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Christina's LIS Rant
Thursday, May 25, 2006
  Well there's dumbing down, and there's dumbing down!
I really like TechEssence -- understandable postings on techie topics but in an accessible style. In general, I've changed my mind on my complaints about "dumbing down" the interface -- but with some caveats. Read this post from TechEssence and pay particular attention to the comment from Jonathan Rochkind.

One of his points is kind of like the duck thing: placid on the surface and working like crazy underneath. He says:
Part of the issue is that doing this stuff is HARD. Is keyword search inherently untrustworthy? Google proves not neccesarily, but the thing is, the _genius_ of Google is that it made keyword search actually work! This is not an easy thing to do, and they did it, actually, not just with a straight keyword search, but by recognizing that incoming link text is a kind of descriptive metadata. We don't have the same kind of metadata in a library catalog.

So I get frustrated when people think, gee, Google works, Google is keyword search, so if we just do keyword search in our catalog, then it will work, and be as good as Google, cause that's what we need to do to compete with Google. There are so many misconceptions there.

So yeah, we should figure out how to make the catalog easier to use, part of that is figuring out how to get a 'single box' seach that works (for SOME purposes), but it's not easy to do, and won't come just from trying to ape Goo
gle.
So yeah, if the interface is cleaned up and simplified and makes sense... but then you get facet options to refine (a la EV2 or Endeca or the new Primo)... stuff that really makes your great metadata work for you (thanks to Lorcan Dempsey at CIL for this thought), then yeah, cleaning up is great.

If, on the other hand, you take away options and features (so now in EV2 no way to browse for classification codes), you give mystery meat buttons and answers (some catalog implementations)... then it is dumbing down and it's not helpful.
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina's LIS Rant by Christina K. Pikas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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