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mapping Fighting Fantasies

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I found a folder down the back of a bookshelf. It was the shelf full of Fighting Fantasy books.


The first Fighting Fantasy book that Catherine & I bought was The Forest of Doom from the church jumble sale. I wonder if anyone raised an eyebrow at two little girls buying this?

I was thrilled by it. A book and a maze. A book that was a maze! So I bought more, one by one from the WHSmiths in Enfield shopping centre. I remember being appalled when Black Vein Prophecy cost £3.50. I thought they would always cost £1.95 or maybe £2.50 for a really hefty one. My first introduction to inflation.

The folder is full of maps. Maps of those book mazes.

Some are scrappy, works in progress, tools to help you along.


But some are too perfect and must have been redrawn once the book was completed. As a record, knowledge to be stored away.

chasms warlock caverns

There’s a stack on kids’ art paper but one map is drawn on the back of this.


And there’s a great deal of complex figuring out on the back of these green bar computer printouts.


This set is from “Imperial Chemical Industries” so must be stuff that Dad brought home. I remember narrower green bar printouts that Mum would bring home from the Broxbourne council IT department but there is none of that here.

The computer paper records the great frustration of my Fighting Fantasy stage. The Creature of Havoc.

I got stuck with The Creature, every option on every page seemed to lead to death. The map didn’t help. Decoding the encrypted bits in the text didn’t either. I went through the book page by page and found the end point that was about dying horribly. And then tried unsuccessfully to backtrack.

Today, with the internet, it took a few minutes to find out (as I had believed in 1988) the book was broken. But back then I just had to trust to the map.

Written by Karen

August 5th, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Posted in books,games,maps

desecration in a good cause?

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My basic librarian-ness is always a bit shocked by finding writing in books. But this is a bit different:

Talking Book

At first I suspected a personally prudish but meticulous scribbler. But there’s a more obvious explanation, of course. This book was used to record a Talking Book, a structured audio book that blind and partially sighted readers use.

Talking Books are recorded in DAISY format, a XML based markup language.

“A DAISY book is a digital audio book, designed to allow you to move around the text as efficiently and flexibly as a print user. You can:

  • make bookmarks
  • pause books
  • speed up or slow down
  • read or ignore footnotes
  • jump easily from chapter to chapter, heading to heading and page to page.”

Daisy 3 Structure Guidelines, for those that like this sort of thing.

Written by Karen

February 25th, 2010 at 6:49 am

Posted in books,rnib

SharePoint search: Inside the Index book ‘review’

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Inside the Index and Search Engines is 624 pages of lovely SharePoint search info. It is the sort of book that sets me apart from my colleagues. I was delighted when it arrived, everyone else was sympathetic.

The audience is “administrators” and “developers”. I’m never sure how technical they are imagining when they say “administrators” so I waded in anyway. The book defines topics for administrators as; managing the index file; configuring the end-user experience; managing metadata; search usage reports; configuring BDC applications; monitoring performance; administering protocol handlers and iFilters. I skimmed through the content for developers and found some useful nuggets in there too.

1. Introducing Enterprise Search in SharePoint 2007
2. The End-User Search Experience
3. Customizing the Search User Interface
4. Search Usage Reports
5. Search Administration
6. Indexing and Searching Business Data
7. Search Deployment Considerations
8. Search APIs
9. Advanced Search Engine Topics
10. Searching with Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

The book begins by setting the scene, and with lots of fluff about why search matters and some slightly awkward praise for Microsoft’s efforts. It gets much more interesting later, so you can probably skip most of the introduction.

Content I found useful:

Chapter 1. Introducing Enterprise Search in SharePoint 2007

p.28-33 includes a comparison of features for a quick overview of Search Server, Search Server Express and SharePoint Server.

