Boosterism

Why would anyone have a Facebook Page rather than a Group? On a Page, Facebook just holds many of your posts to ransom. It limits your audience reach, unless you pay up hard cash to “boost” the post. I don’t run any FB Pages, but I do some admin on one Page, and it’s very annoying when this happens repeatedly on non-commercial posts telling people about things like local art exhibitions…

The “you’ll show it to more people” translates as “we’ll show it to more people”. It’s a protection racket for user-generated content, in effect.

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GRAFT updates

JURN’s GRAFT repository search tool updated today, with a freshly added tranche of new repository URLs. The total now stands at 4,520 repositories made searchable.

Unlike JURN, GRAFT searches across records and full-text alike. Which means… It’s Big. So it’s not much use just tapping in a few keywords and hoping for the best. It’s ideally used with relatively sophisticated search modifiers and a few seconds of pre-planning.

By the way, if you’re wondering: “why call it GRAFT”? Global Repository Access Full-Text = GRAFT.

Poly – new Google service

Poly from Google. A WebGL-enabled search-engine for (very) low-poly 3D models for your AR/VR games, all seemingly under CC-BY. The downloads I tried were .OBJ, and some also had .FBX versions (which may perhaps indicate rigged skeletons under the surface polys, enabling animation). A Google Search site: search suggests there are around 1,200 models at present.

Looks like Google has cleaned out most of the fan-art from the launch content, but videogame makers are still going to have to check anything that looks especially ‘Disney quality’. Disney is not likely to be happy if you use their Moana boat and islands in your Google Play game…

Alternative: Yobi3D.

FiveFilters RSS – new paid booster feature

The wonderful FiveFilters RSS extractor has added a new feature. Their free service extracts RSS feeds of headlines and article links, from those annoying news sites that can’t or won’t offer RSS. You can now PayPal FiveFilters a modest £9 (UK) a year, and get a paste-in key-code that bumps any FiveFilters RSS feed from five to ten “most recently posted” items.

Audacity 2.2

Everyone’s favourite freeware audio tool Audacity has just gone to version 2.2. The most useful new features appear to be autosave/recover when you’re recording and there’s a crash, and new UI themes. The themes are found at: Edit | Preferences | Interface and they give Audacity a much-needed visual makeover. Such as this one…

One way to fix your broken Google News RSS feeds, at November 2017

The new RSS change at Google News makes their existing keyword-based RSS feeds defunct. It affects the RSS feeds that collect all Google News items with a headline/snippet containing the words ‘bunny’ + ‘fluffy’, for instance. I don’t know if the generic catch-all ‘Science’, ‘Health’ etc RSS feeds are affected, as I don’t use those.

Those keyword-based feeds will now need to be changed. Changed slowly and manually and individually by slogging down the list in one’s RSS feedreader. It’s a big task to do, for some, and journalists and editors and bloggers will have hundreds (if not thousands) of these feeds set up.

So far as I can see there’s no way to export the OPML from one’s desktop RSS feedreader and then simply do a global search-replace of the Google News URL paths in Notepad++, then bring the OPML back in. The URLs are too complex and varied in their structures to allow that.


One way of tackling the change is as follows:

Aim: Open our list of feeds in Excel and extract only the Google News ones, thus making it relatively easy for a worker to run through them all and discover the new ones.
Software required: the free Notepad++ and MS Office Excel with Sobolsoft’s Excel Remove Text addin.

1. Export your OPML master file from your RSS feedreader / newsreader.

2. Right-click on this and open the OPML in Notepad++. Search/replace "/> with "/>; and then manually go through and add a ; to the end of the remaining few lines which now lack them.

3. Search/replace all , (i.e.: all the commas) and change these to &&&&.

4. Save a backup of the changed OPML, then save another copy from Notepad++ — this time as “feeds.csv” which makes it a comma-separated Excel file. “But there are no commas left” you cry. That doesn’t matter, as Excel will treat the ; instances as if they were commas. And it won’t be terminally confused by commas sitting within the URLs, as we just changed them all to &&&&.

5. You can now load feeds.csv in MS Office’s Excel spreadsheet package. If you successfully put a ; at the end of each line of the OPML, Excel will happily load the file and it will display correctly, meaning in a similar way to the clear structured view you saw in Notepad++.

6. You’re now able to extract all the lines containing the phrase “Google News” and then do the same for “news.google”. There are a number of complex ways to do this, involving fiendish formulas, but a very easy way is with Sobolsoft’s Excel Remove Text, Spaces & Characters From Cells add-in. This gives Excel a number of very useful functions, including “Clear all cells not containing X”. Select all lines. Then clear everything not containing Google News. You can then ‘sort A-Z’, to get a neat list of all your defunct Google News feeds, one per line.

7. Select all lines with content in them. Then use the same add-in to “Remove all text before…” xmlUrl=" (which is the query command in the URL). Then “Remove all text after…” &output=

You can continue doing this sort of search/replace, and thus end up with a fairly clean set of the keywords and phrases and knockout -keywords which you were using for each Google News URL. For instance, you can search/replace %22 with ” to get recognisable search phrases again, inside the URL.

If you have hundreds or thousands of these, they can now be passed to a gig worker at Fiverr etc, tasked with working down your nicely cleaned one-per-line list to discover the new working RSS URLs from Google News. While they’re at it, you may as well pay them to discover the Bing News equivalents.

