" and saying "bookmark this
site; we think it will get even better".

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Tracy Griffin is Information Manager at strategy consultants The LEK
Partnership, and writes in a personal capacity.

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SNR INFO:  Head of Information  - Ad agency - London, Deputy - Law
Library - London, Info Services Manager - Niche Service - London
BUS INFO GRADS:  3 Junior Researchers - London, Law Library - London
TEMPS:  Info Researchers all levels, Bank (4), Man Cons (1), Law (1)
Contact Sue Hill at Sue Hill Recruitment & Services now
Tel/Fax +44 171 732 6718 email:

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                ***  Past issues of Free Pint  ***
    All past issues are available at

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                          FEATURE ARTICLE
           "Current Awareness Research on the Internet"
                         by Alison McNab

The recent Reuters publications [Footnotes 1 and 2] on "information
overload" and "information addiction" have highlighted the problem
many of us suffer from: managing the vast amount of data that crosses
our desks and arrives in our mailboxes (dead tree and email).

If you read and further explore all these messages and resources you
may run out of time to do the tasks you ought to.  Therefore, faced
with deadlines to meet, it can be tempting to bury your head in the
sand and ignore most of these communications, especially those which
are unsolicited.  However, what if there was a crucial bit of
information buried in that mound of paper or amongst the messages you
deleted without reading....?  If you are an information
professional, the problem is often twofold: as well as providing
current information to clients or colleagues, you will wish to stay
updated on developments in your own field.  Electronic sources of
information have increased the problem of "information overload" but
can also, when managed carefully, provide solutions to it.

I maintain a set of web pages on the topic, "Keeping your research up
to date: current awareness services"
(, which is primarily
intended as a resource for academic and research staff at the
University I work at.  The links are checked regularly and new
resources added as I become aware of them.  I try to construct the
pages in a meaningful way, and carefully plan the two taught courses
which accompany the pages (a one-hour "taster" demonstration and a
three-hour hands-on training). However, I am conscious that anyone
browsing these pages for the first time may well feel overwhelmed
with choice due to the extensive range of electronic current
awareness resources offered to them.  Therefore I always start these
training sessions by saying that while my aim is to give an overview
of what's available, my objective is that they'll identify one or two
sources which may be helpful, and follow them up.  I hope this
article serves the same purpose for you.

There are two methods of delivery and/or notification of current
awareness on the Internet: what comes into your mailbox, and what you
have to go out and check.  Circumstances (particularly your employers
policy on email and Web access) may dictate whether you choose either
or both of these options.


My single favourite resource for keeping me updated is URL-minder
(  This free but
extremely effective service ensures that I am informed by email every
time there is a change to a web page, or part of a web page using the
Highlighter feature, that I am interested in.  If, for example, I
wish to know as soon as Sheila Webber updates her excellent
guide to Business Information Sources on the Internet
(, I can register it
with URL-minder.

Another example of a site "minded" for me is the monthly article on
the "College & Research Libraries News" web site which focuses on
Internet resources in a different subject area each issue.  As the
URL is complex (, I'm unlikely
to remember to check it, but my monthly reminder from URL-minder
alerts me to it.  I also use URL-minder on the Press Releases page
from my employers - that way I am one of the first to find out the
latest news!

Online news

Major news service sites offer access to online versions of
newspapers, and sometimes transcripts from radio and TV.  Two major
collections of online newspapers are:
Newslink (world-wide coverage)
MediaUK (UK papers)

An increasing number of these sites offer the opportunity to
"personalise" your online newspaper - for example, the Personal and
Interactive Times offered by The Times Newspaper.  Push technologies
(see below) can also bring the latest news headlines or stock prices
to your desktop.

A range of real-time UK news feeds from the BBC, MSN and others are
collected by MediaUK's Online news sources links
(  News
Index ( is a "news-only" search engine,
which indexes over 250 newspapers and news sources from around the
world.  It is a resource for finding more information on current
stories, and does not include an archive facility.

Intelligent agents and "push"

Space prevents me from giving anything other than a very brief
mention of intelligent agents and "push" technology, which hold
potential for desktop delivery of current and tailored information
services, as well as improving your information retrieval on the Web.
Collections of resources, including example services, relating to
these technologies can be found at:
Agents Abroad
Push Concepts
Push Content (CNET)

Tables of contents services

As I work in an academic institution, one of the most useful sources
for my clients is the wide range of electronic table of contents
services (TOCs) for journals - many of which link to electronic
journals.  Although access to the full-text of articles may be
restricted (in the case of commercial e-journals and document
delivery services), the TOCs are usually freely accessible.  Many
individual publishers provide this service (including email
alerting), and commercial and other organisations have created
collections of them.  For many information professionals a key
resource for their own current awareness needs is the BUBL Journals
( service, which provides contents,
abstracts or full text of 220 current journals and newsletters.

One of the major TOC services UnCover (telnet://
or, is a database of current article
information taken from well over 17,000 multidisciplinary journals.
Brief descriptive information is provided for over 7,000,000 articles
which have appeared since late 1988.  A lesser-known resource, based
in Korea, is the Electronic Journals Database
(, which indexes more
than 9,600 journals.

