The most important library & information science article you’ll read today

The weakness of full-text searching by Jeffrey Beall (link to pdf)

I was reminded about this chestnut from 2008 recently and it is focused on the disadvantages of keyword searching in databases.  Granted your typical internet search engine, particularly the one that keeps saying it’s not evil, has gotten a bit beyond ‘mere’ full text searching and does some fancy behind the scenes synonym and clustering magic, but this article points out a lot of other issues that are worth considering.  You can get 100,000 hits and not find what you’re looking for.  Be sure to check out the first article mentioned in the footnotes, which is also online.

The most interesting thing, to me as a librarian and cataloger, is that web sites & search engines have attempted to add useful metadata for better searching, and the whole thing was almost immediately co-opted by spammers.  Indeed it is now considered bad practice to use a lot of tags in a web page because it makes your html look like spam.  It’s almost as if we need impartial, perhaps nonprofit, and dare I say professional metadata providers… if only there were such a thing… 🙂

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Published in: on April 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. please summarize in one sentence, I can’t keep my eyes open long enough to read.it.

    • Summary in one compound sentence:
      Key word searching is great if need to find ‘something, anything’ but terribly insufficient for research; the problem is you need to know what you don’t know for key word searching to work.

      • Search engines are broadswords and not scalpels.

        Books (with indexed entries) still give me the most specific information…

  2. Thanks! This is a topic of some interest to me.

  3. I would take a look at Westlaw Next which uses crowd sourcing in an attempt to avoid the fact vs. concept searches that plague electronic legal research. Not sure if it works, but that is the future.


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