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How many answers would you prefer ?

“We find users prefer one answer.” This was the comment of Google’s Behshad Behzadi when presenting Google’s new Ultimate Assistant. In case you don’t already know, Google’s Ultimate Assistant will answer your questions, whether you key them in or (in Google’s opinion the most likely) you speak to the device. Most of Behzadi's presentation was based around his smartphone, not using the desktop at all. What kind of questions?

Books versus journals

 

"Users’ expectations are different for these two. When you search books you expect an answer; when you search journal articles, a scholar expects a list of things to read. A book represents late-stage work, not the early-stage work of journal articles."

 

Thus Anurag Acharya, one of the founders of Google Scholar, on different kinds of reading, at the ALPSP Annual Conference in October 2015 (a presentation helpfully summarised by John Sacks in a Scholarly Kitchen post).

 

“You can easily see the difference between these two modalities. Do a search in Google for “San Francisco weather” and the answer pops up: the current temperature and conditions, and the forecast. But for the “weather scholar” there is also a list of sites below the forecast that you can go to if you want to study the topic by reading web pages about San Francisco weather.”

Anurag Acharya on the future of academic search

Anurag Acharya, one of the founders of Google Scholar, gave the keynote address at the recent ALPSP Annual Conference. His wide-ranging overview of the effect of full-text searching on academic content raised many good points, but one that struck me as perhaps the most intriguing was his call for more abstracts of scholarly content. This is a remarkably different to current feeling within many academic publishers, many of whom were betting some years ago that the published collection of abstracts was doomed, to be replaced inexorably by searching of the full text. Given that he argued that the electronic table of contents alerts for journals are obsolete, why did he argue for the continued existence of abstracts?

Amazon and the failure of metadata

Despite(or perhaps because of) being the world's biggest online bookstore, Amazon is a nightmare to use when searching for well-known books. The problem of finding a book on Amazon that exists in several versions has been very succinctly stated by Jim O'Donnell on a recent library listserv ("The Book-buying morass"), describes his problems trying to locate an adequate copy of Joyce's Ulysses for his library.

 

Faceted v hierarchical taxonomies - why all the fuss?

You might think that there need be no war over creating a taxonomy. When should you use a hierarchical classification, and when a set of facets? You might think it hardly worth bothering over. Yet some thesaurus experts fight to defend hierarchical taxonomies; you feel that if there were a pecking order of taxonomies (a nice idea, that), then hierarchical taxonomies would be ranked highest. If you don't believe me, try reading a recent post from Access Innovations, Down the Rabbit Hole.

The future of enterprise search is Trip Advisor

So said Roovn Pakiri, co-presenter of the keynote address at this year’s Enterprise Search Europe (London, April). His presentation represented the curious way in which a logical argument can go from a simple, sensible statement to something that is decidedly questionable within a few sentences. There was some justice in the premise, but a sharp intake of breath at the event when this conclusion was stated. How did the argument lead to this point?

Nine things you might not know about search

I was fortunate to be invited to talk at Enterprise Search Europe in London this week, which gave me an excellent two-day overview of the state of search. It was an impressive event, combining practitioners, academics, and visionaries, with detailed, blow-by-blow presentations from large corporations on how they switched the enterprise search system to a new platform (Reed Business Information), or how they implemented search (Airbus Industries), alongside descriptions of small-scale investigations of how search works or doesn’t work in SMEs or institutions.

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