TweetNews Test Drive

Following breaking news stories using Twitter is a lot faster than aggregation sites like Google or Yahoo News. The TweetNews search tool ranks search results based on Twitter links. It follows Yahoo News and compares its headlines with news story links on Twitter updates. A story’s popularity amongst the tweeting masses will push the story up in the TweetNews results. See Zooie’s Blog for more details.

TweetNews uses the Yahoo! Build your Own Search Service (Boss). This provides  a clean search API that turns off the usual restrictions that control the presentation of the results.  For example, it allows you to re-rank results and include external content without having to cite Yahoo! for the search results.

Xerobank, Zero Customer Service

In a previous post we mentioned XeroBank as a possible alternative to TOR.

Once you’ve figured it out, XeroBank is a great system! It’s a VPN connection to their servers which assigns you either a Dutch,
US or Canadian IP address; other nation’s IP addresses are not available. There is some confusion on their website as to whether other countries are available or not. The website merely says you can choose a country.

Once connected via the VPN, you can use all your browser and other programs to access the internet. We did not try their email service. The system is fast and you can even stream in video quite easily. Basically, it’s a great service if you have lots of time to read up on it and figure it out on your own because there is no customer support or documentation from the company; the public forums are the only place you’ll get any answers.

The sign up process and administration process are not straightforward.  It is very hard to understand how to log in to the account and how to use it. Four emails to customer service over the course of 3 weeks after sign up and no answers.

They say the first month of the service is free but as you’re signing up you’re asked for your credit card and they charge you $1 for the first month; it is then very difficult to cancel your subscription, actually you can only put it on hold by going onto the website of the billing company that they use and suspend your account, but we only learned that by asking the question on their public forum where we received an answer from someone we presume to be an employee; emails to support were never answered.

Customer support is non-existent. They are more interested in the technology than their customers.   (If you want to see the people who might be behind the XeroBank, please have  look at the delegation they sent to the last DEFCON event.)

Science Searches

Scientific Federated Search Sites

I had to locate articles written by a prominent scientist and here are some of the sites that proved useful. You may not know much about science, but a guy who does is probably published. If the subject of your inquires is published, then you may not have the subject-knowledge to evaluate individual articles; however, you can apply evaluation method #2 to determine if the journal is reputable and viewed as a valued source of research data. is a federated  search portal to the digital libraries of leading science and technology societies worldwide.

The Alliance is a gateway to over 50 million pages of science information provided by U.S. government agencies, including research and development results. is a global science gateway enabling federated searching of national and international scientific databases.

This is a comprehensive federated search site for medical information.


All the above search engines require JavaScript. If you use NoScript with FireFox, you will find it annoying to go through the list of scripts, or select allow this page, to permit the searches to run. I just use IE with security set at medium, as these search sites present very little risk.

Federated Search, The Blog

If you want to learn more about federated search technology check out Sol Lederman’s Federated Search blog, which is sponsored by Deep Web Technologies a major player in this field. Sol wrote a nice FUMSI article about his experience writing this blog.

Tweet Scan

Tweet Scan  is a microblog search site that tries to organize it all.

Services indexed by Tweet Scan:

This Tweet search business is becoming quite a crowded market. I’m starting to wonder if searching using anything but Twitter Search is really worth the time and effort.

Orwell’s 5 Rules for Effective Writing

Poor writing is not a recent problem. In 1946, George Orwell wrote his essay, Politics and the English Language, about his five rules of writing effectively.  Orwell concluded that if you follow his five rules, then you would distinguish yourself by clearly communicating your ideas.

Orwell’s Rules

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech seen in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Industrial Espionage News

Bad Times Can Make Firms Vulnerable to Espionage

Corporate espionage is always a threat, but when the economy is sour the temptation is greater and finding broke or disgruntled employees is easier.

Stamping out data leakage & industrial espionage during a recession

How the recession is impacting IT security and top tips to ring fence your data to minimise risk.

