Posting to NGC4LIB

It is fascinating to compare this discussion with the one on RDA-L, which is of a totally other, library-centric, character.

Reading the viewpoints, I find myself in the middle of everyone, taking on the role of what I like to think to myself as “The Voice of Reason” 🙂 (Just kidding!)

But I will say that there seems to be a divide, in that many of the library folks may not really appreciate the fabulous power–and the powers yet to come–of semantic searching (not the same as the Semantic Web/Web3.0/Linked Data). Algorithms are becoming more and more powerful all the time, even including pictures, as Alex mentioned. Music can be included into the mix. (http://www.midomi.com/) How good of a job does it do? I don’t know, but in a way it doesn’t matter because I have no doubt that it will get better and better. I think this represents a major difference in the viewpoints of librarians and IT people.

I still say that one of the most important websites is Daniel Russell’s blog “SearchResearch”. He is an employee of Google and he demonstrates some new research methods that constantly amaze me and I find myself thinking that many of the questions he poses (and how he answers them) would have seemed science fiction to me before reading his solutions. http://searchresearch1.blogspot.it/
I personally think that this is a must-read for all librarians, if nothing else, to show what is possible today. I read the book “Automate This: How Algorithms Came to Rule Our World” by Christopher Steiner and while it made me very angry, I have to admit that he is right. You can watch a TED talk of his: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_aLU-NOdHM

On the flip side however, the Googles present a genuine dilemma: while they insist on complete openness from the public (so that they can run their algorithms on everyone’s profiles to “do a better job of search”) they themselves remain completely walled-off from all scrutiny. I understand their reasons: if their methods are released in detail, everybody and his brother will be trampling each other to game the system. However, the amount of “trust” that we end up giving the Googles is truly incredible.

The result is–quite literally–a “black box” that we are not allowed to understand, but we are supposed to trust that the results that come out are honest and “relevant” (whatever that is supposed to mean). For librarians, this must be viewed with incredibly deep suspicion, especially when we see the Googles bending in all kinds of ways so as not to anger too much various political or cultural forces. The NSA revelations are only the latest, but there have been many, many other incidents. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_by_Google. (The weirdest example is Google censoring the word “ungoogleable” in a Swedish dictionary!) If you look at the bottom of the Wikipedia page, you will see links to censorship of Facebook, Twitter, and so on. It’s eye-opening.

Such actions stand in total opposition to some of the core values of librarianship, so it is clear why librarians so often take the stands that they do.

I have a lot more to say (what a surprise!) 🙂 but this is enough for now. However, I think library methods (reworked) could be incredibly useful in the emerging environment.

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