Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Behind the Curtain

Why is a Google search such a crapshoot? Bad authority control!
Keywords, combined with Boolean operators, offer powerful supplemental search capabilities, but they are no substitute for authority control.
(Click on the link and read the URL - it made me laugh.)

Why do librarians appear so smart? Authority control! (Also, they're smart. You know who you are.)

Librarians establish authority control so that they know what they're referring to - for example, so nobody thinks Edward Hamilton Waldo and Theodore Sturgeon are different people, or so people can tell that Francis Bacon and Francis Bacon are not the same person, or so T.S. Eliot and Thomas Stearns Eliot don't show up on different lists.

These are the people who make it all happen. I guess. I think they need a new name, though: "AUTHORITY CONTROL" sounds so unfriendly. Suggestions?

Anyway, I'm off to poke around and find out the state of the art in automated authority control. Why? Yes, it's my tag clouds hobbyhorse. Come to find out, there's some interest in tag clouds as user-generated (and therefore user-useful) reference systems. There are drawbacks - in particular, relating to the lack of authority control. But it should be feasible to write some sort of expert system that would automatically generate at least a tentative list of subject authorities, especially for reference collections in specific areas, such as law, or medicine, or library science, where people tend to talk about the same things in similar terms.

Library Thing apparently dabbles in cross-referencing; and as hobbyware goes, so go the professions. On with the revolution.

2 Comments:

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

I'll take Google over PubMed and Lexis any day. I guess it's my messy mind. I have zero trouble finding stuff with Google.

 
At 6:00 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said...

Or let's say I am much happier to while my time away with Google and so experience it as no trouble, while with bona fide bibliographic tools I feel like tearing my hair out and come away far from confident that I haven't missed the richest vein.

 

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