Suggestions for managing information overload yet staying current

In addition to using the tools mentioned above to trace headlines and
articles, you may wish to stay abreast of changes to web sites or
particular Internet resources and services.  Here are some
suggestions on how to do so without getting overwhelmed:

*  Does the resource include a "what's new" feature?  If it does, can
you receive email notification when it has been updated?  If not, and
providing the resource is not updated too regularly, use URL-minder.
Or why not create a web page with links to sites that you check
regularly?  I have done this for a range of "what's new" pages
( of interest to
my clients.

*  Does the resource offer a variety of access routes?  One example
is Net-Happenings (,
which is available on the Web, as a newsgroup, and as an electronic
distribution list.

*  Does the resource offer a digest option?  For example, I receive
free monthly mailings from Search Engine Watch
(, BotSpot
(, and NUA Internet surveys
(  These arrive as an email
digest that I can scan or print out (who says electronic
communication spares trees?) to read subsequently.  As I believe
these sources to be to be reasonably authoritative, I therefore don't
worry too much about missing announcements of major developments or
products when I'm away from Internet access for several days.

*  Can you share the load with colleagues? In some organisations a
"gatekeeper" might monitor several high-volume
discussion/distribution lists on behalf of others, and only forward
relevant messages/announcements.


1.  "Dying for information?: an investigation into the effects of
information overload in the UK and worldwide" based on research
conducted by Benchmark Research commissioned by Reuters Business
Information London:
Reuters, 1996.

2.  "Glued to the Screen: an investigation into information addiction
worldwide" an independent survey commissioned by Reuters Business
Information London: Reuters, 1997.

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Alison McNab ( is Academic
Services Manager in the Pilkington Library at Loughborough
University.  In addition to managing Library services and materials
to support the Faculty of Science, she co-ordinates Information
Skills Training in the Library.  In 1996 she co-wrote (with Ian
Winship) "The student's guide to the Internet", which is one of the
Library Association's best-selling titles. She is European Editor
of "Online & CD-ROM Review", Executive Editor of the "UKOLUG
Newsletter", and list-owner of lis-ukolug.  The latter electronic
discussion list ( is a
suitable forum to discuss developments in electronic current

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     ***  Do you have a comment, feedback or suggestion?  ***
          Why not post a message on the Free Pint Forum
        Accessible on the Web at

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                      RBA Information Services

For publications and training on how to use the Internet more
effectively, contact us at RBA. Topics that we regularly cover in
our workshops and seminars include Internet search tools, using the
Internet for business information, beginners guide to the Net,
choosing the right software, how to avoid and get rid of junk mail.
Tel: 0118 947 2256, E-mail:

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                        LETTERS & FEEDBACK

From the feedback we are getting it appears that you really enjoy
receiving Free Pint each issue.  We welcome all feedback, comments
and suggestions, and so if you have something to say then please send
an email to or visit the Free Pint Forum on
the Web site at

We will not publish your email if you do not wish us to, and cannot
guarantee a reply to all letters. Letters may be edited for content
and length, and we will withhold your contact details if you wish.

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William Hann writes:

What a great bunch of people we have subscribing to Free Pint.
I received over thirty cards from subscribers for my birthday the
other week after I mentioned the mini-competition in the last issue.
The cards ranged from emails to hard-copy cyber-roadrunner cards
(thank you Karen).

Digital cards came in from all over world, with countries including
the UK, US, Canada, India, the Philippines, Singapore and even
Wales!   Digital cards work by sending an email to the recipient
telling them the Web address to view their card.

The best digital card came from a subscriber Ash who sent an
"Activegram". The card is very very funny and really has to be seen
to fully appreciate it. Therefore  I've made it available on the
Free Pint Web site at:


Usually these cards are deleted automatically after two weeks,
however, here are some of the best ones that appear to be still

A great juggling snowman can be seen at:

A super picture of a man enjoying his Free Pint is at:

Click on the flying words to make them change colour at
   You really need music to appreciate this one

Blow out the candles at

Amongst others, I also received a horoscope (thanks Bill) and some
words of wisdom:

   "It will be a great year if you remember- Eagles soar and
   chickens flap."

Sorry I couldn't reply to all personally.  You are all very kind and
we had a great time reading and listening to them all!

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         Promotional gifts supplied by Riverside Promotions
                Tel: 01784 454785  Fax: 01784 466157

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Well, we hope you enjoyed this Free Pint.  Please keep spreading the
word to friends, colleagues, potential advertisers, potential
authors, journalists, magazines ... in fact anyone who you think
may also find the newsletter useful and can help to spread the news.

                       See you in two weeks,
                           Kind regards,

                       William Hann, Editor

(c) Willco 1998
ISSN: 1460-7239

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Free Pint (ISSN 1460-7239) is a free email newsletter for anyone who
uses the Internet to get information for their work in any business
or organisation. The newsletter is written by professionals who share
how they find quality and reliable information on the Internet.

More details about subscribing, contributing or advertising can be
found at or call +44 (0)171 681 1653

Please note: The newsletter is published by the information
consultancy Willco (, and the publishers
will NEVER make the subscriber list available to any other company
or organisation.

The opinions, advice, products and services offered herein are the
sole responsibility of the contributors. Whilst all reasonable care
has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the publication, the
publishers cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions.

This publication may be freely copied and/or distributed in its
entirety. However, individual sections MAY NOT be copied and/or
distributed without the prior written agreement of the publishers.
All rights reserved.

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