Information Retrieval

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. -- Read More

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.”

Full article

Violate Terms & Conditions, Get Indicted

The Bits Blog online with The New York Times reports that programmer Aaron Swartz was indicted for allegedly stealing 4 million documents from MIT and JSTOR. According to documents posted to Scribd, the arrest warrant cites alleged violation of 18 USC 1343, 18 USC 1003(a)(4), 18 USC 1003(a)(2), 18 USC 1003(a)(5)(B), and 18 USC 2.

The Boston Globe summed up the charges stating:

Aaron Swartz, 24, was charged with wire fraud, computer fraud, unlawfully obtaining information from a protected computer, and recklessly damaging a protected computer. He faces up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Activist group Demand Progress, of which Swartz previously served as Executive Director, has a statement posted. Internet luminary Dave Winer also has a thought posted as to the indictment. Wired's report cites the current Executive Director of Demand Progress as likening the matter to checking too many books out of a library.

(h/t Evan Prodromou and Dave Winer)

(Update at 1641 Eastern: The Register has reporting here) -- Read More

The Echo Chamber Revisited

In 2004, we spoke with law professor Cass Sunstein about the echo chamber effect, the phenomenon by which the explosion of information streams allows us to cherry-pick our media diet so we encounter only news that reinforces our worldview (while evading facts and opinions that contradict it). And so, seven years later are we on a path to ever more intellectual isolation? Eli Pariser, Lee Rainie, Clay Shirky, Joseph Turow and Ethan Zuckerman weigh in.

If you do not want to listen to the piece you can read the transcript.

How the Modern Web Environment is Reinventing the Theory of Cataloguing

Panizzi, Lubetzky, and Google: How the Modern Web Environment is Reinventing the Theory of Cataloguing: This paper uses cataloguing theory to interpret the partial results of an exploratory study of university students using Web search engines and Web-based OPACs. The participants expressed frustration with the OPAC; while they sensed that it was "organized," they were unable to exploit that organization and attributed their failure to the inadequacy of their own skills. In the Google searches, on the other hand, students were getting the support traditionally advocated in catalogue design. Google gave them starting points: resources that broadly addressed their requirements, enabling them to get a greater sense of the knowledge structure that would help them to increase their precision in subsequent searches. While current OPACs apparently fail to provide these starting points, the effectiveness of Google is consistent with the aims of cataloguing as expressed in the theories of Anthony Panizzi and Seymour Lubetzky

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