Information Retrieval

The Dirty Little Secrets of Search

The Dirty Little Secrets of Search

Despite the cowboy outlaw connotations, black-hat services are not illegal, but trafficking in them risks the wrath of Google. The company draws a pretty thick line between techniques it considers deceptive and “white hat” approaches, which are offered by hundreds of consulting firms and are legitimate ways to increase a site’s visibility. Penney’s results were derived from methods on the wrong side of that line, says Mr. Pierce. He described the optimization as the most ambitious attempt to game Google’s search results that he has ever seen.

Smartest Machine on Earth

NOVA website: Smartest Machine on Earth Episode premiered last night. I watched it and I think librarians will find this episode interesting and thought provoking. If you search the schedule at your local PBS website you should find other times this shows. For example Iowa Public TV shows these times: Thu, February 10, 3:00 PM on IPTV World Thu, February 10, 5:00 PM on IPTV World Thu, February 10, 8:00 PM on IPTV World Fri, February 11, 1:00 AM on IPTV World

There is more to discovery than you think ...

From Lorcan Dempsey's Weblog

Colleagues at the University of Minnesota have produced another must-read report on the discoverability of library resources [Splash page, PDF]. Importantly, it provides a framework within which to think about evolving issues and in this way makes a real contribution to our understanding of the environment and ability to plan for change.....Read more here

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Curation is the New Search is the New Curation

Curation is the New Search is the New Curation
"The answer, of course, is that we won't -- do them all by hand, that is. Instead, the re-rise of curation is partly about crowd curation -- not one people, but lots of people, whether consciously (lists, etc.) or unconsciously (tweets, etc) -- and partly about hand curation (JetSetter, etc.). We are going to increasingly see nichey services that sell curation as a primary feature, with the primary advantage of being mostly unsullied by content farms, SEO spam, and nonsensical Q&A sites intended to create low-rent versions of Borges' Library of Babylon. The result will be a subset of curated sites that will re-seed a new generation of algorithmic search sites, and the cycle will continue, over and over."

Librarians and Wikipedia

Wikipedia, according to Wikipedia, is "a free, Web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project." But the reference librarians we checked with would want a second source on that.

"Personally, I don't rely on Wikipedia, because of people's ability to go in and edit anybody's text and change the history," says Karen Sharp, senior librarian and webmaster at the Wayne Public Library.

Wikipedia, which comes (according to Wikipedia) from the Hawaiian word "wiki" — "quick" — joined to the "pedia" from "encyclopedia," was launched 10 years ago this Saturday by founders Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger.

Since that time, reportedly 365 million readers have pored over 17 million articles – all written by volunteer contributors – on subjects ranging from Aachen ("spa town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany") to zymology ("scientific term for fermentation").

Wikipedia has profoundly changed the way most of us gather information. It may have had less effect on the people whose job it is to look things up: reference librarians. Yes, they'll use it sometimes, they told us. But with misgivings, and never as a sole source.

"We use it as a backup," says Sharon Castanteen, director of the Johnson Free Public Library in Hackensack, who has a background in reference. "We'll start with that, get some ideas from it, but we won't trust it 100 percent."

North Jersey has the story.

Ghosts at the Library

What researchers have discovered, from the New York Public Library blog.

Data is snake oil

Data is snake oil
It's because data is powerful but fickle. A lot of theoretically promising approaches don't work because there's so many barriers between spotting a possible relationship and turning it into something useful and actionable. Russell Jurney's post on Agile Data should give you a flavor of how long and hard path from raw data to product usually is. Here's some of the hurdles you'll have to jump:

Nothing at the library?

I currently work at a small liberal arts college in the Midwestern USA where librarians are "embedded" in introductory courses and oversee the information literacy curriculum. Last week one of my colleagues informed me about a response from one of her students that I just have to pass along. The student's comment was that she couldn't find anything at the library about the Industrial Revolution , her other topic was .... wait for it .... Martin Luther and the Reformation.

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