RE : Old School Search Engines

Posting to Autocat

On Mon, 2011-12-12 at 12:21 -0800, J. McRee Elrod wrote:

Keyword searching is only a solution in a monolingual collection, and still may miss material with “cute” titles, if lacking good contents, summaries, and subject headings.

I am questioning the idea of the utility of the dictionary aspect of the current catalogs, i.e. where someone must do an alphabetical browse to find, e.g. “dogs” or “Argentina–History” and then finding the subjects arranged alphabetically, as opposed to finding records by just searching for keywords. If you are going to browse today, I would think that a classed arrangement would be much more useful to people than an alphabetic one.

For instance, the subject heading browse (alphabetical) for “chess” mashes together not only the topic with its subdivisions, but people’s names, series titles, names of computer programs, corporate bodies, and so on. Additionally, before and after the topic of chess come personal names of people, and all kinds of topics and other entities who have nothing whatsoever to do with chess.

In contrast, the tool Visuwords although graphically horrifying to me personally, at least lets people “browse” the topic conceptually and seems to me a much more useful arrangement than the dictionary one.

Who knows? Perhaps variations of Roget’s original thesaurus arrangement will become more popular, has Roget’s original preface, which begins

“THE present work is intended to supply, with respect to the English language, a desideratum hitherto unsupplied in any language; namely, a collection of the words it contains and of the idiomatic combinations peculiar to it, arranged, not in alphabetical order as they are in a dictionary, but according to the ideas which they express.”

It may turn out that the dictionary arrangement will prove valuable, but it’s why I mentioned that the old debate will probably be revisited in the future.