Subject: EIGHTH FREE PINT "Current Awareness Research" Free Pint Helping you find quality information on the Web ISSN 1460-7239 19 February 1998 #8 > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 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. > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 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 LETTERS > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = TRAINING FOR THE INFORMATION PROFESSION 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 web site or telephone 0171 251 5522 > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =[tf81] *** Want to advertise in this space? *** Full details at Email or phone +44 (0)171 681 1653 > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 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, itís 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 canít see why I would go on the site to only search their Special Collection - unless Iíd 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 hasnít 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 Lightís 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 theyíre 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 transactions. What if I donít get what I thought I paid for? Another real beauty of Northern Light is itís "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, youíre 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 havenít 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". > - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Tracy Griffin is Information Manager at strategy consultants The LEK Partnership, and writes in a personal capacity. > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = SUE HILL RECRUITMENT HAS CLIENTS WHO NEED YOU! 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: > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =[sh82] *** Past issues of Free Pint *** All past issues are available at > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 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. URL-minder 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: AgentNews Agents Abroad Botspot 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. Footnotes 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. > - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 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 awareness. > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = *** Do you have a comment, feedback or suggestion? *** Why not post a message on the Free Pint Forum Accessible on the Web at > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 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: > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =[rb83] 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. > - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 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 available: 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! > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = Promotional gifts supplied by Riverside Promotions Tel: 01784 454785 Fax: 01784 466157 > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =[rp21] 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 > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 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. > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = > = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =