CLSIG Business Information course (16 July 2015)

I attended a Business Information: Sources and Search Techniques course run by Karen Blakeman for CILIP’s Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group (CLSIG) on 16 July 2015 at CILIP’s HQ in London.  The course was advertised as key resources for business and official information.  As the law and official publications librarian, and back-up for the business librarian, the course seemed like a perfect fit for me.

Karen Blakeman is a well respected and established librarian, who specialises in teaching advanced internet and business information research skills. (A version of) the slides for the course are available to download from her website (the course materials are constantly updated).  The course was well attended, with a good mix of librarians from the academic, public and commercial sectors, including a former colleague (good to catch-up).

The course began by looking at new trends in business information, including the UK government’s open data (‘free v fee’ and ‘missing’ information); the EU’s right to be forgotten; and Google’s control over you and the internet.  We discussed some of Google’s limitations, including how it personalises your search and results, changes search algorithms, and conducts experiments on the unsuspecting public.

Advanced Google search tips

Open a ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ window in your internet browser:

  • Chrome = Ctrl+Shift+N
  • Firefox = Ctrl+Shift+P
  • Internet Explorer = Ctrl+Shift+P

Force Google to use your search terms:

Google will change or exclude some of your search terms …

  • Use the Intext prefix e.g. intext:term to force it to include a word
  • Use the Verbatim function to force a phrase search
  • In search results, Search tools > All results > Verbatim.

Use Google to search a website or domain:

  • Use the site command eg. site:gov.uk
  • Exclude a site e.g. -site:co.uk

Limit your search by date:

  • In the search results, Search tools > Anytime > Date
  • If combining with a Verbatim search, use the daterange: prefix, and use Julian date.

Consider using a different search engine:

  • Google.com (not Google.co.uk) will find EU forgotten results
  • Bing will provide alternative results
  • Try Bing It On and take the Bing v Google challenge (I was a Bing person).

Company  and Financial Information

Company information relates to ownership, directors, structure, share price, accounts and activities.  The availability of company information depends upon the type of company, size of company and the jurisdiction (country).  In the UK, small and medium sized companies only have to file abbreviated information with Companies House.

UK company information is now available free-of-charge via Companies House.  The database is currently under beta-service via the Gov.UK website.  Company Check is an alternative; and Kompany and Open Corporates offers global company information.  I had much fun stalking researching friends and relatives on the various company information databases.

We touched on subscription company information sources including Legalinx 7side, Bureux van Dijk, Dun and Bradstreet, Factiva, Perfect Information and Thomson Reuters, but we did not examine these resources in detail.  This is where I was disappointed with the course, as I had hoped to learn more about when and how to use these resources (see On Reflection).

As regards financial (stock markets, commodities and exchange rates) information, we looked at Yahoo Finance and Google Finance, both of which give up-to-date free-of-charge financial information.  However, for academic research subscription financial information sources (e.g. FT.com, Bloomberg and DataStream) are the preferred sources, and again we did not really cover these sources in the detail I was hoping for in the course.

Statistics, Industry and Market Data

Statistics are a hot topic in my workplace (I’m involved in a project to review official publications and statistics).  Karen recommended OFFSTATS – a guide to global statistics created by the University of Auckland.  In the UK, there are the Office for National Statistics and Gov.UK Statistics websites; and in the EU, Eurostat.  We also considered the open data agenda, and the making available of raw data via Data.Gov and the EU Open Data Portal.

We were introduced to Google Public Data Explorer, which is one of Google’s best kept secrets.  It can find publicly available financial and demographic data from major global organisations including Eurostat, World Bank, IMF and OECD (but not ONS).  Also, Zanran was mentioned as a search engine for statistics and data.

Karen encouraged to question statistics: to be aware the statistical correlation does not equal causation, and to ask questions about data methodologies.

As regards market data, the British Library’s Business & IP Centre produce free industry guides, and market data is available from companies like Report Linker (available through our Nexis subscription), and aggregator services like Market Research and Research and Markets, and reports can be purchased on a pay-per-view.  There was brief mention of Key Note and Mintel as subscription services.

On Reflection

On my journey home, I was a little disappointed that the course had not covered the major subscription databases in the depth I had hoped for. On reflection, after writing this report of the course, and considering that the course covered many other things not mentioned in this report, my expectations were perhaps a little unreasonable.  I am all too familiar with the problem of having too much content and not enough time!  In her introduction to the course, Karen mentioned that she used to teach the material as a 3 day course – I rather suspect that she could still teach it as a multi-day course now.

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TeachMeet Leicester (1 October 2013)

I attended my first TeachMeet at New College Leicester one dark night in October.  TeachMeet is a forum for teachers to share ideas and good practice.  I attended as an observer only – not quite brave enough to present!  The evening comprised about 12 short presentations – either long (7 minutes) or short ( 2 minutes).  The event was organised by Dan Williams (@danwilliams1984), and it had a wild west theme: presenters were awarded sheriffs badges and/or shot with a (toy) gun if they ran overtime!  As a librarian from higher education – I was in a minority of one.  Most of the teachers were from primary or secondary schools, with a few from colleges of further education.

There were some excellent presentations – I was particularly struck by the imagination and enthusiasm that some teachers have for their both their teaching practice and the pupils in their classroom.  For example, at one primary school 4 year olds in reception class learn computer logic and programming on iPads using apps.  Other schools use Skype to connect with schools across Europe and America, and the children learn about different geography and languages by peer-to-peer learning.  It certainly made me question if I can do more with technology to connect with my distance learning students!

My favourite presentation was about using Twitter to teach Spanish in secondary school.  @wrennmfl encourages students to communicate in Spanish via social media.  Students are asked to summarise learning, ask questions, and comment on news items in 140 character tweets.  Students are also encouraged to follow the Twitter accounts of Spanish speaking role models including Cesc Fabregas, Rafael Nadal and our own Gary Linekar.  Twitter has increased student engagement with learning, both inside and outside the classroom, and helped to foster a sense of community among the students, particular among ‘hard-to-reach’ teenaged boys.

I also enjoyed the presentations and discussions about using Skype in the classroom.  Some teachers had paired their classes with others around the world, and used Skype as their primary form of communication, taking the concept of penpals a stage further.  A primary school had exchanged Christmas cards and shared traditional Christmas carols; and a secondary school had arranged an international dance competition as part of a PE class.  Others had used Skype to invite experts into their classrooms.  This ranged from getting guest lecturers, to watching a behind the scenes tour of the British Museum.

Finally, there was some interesting work with Google Drive and the use of Google Forms to assess learning (diagnostic, formative and summative) in a further education college.  While I am cautious about pushing Google as a learning platform, many of the ideas could be replicated in Blackboard or other virtual learning environments.

The TeachMeet lasted about 2 hours in total, with a break for cowboy themed refreshments (wagon wheels and strawberry shoelaces/lassos) at half time.  Also in attendance was a Clive Francis a conference artist, who made a visual cartoon record of the evening.  At the end of the evening, we voted for our favourite presentation (with cowboy stickers), and a prize was awarded to the winning speaker.  The TeachMeet was not always directly relevant to libraries or higher education, but has certainly opened my eyes to new possibilities in education.  I would like to attend another, and also maybe try a LibTeachMeet …