“Queries that are submitted first go through layers of word breakers and stemmers before they are executed against the content index file is available. Word breaking is a technique for isolating the important words out of the content, and stemmers store the variations on a word” p.32

Keyword query syntax p.44

  • maximum query length 1024 characters
  • by default is not case sensitive
  • defaults to AND queries
  • phrase searches can be run with quote marks
  • wildcard searching is not supported at the level of keyword syntax search queries. Developers could build this functionality using CONTAINS in the SQL query syntax
  • exclude words with
  • you can search for properties  e.g rnib author:loasby
  • property searches can include prefix searches e.g author:loas
  • properties are ANDed unless it the same property repeated (which would run as OR search)

Search URL parameters p.50

  • k = keyword query
  • s = the scope
  • v = sort e.g “&v=date”

Chapter 4: The Search Usage Reports

Search queries report contains:

  • number of queries
  • query origin site collections
  • number of queries per scope
  • query terms

Search results report contains:

  • search result destination pages (which URL was clicked by users)
  • queries with zero results
  • most clicked best bets
  • search results with zero best bets
  • queries with low clickthrough

Data can be exported to Excel (useful if I need to share the data in an accessible format).

You cannot view data beyond the 30 day data window. The suggested solution is to export every report!

Chapter 5: Search Administration

Can manage the crawl by:

  • create content sources
  • define crawl rules : exclude content (can use wildcard patterns), follow/noindex, crawl URLs with query strings
  • define crawl schedules
  • removed unwanted items with immediate effect
  • troubleshoot crawls

There’s a useful but off-topic box about file shares vs. sharepoint on p.225

Crawler can discover metadata from:

  • file properties e.g name, extension, date and size
  • additional microsoft office properties
  • SharePoint list columns
  • Meta Tags from in HTML
  • Email subject and to fields
  • User profile properties

You can view the list of crawled properties via the Metadata Property Mappings link in the Configure Search Settings page. The Included In Index indicates if the property is searchable.

Managed properties can be:

  • exposed in advanced search and in query syntax
  • displayed in search results
  • used in search scope rules
  • used in custom relevancy ranking

Adjusting the weight of properties in ranking is not an admin interface task and can only be done via the programming interface.

High Confidence Results: A different (more detailed?) result for results that the search engine believes are an exact match for the query.

Authoritative Pages

  • site central to high priority business process should be authoritative
  • sites that encourage collaboration and actions should be authoritative
  • external sites should not be authoritative

Thesaurus p.291

  • an XML file on the server with no admin interface
  • no need to include stemming variations
  • different lanuage thesauri exist. The one used depends on the language specified by client apps sending requests
  • tseng.xml and tsenu.xml

Noise words p.294

  • language specific plain text files, in the same directory as the thesaurus
    • for US english the file name is noiseenu.txt

Diacritic-sensitive search

  • off by default

Chapter 8 – Search APIs

Mostly too technical but buried in the middle of chapter 8 are the ranking parameters:

  • saturation constant for term frequency
  • saturation constand for click distance
  • weight of click distance for calculating relevance
  • saturation constant for URL depth
  • weight of URL depth for calculating relevance
  • weight for ranking applied to non-default language
  • weight of HTML, XML and TXT content type
  • weight of document content types (Word, PP, Excel and Outlook)
  • weight of list items content types

They’ll come in handy when I’m baffling over some random ranking decisions that SP has made.

Chapter 9 – Advanced Search Engine Topics

Skipped through most of this but it does covers the Codeplex Faceted Search on p.574-585


A good percentage of the book was valuable to a non-developer, particularly one who is happy to skip over chunks of code. I’ve seen and heard a lot of waffle about what SharePoint search does and doesn’t do, so it was great to get some solid answers.
Inside the Index and Search Engines: Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007

Related posts
SharePoint search: some ranking factors
SharePoint search: good or bad?

Written by Karen

July 22nd, 2009 at 6:33 am

Posted in books,search,sharepoint

equal access to Harry Potter

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The Right to Read campaign asserts that everyone has the right to read the same book, at the same time, at the same price. The ‘same time’ didn’t initially strike me as particulary significant but I hadn’t considered Harry Potter. Personally I wouldn’t queue at midnight for any book, just to read it as soon as possible, but plenty others would. Kids (and adults) want to be part of that, regardless of the quality of their sight.

One of the RNIB achievements that they are particularly proud of is getting Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince published as the first ever novel to be released simultaneously in Braille, large print and standard print. Apparently the publishers weren’t keen on releasing the novel to be transcribed before publication and needed to be reassured with promises of padlocked transcription rooms.