You may also want them to use a VPN in order to also snag the Google News USA equivalent URLs, if you’re in the UK etc. Although it appears possible that simply changing the end of the new URLs from ?hl=en-GB&gl=GB&ned=uk to ?hl=en&gl=US&ned=us does the trick and gets the USA version. Google News USA obviously has better coverage, and is perhaps updated more quickly. For instance, a UK-centric search for: newcastle-under-lyme -police in Google News UK has no search results. The same from the USA site has one valid result in a local freesheet two hours ago. Such timeliness may matter for journalists with deadlines to meet.

8. You don’t then need to create a new OPML without any Google News URLs, and try to import it back to your newsreader etc. That’s a hassle and the OPML will probably break. So it’s easier to just let the defunct Google News URLs sit there and do nothing, since they’re not doing any harm. Some newsreader software may eventually flag them as defunct, and may even offer the ability to mass-delete your defunct feeds after 1st December 2017. Apparently that’s the date Google has set for the current feeds to die altogether.

9. Once your Fiverr gig worker etc comes back with the new URLs, either add in your new working Google News URLs by hand, or (if you have lots of them set up) have your Fivver gig worker format them up as a valid OPML file for bulk import to your newsreader. That’s very simple to do, once you have a newly-working Google News sample line to show them, although I think there are website converters that will turn a one-per-line RSS URL list into a valid OPML with ease.

That’s the most efficient way I can think of for handling the changeover.

How to get your new RSS feed from Google News

Annoyingly, Google appears to have just removed all its keyword-based RSS feeds for Google News. One gets the message…

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news.

But all it’s possible to get there is the generic national Spotlight headlines, as linked in the footer of the main Google News page…

https://news.google.com/news/rss/headlines?gl=GB&ned=uk&hl=en-GB

And even that feed “has no articles” when loaded into a feedreader.

What you actually need to do is to first run a new Google News search, then the new RSS feed link will appear in the footer of the page of search results.


If, at the same time as you’re fiddling with this annoying change-over, you want to swop out your Google News RSS for a working Bing News RSS feed, here’s how:

1. Do a keyword or phrase-based News search as usual, at Bing News.
2. Add -keyword to knock out unwanted stories (e.g. -police -NHS)
3. Then re-sort the search results by date.
4. Add &format=rss to the end of the URL. This turns it into a RSS feed from Bing News.
5. Now plug your new RSS feed into your newsreader.

Another Sci-Hub study

Another recent study of the pirate academic site Sci-Hub, “Sci-Hub and LibGen: what if… why not?”. On a thoroughly randomised sample of articles, found via 55 different commercial databases recommended to students at McGill University, Canada…

the overall retrieval rates for the 2,750 samples, as of July 2017, is pretty good. The full-text retrieval rates for both Sci-Hub and LibGen are respectively 70% and 69% […] At the discipline level, the results are showing the lowest retrieval rates in Sci-Hub for Law (20%), Music (28%) and Business/Management (32%). [while] five databases (9%) are showing a 100% retrieval rate (British Humanities [Humanities Index, nowadays tracking around 400 titles from the UK and Commonwealth], Elsevier ScienceDirect, Sage, Springer and Wiley) coming from the following disciplines – Humanities and Multidisciplinary.

“100% retrieval rate” for the Humanities Index seems odd. Although looking at the titles list of current actively indexed titles, it seems possible for the 318 “Core coverage titles”. Though I’m not sure you’d be picking up many articles at Sci-Hub from newspapers such as the Times Literary Supplement or trade journals such as Town and Country Planning.

The Country House Library

Of possible interest for those seeking a Christmas present for a librarian-scholar, the just published The Country House Library from Yale University Press. Sumptuously illustrated and weighing in at 350 pages, this scholarly book surveys the entire history of the country house library in the British Isles from the Roman era to today. The author is deputy director of Cambridge University Library, and was the former libraries curator to the National Trust. His findings push the history of such libraries much further back that the current consensus of ‘the late 17th century’, according to a Country Life magazine review.

By the way, ignore the Amazon UK and USA reviews. The dates (2000 and 2015) indicate the reviews refer to another book entirely. They are obviously an artefact of Amazon’s very annoying auto-pinning of old reviews to new books with the same or similar title. The same happens on pages for fine critical print editions of public domain books (e.g. Wells’s The Time Machine), which are adorned with miffed reviews of shovelware OCR ebooks and basic reprints. Authors and publishers really should be complaining vigorously to Amazon about this highly misleading practice.

How to fix Firefox, when viewing about:addons totally freezes the browser

A seemingly common Firefox problem:

1. You want to check your list of Extensions (i.e: your browser’s installed add-ons). To do this you go to: top menu | Tools | Add-ons | about:addons
2. The top “Get Add-ons tab” of about:addons is active, and it wants to load. But can’t.
3. The “Loading…” button appears in the middle of this “Get Add-ons” page, but never completes “Loading…”. Firefox totally freezes.
4. You have to Alt+Ctrl+Del to force Firefox to close down.

This appears to be a local Internet service provider problem, because turning on a VPN (in the USA, in my case) before going to the “Get Add-ons” tab solves the problem. The page loads as it should.

I assume the problem arises because the ISP’s local cache of the relevant addons page hangs, and Firefox is unable to fallback gracefully from that failure.

One solution:

1. Load Firefox.
2. Turn on your VPN.
3. The about:addons / “Get Add-ons” tab should now load properly.
4. Switch down to the next tab, “Extensions”. (Which is what you wanted to view in the first place).
5. Turn off VPN and close the about:addons page. Close and restart Firefox.
6. Firefox should remember the last tab it was on for about:addons, this now being the “Extensions” tab. This tab, being seemingly local to your PC, should have no problem loading.

The “Get Add-ons” service being (temporarily) useless, you should instead use the Add-ons for Firefox Web page to find and install new add-ons.