Posting to NGC4LIB
On 09/05/2012 21:18, john g marr wrote:
On Wed, 9 May 2012, Laval Hunsucker wrote:
James Weinheimer wrote :
A search for “ebooks” has www.ebooks.com come up second to Project Gutenberg.
Now that rather depends, doesn’t it, on ( i.a. ) the who and when and from where of the search?
True, but it is also indicative of the fact that search results (like everything else, including customers and searchers) can be manipulated from a number of directions for individual advantage. The question then becomes how to manipulate manipulation to become egalitarian.
Reward and punishment should not be part of the library’s tools.
Possibly not, but they always have been, and I don’t know how they can be eliminated.
Your comment is significant in placing emphasis on static assumptions and personal knowledge. We should instead be consistently questioning stasis and taking the “possibly” corrupting presence of reward and punishment systems as evidence of a need to explore how they can be supplanted by egalitarian (I’m starting to like that word) collaborative tools.
Interesting ideas. Laval’s comment that each person sees search results that are individually personalized (based also on ip address) is absolutely correct and only emphasizes the problem. My intention was to focus on the library tools that try to ensure reliable results over the disputable terms “better” or “more useful”. “Reliable” means an entire raft of things, from being able to find the resources I found last week, and find them in the same ways I found them back then, to making sure that the items still exist so that they can be found in the first place. For dynamic sites, perhaps the site will look different and even have different information, but that is another task. Searchers, I think, need to be assured that they can examine materials that they saw a few weeks ago or a few years ago. This should be a minimum. It’s difficult enough now, but with “improvements” such as Google Penguin and Panda, it could be made so complex as to render it practically impossible. I didn’t mention that everyone merely assumes that Google’s motto “Don’t be evil” is followed today, and will be in the future, because this could certainly be very evil.
I don’t know if I would agree that “reward” and “punishment” are part of the library’s tools, except for punishing the searchers who have to know and follow the obsolete methods of how to search the catalogs, indexes, and other kinds of bibliographic tools if they want to find things effectively. The practice of cataloging certainly attempts to treat all resources in an egalitarian manner (although I confess that I always sort of zoned out when it came to semiotics texts!). Minimal level cataloging decisions could be seen as “punishment” although I see it more as a lack of adequate resources. But, perhaps these two ideas are more closely connected than I imagine.
Selection could realistically be called “reward” and “punishment” but that is also mostly due to lack of resources. Most selectors would gladly get many more materials for their patrons if they had more money, space, and staff. Reference could definitely punish some publications since reference librarians can send people to other resources and say negative things about specific ones. And yet, this can also be considered “professional opinion”. In any case, this should result in very little harm for the authors and publishers of the resource, especially in comparison with Google’s lowering them in the results list, often going to second or third pages, when they are effectively in limbo.