You can now get the Deathly Hallows in Braille from Amazon. But from the looks of it the same price mission still has a way to go.

Written by Karen

November 10th, 2008 at 6:35 am

Posted in accessibility,books

book: How to be Free by Tom Hodgkinson

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Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson follows up How to be Idle with How to be Free in which he exhorts us to live simpler lives, get off the capitalist hamster wheel and indulge in a bit of anarchism. Jolly medieval peasants seem to feature a lot. As reviewers have pointed out, he does seem to forget an awful lot of the nasty bits about the medieval period.

And for Hodgkinson, governments are responsible for wars and taxes but he conveniently ignores the NHS (which is the bit that vexes me about all this self-sufficiency stuff…. I’d still quite like having highly trained medical staff around and I don’t think they want to be paid in turnips or with a nice tune on the ukelele).

I felt compelled to follow this up with Medieval Lives by Terry Jones, which evened things out a bit with a healthy dose of corruption, pestilance and violence.

Written by Karen

July 2nd, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Posted in books,happiness,past

book: mental models

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Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior is the first book from the Rosenfeld Media stable.

Mental Models is a very detailed step-by-step guide that gives you everything you could need to know to follow Indi Young’s process. The name ‘Mental Models’ doesn’t really convey the most important (in my opinion) aspect of alignment diagrams, the aligning bit.

The original announcement of the book defined Alignment Diagrams as mental models married to proposed features. Indi explains the debate about the title at the Rosenfeld Media site but I do feel the title only refers to half the process.

Here’s how our UX trading card from the IA Summit explains ‘Alignment Models’:

Diagram that breaks down user activities into discrete tasks, arranges these activities in columns, and then uses the same columns to align the product features, functions, and content that support these activities. May also align business objectives.
Provides gap analysis, shows product opportunities, and helps develop task-based information architecture. Serves as a roadmap, and anchors conversations about future features and content in actual user needs instead of individual stakeholder agendas.

In spite of being familiar with the principle of the method I felt that the book launched into the detail of the first step a little too soon without selling the overall methodology. I found it easy to forget the overall point of the method whilst immersed in the (admitedly very helpful) details of participant recruitment and interviewing. Given possible confusion over the title, this might explain the more baffled review on Amazon.

This is a great book if you know you want to get stuck in and start creating one of these diagrams and to do it properly. It could be a bit overwhelming if you hadn’t already come across the concept.

More detailed review to follow for Freepint…

Written by Karen

June 27th, 2008 at 11:17 am

dr who in a library

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I don’t often watch Dr Who so it was apt that when I did on Saturday (whilst fretting about how Pileswasp’s operation was going) it was set in a library. Or rather a library world:

Silence in the Library

Written by Karen

June 4th, 2008 at 8:22 am

Posted in bbc,books

books are doing fine

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Nice to see a story suggesting that everything isn’t going to the dogs:
books are thriving despite the internet

Written by Karen

May 30th, 2008 at 9:08 am

book: against happiness by Eric G. Wilson

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Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy was not what I expected.

Some quotes:

“what is existence if not an enduring polarity, an endless dance of limping dogs and lilting crocuses, starlings that are spangled and frustrated worms?”

“we wonder, then, if the obsession with happiness, is at the end of the day, a kind of unknowing necrophilia”

“we all know of this,the mind’s winter. No leaves now hide the nakedness of the branches. We stare at the gnarled and exposed limbs. They shiver in the wind. The oak and the elm, the maple and the birch: all these formally regal trees resemble poor souls desperate for clothing. No one meanders through the lanes radiating affection. The trees simply stand there, alone. They are the failed rules of a bleak land. Their domain is one of emptiness. Nothing stirs in the excruciating stillness. We have the feeling that there is room for almost anything to fill this wintry void. Something surely is going to happen out there in the vast spaces drained of all meaning”

I *think* that at least part of his argument is that without melancholy we wouldn’t get great art, poetry etc. I’m not sure his prose makes the point very well.

Written by Karen

May 28th, 2008 at 7:57 am

Posted in books,happiness

classical wisdom

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“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” – Cicero

Written by Karen

April 4th, 2008 at 7:45 am