Information Retrieval

David Weinberger on Science and Big Data

David Weinberger on Science and Big Data

There are three basic reasons scientific data has increased to the point that the brickyard metaphor now looks 19th century. First, the economics of deletion have changed. Second, the economics of sharing have changed. The Library of Congress has tens of millions of items in storage because physics makes it hard to display and preserve, much less to share, physical objects. Third, computers have become exponentially smarter. John Wilbanks, vice president for Science at Creative Commons (formerly called Science Commons), notes that "[i]t used to take a year to map a gene. Now you can do thirty thousand on your desktop computer in a day. A $2,000 machine -- a microarray -- now lets you look at the human genome reacting over time."

Following Digital Breadcrumbs To Big Data Gold

Following Digital Breadcrumbs To 'Big Data' Gold
What do Facebook, Groupon and biotech firm Human Genome Sciences have in common? They all rely on massive amounts of data to design their products. Terabytes and even zettabytes of information about consumers or about genetic sequences can be harnessed and crunched.

The practice is called big data, and as the term suggests, it is huge in both scope and power. Analyzing big data enables anything from predicting prices to catching criminals, and has the potential to impact many industries.

The Future of Information Access

The future of information access, part 1 and The future of information access, part 2... from Jill Hurst-Wahl. Earlier this month, Sean Branagan, who is the director of the Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship in the Newhouse School of Public Communications, asked that she guest lecture in his class on the topic of the future of information access. The class is seeking input from a wide variety of industries on what the future may hold and its impact on communications (e.g., news). In her 1.5 hour lecture, she spoke about the following ideas, some of which are evident in today's environment...

Alternative Paradigms of Access

Do you know how many ways you can keep up with LISNews outside the paradigm of a browser? There is an e-mail digest of posts you can subscribe to if you so choose. Thanks to the magic of Twitter and SMS short codes, you can get updates sent to your mobile device as text messages when new posts are made. You don't even need to be a registered user of Twitter to do this. To get updates on your phone, send the following to 40404: FOLLOW lisnews For readers outside the United States, a list of codes to send that command to can be found here. RSS can give you feeds in an appropriate reader. Plugging into your RSS reader will let you receive posts outside the browser. A variety of feed readers are available and we can recommend tools like liferea and newsbeuter. If you have a Kindle, you can also receive LISNews posts by way of the magic transport layer known as WhisperSync. Access via Amazon is available at a nominal cost. Nobody will see any revenue from that before the heat death of the universe. If clicking around in a browser isn't your favored starting point, other avenues do exist to try.

Keyword searching is not organized knowledge

Organizing knowledge

At the LITA forum Karen Coyle stated that classification and knowledge organization seem to have fallen off the library profession's radar. She says we have spent considerable amounts of time and money on making modifications to our cataloging rules (four times in about fifty years), but the discussion of how we organize information for our users has waned. She illustrates what is at least her impression of this through some searches done against Google Books using its nGram service.

Three Mindsets of Search: Answer Me Educate Me Inspire Me

Are these the same for in person reference questions in a library?

According to a survey by, people do it for one of three reasons. They want answers, they want to be educated or they want to be inspired.

Study revealed three distinct search types:
1. Answer Me (46% of all searches) – People in a “answer me” search want exactly what they ask for, and no more, delivered in a way that allows them to get to it as directly as possible.
2. Educate Me (26% of all searches) – People in an “educate me” search want 360 degrees of understanding, and multiple perspectives on critical topics. They will search until their goal is achieved – this may stretch over long periods of time and through related topics.
3. Inspire Me (28% of all searches) – The fun “browsy” type of search, where people are looking for surprises, have open minds and want to be led.

Dealing With Information Overload

Some crazy librarian: Dealing With Information Overload

As librarians, I think we get kind of hung up on the whole WE MUST HAVE ALL THE INFORMATION! No you don’t. You weed your collections on a regular basis because there’s too much stuff in it and you don’t feel bad about that, do you? So why feel bad about ditching a bunch of stuff in your feeds that you’re not going to get to anyway?

We must stop preserving digital material and start curating it

When Data Disappears
But that doesn’t mean digital preservation is pointless: if we’re going to save even a fraction of the trillions of bits of data churned out every year, we can’t think of digital preservation in the same way we do paper preservation. We have to stop thinking about how to save data only after it’s no longer needed, as when an author donates her papers to an archive. Instead, we must look for ways to continuously maintain and improve it. In other words, we must stop preserving digital material and start curating it.

When Knowledge Isn’t Written, Does It Still Count?

Critics of Wikipedia are pushing it to expand beyond the traditional Western model of scholarship and authority: the written word.

A Call to Rethink Internet Search

“We could soon view today’s keyword searching with the same nostalgia and amusement reserved for bygone technologies such as electric typewriters and vinyl records.”

So declares Oren Etzioni, a computer scientist at the University of Washington, in an essay published Thursday in the science journal Nature. (Available online to subscribers or for a single copy purchase of $32.)

The missing ingredients, he writes, are mainly the necessary investments in money and science by leading technology companies and universities. The better world of search, according to Mr. Etzioni, will be services that field spoken or typed questions and generate useful answers. Or, as he writes, “natural-language searching and answering, rather than providing the electronic equivalent of the index at the back of a reference book.”

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