British pair charged in ‘industrial espionage’ row

Two Wyko engineers are alleged to have used a mobile telephone to photograph a secret piece of equipment at an American factory

YackTrack Test Drive

YackTrack is a Beta search engine that allows one to search for references and comments to a specific URL (in the Home tab) across multiple social networks. This might be good for tracking reactions and responses to such things as a product launches or PR efforts.  The URL reference search currently supports Blogger/Blogspot, Digg, Disqus, FriendFeed, Google Blog Search, Google Reader,, IntenseDebate, Mixx, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Technorati, Twitter, TypePad/MoveableType and WordPress blogs.

It also has a keyword search, called Chatter (in the Chatter tab). The Chatter search currently supports Mixx,, Technorati, Google Blog Search, FriendFeed and Twitter.

The keyword search seems to work much better than the URL search. This is probably because most people use something like to  truncate URL’s.


Texter saves you countless keystrokes by replacing abbreviations with commonly used phrases that you define. It runs in the Windows system tray and works with applications you’re typing in. It can also set return-to markers for your cursor and insert clipboard contents into your replacement text, in addition to more advanced keyboard macros.

How did I ever live without this?


Twitter Etiquette: 5 Dos and Don’ts

Like any social network, the Twitter community has its own set of unwritten guidelines – or etiquette – that dictates good (or bad) behavior on the service. Some people call it Twittequette.

The Dark Side of Twitter: What Businesses Need to Know

As companies tighten their ad spending, inexpensive social media is clearly the next marketing frontier. As with any new craze, there are enormous opportunities—and large pitfalls that must be avoided.

For this article, I spoke to some marketing professionals who’ve been exploring the Twitter terrain for a while. My quest was to identify the Twitter landmines so you can fast-track your adventure into this vast new frontier.

Twitter Style Guide

A style guide for Twitter will hit iTunes by the end of the month, the New York Times reports. The e-book, 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form, will lay out key style points from the Twitter canon,

I read it on the Internet – it must be true!


Wikipedia has become a source of information for millions, but it is not without its problems. Vandalism occurs, and many authors think they know much more about a topic than they truly do. Many authors have political or commercial agendas that they build into Wikipedia articles. As most of the authors are anonymous or pseudonymous, it is difficult to evaluate the content of an individual article.

How Wikipedia Works

If you use Wikipedia, may I suggest that you refer to How Wikipedia Works.  Chapter 4 is titled, Understanding and Evaluating an Article. This is the most useful chapter for professional researchers. If you haven’t used Wikipedia much, may I also suggest reading Chapter 3, entitled Finding Wikipedia’s Content, which is about searching.

Article History

Go to the top of the article and click on the tab marked history for a list of the people who have changed the article. You can compare the changes to see what changed in each version of the article by using the radio buttons. You will often notice that certain “contributors” are really vandals and knaves.

Look at the History and Discussion tabs for the article on the Danish Muhammad cartoon controversy to see how these can be really important. You can quickly tell who not to trust from reading the discussion pages and looking at the history tab content on many articles. For example, look at the contributor RanEagle in the history tab and click on talk.


Mark Schaver writes on the Depth Reporting blog about a site, WikiScanner, that reveals organizations where employees have made anonymous edits of Wikipedia articles.

Google Docs Privacy Risk

The following article illustrates the dangers of using web-base collaborative applications.

Google Privacy Blunder Shares Your Docs Without Permission
by Jason Kincaid on March 7, 2009

In a privacy error that underscores some of the biggest problems surrounding cloud-based services, Google has sent a notice to a number of users of its Document and Spreadsheets products stating that it may have inadvertently shared some of their documents with contacts who were never granted access to them.

Social Sites

New Social Site Category

I created a category for social sites and put all relevant articles into this category. I’ve been writing about this part of the Internet since February 2007.

High Noise to Signal Ratio

The social sites are a source of pain for researchers, as they are hard to search, and the noise to signal ration is extremely high. An example of how difficult searching this stuff really is may be found at ResearchBuzz where Tara Calishian explains her approach to searching Twitter. She also has an article regarding an excellent Twitter Venn Diagram search result mapping tool.

Blinkx Update

I wrote earlier that Blinkx didn’t seem to like Frefox. This got quite a response from the good folks at Blinkx and a couple of other people.

I’m starting to think that a unique group of setting on my PC & in Firefox might be causing the problem. But what is heartening, is that somebody at Blinkx saw the post and they have tried to solve the problem for me. Customer service is alive and well at Blinkx.