SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: SIGIA-L: Insight moves sight to the
Re: SIGIA-L: Insight moves sight to the site
From: James Weinheimer (j.weinheimer_at_jlw-dmg.net)
Date: Sat Feb 09 2002 - 13:22:41 EST
Ziya Oz wrote:
> You seem to suggest that given any subject, there is one canonical way to
> organize it. (If not, you can ignore the rest.) In theory that may happen,
> but in reality that's not been my experience.
> There are literally millions of websites and intranets that use (or could
> use) organization.
I agree that there are millions of ways of organizing an information source
when you are beginning. But once you have decided how to organize it, you
must continue to follow that method.
Therefore, when I have the first source of information concerning legal
information for women who have suffered from violence, I can choose to
assign any descriptors I choose. But, when I, or another person, have the
second information source, or the third one, or the umpteenth one, there is
no longer any choice in how to do it. All must describe it as the first one
was described. No one cannot decide to describe it in any other way because
in this case, when users find the first one, they will be guaranteed not to
find the others. This process of assigning subjects, or names, or other
parts called "access points" by librarians is in reality, a process of
organizing the individual sources of information. Although this may seem a
simple task, it is not if you have a large number of possible terms.
The next task is somehow letting the user know in some sort of way what
these terms are and what they mean. This is access. There are lots of
possibilities here--the sky is the limit.
The "algorithms that can relate seemingly disparate data in multi-dimensions
to 'discover' order and organization, undetectable by manual methods or
prior arrangement" is keyword searching, and there is nothing wrong with it,
although the underlying purpose of it remains the same as what I said above:
the purpose is still to group similar things together. The results of
keyword can be very interesting and can supplement the traditional methods
but still remain disturbingly erratic.
Not everyone needs to use the same organization schemes, and I think I've
mentioned this earlier, but:
>Unlike the small (in comparison) number of libraries, [websites and
>they are under no pressure or reason to be compatible or consistent with
>each other, only within themselves. Would it be better if all similar sites
>subscribed to the same, canonical organizational scheme? Debatable. Is this
>likely to happen soon? No way.
I agree, although I don't think many are all that consistent within
themselves. If a site is at all complex, that is a very difficult goal to
But aside from matters of internal consistency, websites will force users to
learn each site separately and as a result, users will not be able to find
much at all. Libraries were this way for hundreds (thousands) of years until
they realized that sharing their methods helped both themselves and their
users. So today, if you can use one (American) library, you can use them
all. There are some databases where, if you search one database, you are
searching almost all American libraries--certainly all the major ones--and
lots of foreign libraries as well. That's pretty amazing, I think. All
libraries with one search! And you can be pretty sure that the results are
complete because the information in the records is pretty much consistent
(but nothing is perfect).
Would users like this on the web? I know I would! Do I think it will happen?
Did people think that could have happened for libraries 50 years ago?
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: Sun Nov 23 2003 - 22:55:02 EST