SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: understanding metadata , was Re: SIG
Re: understanding metadata , was Re: SIGIA-L: future directions for IA
From: James L Weinheimer (jamesw_at_princeton.edu)
Date: Thu Aug 30 2001 - 09:49:10 EDT
Karl Fast <karl.fast_at_pobox.com> wrote:
>Even if Argus was ahead, we were simply applying tried and true
>principles from the library world.
>HOWEVER I remain unconvinced that they're a magic potion.
> - Do they help? Yes.
> - Should they be used more often? Yes.
> - Should they be used in all projects and considered necessary
> for a good site? No.
I would emphasize the word: principles. When this word is emphasized, then
yes, I think that they are a magic potion, provided they are used
correctly. Why do I think that? Because centuries of experience have proven
that they work. IA, information design, graphic design, any other designs
cannot prove that. If the information is assigned and structured correctly,
people can find what they are looking for. Period. It's a proven fact and
it should not be ignored.
Current library practice is only one way of following those principles, but
there are literally an infinite number of ways to follow those principles.
So, if we say that we will follow the tried and true principles, that does
not mean that people must follow current library practice.
Do these principles have to be used with all sites? If you are only
interested in a local network, with a couple of dozen pages--no. People who
know the site can essentially memorize it, much as people can look up
information in a small book and not use an index or table of contents.
But--if you are interested in someone finding the site in the first place,
then you have a different problem. If the problem is phrased as: "Here is
someone sitting at home who has just accessed the web and he/she is staring
at the Google site. This person wants the information on my page but
doesn't know about my page. How can this person know about my site?" I
believe that this is also a major part of IA but it's not mentioned very
After all, I think that everyone on this list knows by now that the refrain
"If you build it, they will come" doesn't hold on the internet. The only
way to find something on a search engine now is through sheer dumb luck.
But, if search terms were consistently applied with the correct levels of
specificity, without prejudices, etc. (as the principles state), this
person would be able to find your page.
The present problems with the layoffs in the internet industries now very
well could reside with CEO's asking for proof that spending money on IA in
a site will result in more relevant hits for users. I don't believe IA can
prove such a thing. On the other hand, library principles can be used and
you can indeed prove that someone can find an item when these principles
are used correctly.
>I'm doing my MLIS right now. Loading up on courses in cataloguing,
>subject analysis, thesaurus contruction--all that good stuff. And it
>is good stuff.
>I'm also having long discussions with one of my profs about this
>stuff. Talking a lot about OPACs (electronic library catalogues)
>which are grounded in CV's and metadata and all that good stuff.
>The bibliographic universe contained in OPACs is rich in all these
>things. But it's got problems:
> - catalogs are not perfectly structured. Most OPACs have pretty
> good data, but it's not the world of perfection the textbooks
> describe or most people imagine.
Concerning reality, with shrinking budgets, and diminishing levels of staff
with greater numbers of items to work with, it becomes difficult to reach
and retain high levels of quality.
> - keeping this stuff current is hellish. Consider library of
> congress subject headings: 100 years old and with all sorts of
> terminology that's out of date, and missing current terminology.
> An extreme example, but CV's and thesauri require work to
> maintain them. Must balance this work vs. the benefits.
These are good questions, but you can find the same things asked 150 years
ago. Of course library catalogs are not perfect, but they are sure a lot
better than anything else I've seen. The only problem is, to use them well,
you have to know alot.
> - OPACs are hard to use. I've never met an OPAC I liked. Nobody
> I've asked has met an OPAC they liked. If CV's and rich metadata
> are the answer then why are OPACs hard to use?
As I have mentioned before, there is a difference between organization and
access. Libraries are very good at organization but poor at access. For its
part, IA is very good at access but poor at organization. I believe both
sides have a lot to learn from the other.
With innovative use of the technology, it seems to me that almost all the
problems you mention above can be solved.
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: Sun Nov 23 2003 - 22:54:48 EST